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There's a new player in Michigan's electricity market


A new energy company has moved into the residential power market in Michigan.

Glacial Energy has been operating in Michigan since 2008. But now they’re offering their services directly to households, too.

Glacial Energy regulatory affairs manager Derek Smiertka says the company only operates at the retail level—and that means they can generally offer cheaper rates than the big utilities.

“We purchase it [power] there, it’s just like any other commodity. Oranges, gasoline, anything,” Smiertka says. “And we’re able to purchase at a better rate that we price directly to our customers, individual customers.”

But Smiertka says Glacial is hampered by a state law that allows only 10% of energy on the market to be sold competitively.

Glacial and other alternative electricity suppliers are pushing legislation that would raise the cap.

“The cap level imposed significant limitations on the number of Michigan customers having access to competitive, open electricity market, resulting in government picking winners and losers, hampering robust economic development,” according to a “legislative overview” posted on Glacial’s Michigan website.

But the state’s utilities say that 10% cap exists for a good reason. They say lifting the cap would discourage the state’s energy providers from making necessary investments in the power grid.

“We just don't think that short-term market conditions should be the basis by which Michigan's energy policy is made,” wrote DTE spokesman Alejandro Bodipo-Memba in an e-mail.

“These marketers are primarily interested in making a quick buck by offering lower prices to a small, select group of customers at the expense of everyone else. That's not competition at all. That’s trying to game the system.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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