JACKSON–Officials of Consumers Energy, the Jackson-based utility, has invested more than $1 million this year in initiatives to improve quality of life and reduce bills for customers in historically disadvantaged communities in Michigan.
The initial investment focused on several ZIP codes in Flint and surrounding areas, and will provide an example for work in future communities. The initiatives were completely free to customers and targeted essential health and safety improvements for homes and multifamily complexes.
“One of our priorities at Consumers Energy is to provide the energy our customers need, and to ensure we’re caring for all customers and communities we serve,” said Angela Thompkins, chief diversity officer and vice president of community affairs for Consumers Energy. “That means recognizing the unique challenges individuals or communities may face, and structuring the services we provide to ensure they can live safer and healthier lives.”
The program was designed in collaboration with environmental justice experts and advocates, including the Michigan Public Service Commission, community and local elected officials, and nonprofit agencies. The efforts included:
* Collaborating with the City of Flint to bundle upgrades by performing follow-up home energy analyses in homes receiving the city’s lead-based paint abatement assistance to improve quality of life and reduce energy usage and bills.
* Connecting residents with diagnosed respiratory conditions to energy and home upgrades using healthy building materials to improve air quality and reduce energy usage and bills.
* Targeting single and multi-family residences with a specific and expanded portfolio of energy efficiency upgrades, such as furnace repairs, weatherization, etc.
“We know that there are whole communities across the state that, after years of systemic and structural neglect and underinvestment, are home to hundreds or thousands of people facing shared barriers to economic and energy-access,” Thompkins said. “Our goal with this pilot has been to remove some of those barriers, and we look forward to expanding these programs to other communities to continue making upgrades and lowering bills for the customers who need it most.”
The pilot program is only one of several initiatives Consumers Energy implemented in recent years for customers residing in historically disadvantaged communities. Consumers Energy recently received the Utility Star of Energy Efficiency Award from the Alliance to Save Energy for its work to install free Nest Thermostats for low-income and ALICE (asset limited, income-constrained, employed) customers in 2022. Smart thermostats save customers, on average, 10-15 percent on energy bills.
The company has plans to continue investment in Flint through 2024, as well as expand the program to other communities across the state. Customers who need help paying their bills or who would like more information about assistance programs should call 2-1-1, a free service that’s available statewide.
Consumers Energy is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), providing natural gas and/or electricity to 6.7 million of the state’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.
For more information about Consumers Energy, go to ConsumersEnergy.com.