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A GREEN CHOICE FOR CONSUMERS

In a Midwest experiment, residential customers have been given the opportunity by Traverse City Light & Power (TCL&P) in Michigan to pay more for clean wind power.

In a controversial experiment, a small utility in the American Midwest will install a wind turbine next year with money it will recoup in part through a "green levy" on volunteer residential customers. Paying more for clean power has proved a popular method for stimulating the wind market in Europe, but it remains a contentious policy in the US. Some environmentalists and renewables lobbyists argue that clean power should not be priced higher than conventional power. Instead, they say, there should be a "black tax" or a BTU tax for dirty power.

In the Midwest experiment, the equivalent of 250 residential customers have been signed up by Traverse City Light & Power (TCL&P) in Michigan to pay more for clean wind power, says project manager Steve Smiley. The "green rate" is $0.0158/kWh above the standard rate -- amounting to about $7.50 a month for an average bill, he says. Residential customers selecting the green rate are being asked to commit to it for three years. TCL&P is also funding the project with $50,000 from the Michigan Public Service Commission and it will also receive the hard-won $0.015/kWh production payment available from federal coffers to publicly owned utilities operating wind plant. The utility is not looking for an experimental turbine, and will probably select a Danish or Danish-American hybrid, says Smiley. "I think green pricing can be a good tool to use to initiate projects that wouldn't otherwise be done or considered," he adds.

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