Consumers Energy program to support electric vehicle adoption

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
The Michigan Public Service Commission this week approved a pilot program offered by Consumers Energy Co. to provide rebates and special rates for electric vehicle owners.

Consumers Energy Co. is leading the charge to bring electric-vehicle infrastructure to Michigan.

As automakers look to electricity to fuel future vehicles, the Michigan Public Service Commission approved this week the state's first EV infrastructure pilot program. The three-year, $10 million incentive program would provide rebates for electric vehicle chargers and a special rate for nighttime charging.

"Fundamentally, electric vehicles are good for Michigan and good for the state’s economy," said Brian Wheeler, Consumers Energy senior public information director. "We know that Michigan's automakers are looking toward electric vehicles being the future. We have a role here to use our expertise and abilities to help promote that."

The PowerMIDrive program will provide customers with a reduced electrical rate to charge their vehicles between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. — outside of peak electrical-use times. Up to 3,000 of those who sign up for the special rate also will be able to receive a $500 rebate for each electric vehicle.

Consumers also will offer 200 $5,000 rebates for chargers installed in public areas such as at workplaces and multi-unit dwellings. Up to $70,000 in rebates are available for the installation of faster, more expensive chargers for along busier thoroughfares.

In the spring, Consumers Energy expects to accept applications from those who wish to participate in the program, Wheeler said.

The commission also approved a rate increase to help fund the program and other utility activities. The $99 million net annual increase would translate to an increase of $1.62 per month for a residential customer who uses 500 kilowatt hours of electricity. The rate went into effect Thursday.

Consumers Energy joins a number of utilities across the country who are offering similar programs to encourage electric vehicle adoption, said Kevin Miller, director of public policy for ChargePoint, a California-based electric vehicle infrastructure company.

"This program is a great example in that it sets a benchmark in the way it combines the rebate-based and make-ready model," which allows customers to choose their own charging station from any vendor, Miller said. "This program really underscores how collaboration and investment from EV stakeholders is required to help ensure a comprehensive network to support the mass adoption of electric mobility."

DTE Energy Co. also is requesting to launch a program to encourage electrical vehicle infrastructure installation.