Grants To Help Low-Income Households Get Through A Tough Winter

Photo by Brendan Wood, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0

We are entering a winter that is particularly bleak due to the continuing pandemic. Access to home heating services is more important than ever, so it is good news that an additional $54.5 million in funding will be available for heating assistance for low-income customers, as the Michigan Public Service Commission and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced Dec. 3.

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Clean Energy Opportunities in the Upper Peninsula: The Role of the MPSC and Intervenors

A word that comes up frequently in discussions about the future of energy in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is “opportunity.” “Clean energy is a big opportunity for the Upper Peninsula,” Bryan Newland, the tribal chairman of the Bay Mills Indian Community in the eastern end of the UP, said in his opening remarks at the UP Clean Energy Conference, held virtually Nov. 9. Wind and solar energy backed up by batteries can create more locally-sourced power, which means more jobs for the UP, Newland said.

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Consumers Energy Proposed Rate Increase Should Be Significantly Reduced, Administrative Law Judge Says

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Consumers Energy’s pending request to increase its revenue, which would amount to one of the biggest rate hikes from the utility in years, should be slashed over 56%, an administrative law judge (ALJ) recommended to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) last week. If that cut is approved by the MPSC, the rate increase on Consumers Energy customers would be around 2.5%, instead of the 5.9% increase requested by the utility.

Overall, it is encouraging that the judge is recommending real discipline onto Consumers Energy’s rate proposal. The utility asked to raise rates more than usual at a time of unprecedented economic stress for its customers.

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Watch Out for Scammers Pretending To Be Your Utility

Photo by Brendan Wood, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

Fake utility scam calls have been on the rise in recent weeks based on reports made to the Michigan Public Service Commission’s (MPSC) Customer Assistance Division. As a result, the MPSC is warning customers to be on alert for calls threatening to cut off service and demanding immediate payment.

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U of M Survey Shows Challenges, Opportunities for Clean Energy in Michigan

Part of the mission of the Upper Peninsula Task Force is to “formulate alternative solutions for meeting the UP’s energy needs,” including “alternative means to supply the energy sources currently used by UP residents, and alternatives to those energy sources.” As we have written about in this space before, that mission has led the task force to explore electric vehicles (EVs) and renewable energy as options to make energy more affordable for the region in the long-term while also transitioning toward the goal of lower emissions.

Expanding both EVs and renewable energy will require cooperation with local governments in Michigan’s cities and townships, who in many cases set ordinances and permitting processes that determine how difficult it is to build wind farms, solar panel arrays, EV charging stations and more.

Easier said than done.

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Consumers Energy Offers Bill Relief: Why Customers Deserve More

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Consumers Energy has been in the news again, announcing $12 million in bill relief for residential and small business customers that CEO Patti Poppe says is the largest financial relief fund the utility has ever offered, as reported by Crain’s Detroit Business.

The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) of Michigan sees this as a step in the right direction at a time when help for customers is certainly sorely needed. But it is only a baby step—in the context of the scale of the unaffordability crisis facing Consumers Energy’s customers, and the utility’s pending electric rate case in which it proposes one of the biggest hikes in customer bills in recent memory.

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UP Energy Task Force Ponders Electric Vehicles and More

An EV charging station at a parking deck in Houghton, Mich. Source: Plugshare.com

It has been almost an entire summer since we checked in on the progress of the Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force, which, after delivering its report on propane supply and alternatives to Line 5, is now about six months away from a final report on much broader energy issues facing this unique part of Michigan. For this second phase the task force is asked by the governor to “formulate alternative solutions for meeting the UP’s energy needs, with a focus on security, reliability, affordability, and environmental soundness.”

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Settlement Leads to 9% Rate Increase for Consumers Gas Residential Customers

Michigan regulators have approved a settlement agreement that concludes Consumers Gas’s latest rate case, cuts the utility’s requested rate increase on residential customers by about half and provides additional assistance to low-income customers who are struggling to pay utility bills in the current economic climate.

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Michigan Regulators Approve Latest Rate Increase for DTE Gas Customers

On Aug. 20 the Michigan Public Service Commission approved a settlement agreement that allows DTE’s natural gas utility to increase monthly bills for a typical residential customer by 3.9%, down from the 8.3% originally requested by DTE.

The new rates will come into effect on Oct. 1, 2020. But just a few months later, in January, 2021, an infrastructure recovery mechanism will go into effect that will push rates up by 0.8%, so a typical residential customer using 100 cubic feet of gas per month will see their bills go up by 4.7% overall, according to a statement from the Michigan Public Service Commission.

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Consumers Energy’s Plan For the Electric Grid Shows Why Ratepayers Need A New Kind of Utility

 

Electric utilities are often talked about as being in a state of transition, needing to adapt, move into the 21st century, and a host of other buzz terms. For example: the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) describes the purpose of Michigan’s MI Power Grid initiative as “to maximize the benefits of the transition to clean, distributed energy resources for Michigan residents and businesses” and “make changes to utility regulation designed to ensure that the state’s clean energy future provides safe, reliable, affordable, and accessible energy resources.”

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