DTE rate increase approved as Whitmer promises lower energy costs
The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) approved a $368.1 million annual rate increase last week that will add $6.51 to DTE customers' monthly bills starting Dec. 15.
- The hike comes just days after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation she claims will lower energy costs.
The intrigue: The MPSC is a three-member body appointed by the governor. Current commissioners are Dan Scripps, Katherine Peretick and Alessandra Carreon. They voted unanimously Friday to approve the DTE-requested increase that some lawmakers are calling the single-largest hike ever.
- Discussions among commissioners over the increase, who have close relationships with the companies they're tasked with regulating, happen in closed-door meetings under an exemption to the Open Meetings Act, the Free Press reports.
Why it matters: There's pressure on lawmakers to increase accountability for utility companies after power outages and to stop taking their money despite poor performance — one of the worst in the country.
Details: The $368.1 million per year will fund infrastructure spending to improve reliability and speed up its shift to renewable energy generation, DTE says.
- The Detroit-based provider asked for a $622 million increase in February as it and Consumers Energy faced an avalanche of scrutiny over its response to storms that left thousands without power for days.
- A spokesperson for DTE tells Axios that the increase does not yet factor in the company's $300 million decrease in fuel costs announced in November — the ensuing customer impact would be an increase of "a little under $3 dollars a month," the spokesperson tells Axios.
What they're saying: The justification for the increase "is tired and clearly not made in good faith," State Rep. Mike McFall (D-Hazel Park) said in a statement. "This is the same excuse we hear for every rate increase, yet we continue to see more frequent and longer-duration power outages because of their decadeslong lack of investment in the failing grid infrastructure."
- U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) also criticized the energy company, posting Monday to social media that DTE's "already unaffordable service will be funded by my residents instead of the shareholders and executives enjoying record profits."
Meanwhile, Whitmer signed clean energy legislation last week that she says will eventually save households $145 a year on energy costs and create 160,000 well-paying jobs.
- Some Republicans and business groups, upset over the loss of local control for projects like solar farms, are arguing the opposite — changes to the law will actually increase energy costs.
Between the lines: The legislation requires the state to abide by a 100% clean energy standard by 2040, but what "clean energy" means depends on who you ask.
- The Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition argues the inclusion of incinerators and natural gas using carbon capture technology is problematic, especially for low-income residents nearby power plants.
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