Mid-Michigan Groups Pushing for Energy Savings, Alternatives

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You might not associate electric guitars with saving money on your heating and cooling bill, but guitars were part of the atmosphere at Sunday's "Meeting of the Minds" energy forum at Lansing's Temple Club.

Organizers say that's the point. It's an unconventional forum to talk about something that looms large for most in mid-Michigan.

"Whether it's the cost of heating or electricity, gas in our cars -- we have an energy problem. There's no easy solutions but we have to start now," Michigan Consumer Federation Executive Director Rick Gamber said.

Gamber is pushing for more wind power. So how much of Michigan's power could come from wind?

"It could potentially be as much as 11 percent in Michigan. Actually, Michigan is a better state for wind than California, but people don't realize that," he said.

Gamber says some states have found wind to be the cheapest energy solution. Practical energy advice for homeowners was also on the docket.

"This is a low-flow showerhead, but it keeps the regular water pressure," Brandon Knight explained. He works with East Lansing-based Urban Options.

The group is trying to draw attention to other measures like flourescent lightbulbs, lowering water heater temperatures and even time-tested weather stripping.

It may sound like common sense, but Knight says the group finds most homeowners don't heed the advice, even if it means saving hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Low-income advocacy group ACORN was also on hand.

"We have people coming into our offices that have $3,000 or $4,000 bills left over from this winter ... It's an all year thing. They don't get a break in the summertime at all," ACORN member Laurie Morrow said.

So the group is asking utilities to set aside more assistance for lower-income customers. ACORN members and others say the bottom line is: With oil and natural gas prices where they are, it's no longer a matter of conserving just for the sake of it.

"When you're saving energy, you're saving money," Knight said.

Urban Options conducts energy checks to look for heating or cooling savings in conjunction with the Lansing Board of Water and Light. You can call BWL or Urban Options to schedule an audit.