Schools worried new energy choice bills will cost students

By Mara MacDonald - Reporter

SOUTH LYON, Mich. - South Lyon Community Schools have been buying their power through a cooperative since 2002, part of the 10 percent of the Michigan market allowed to buy out of state energy, which can be cheaper than the rates charged by utilities in state.

"Last year, we saved $210,000, and since we've been a member of the cooperative, we've saved $1.7 million," said Superintendent Bill Pearson. "So that's a significant amount of money that we could utilize for the students of South Lyon."

South Lyon is part of Michigan School Energy Cooperative, along with 174 other districts. But a package of bills being considered in Lansing would end the cooperative.

The state's largest utilities say we are facing a looming energy shortage because of entities buying out-of-state power and uncertainty over whether there will be further deregulation of the Michigan market.

Multiple business groups are calling foul on the proposal, which is currently in the state House. But schools in the Cooperative are especially worried. South Lyon estimates it will have $30 less to spend per pupil if the bills make it through the legislature, and that's just for starters.

Supporters of the bills argue that their passage would increase the amount that in-state utilities are willing to invest, thus making bills less expensive for all.

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