Undue influence from utilities – Da’ja vu
Dec. 9, 2023 PLYMOUTH VOICE.
Does the MPSC truly protect energy consumers?
A ceremony last week in Lansing celebrated Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s approval of seven proposed green energy bills that immediately triggered a $368 million electric rate increase for DTE Energy customers, requested by the utility “to fund its planned infrastructure investments to boost reliability and speed up deployment of clean energy generation,” according to a Michigan Public Service Commission release.
The hefty rate approval came from MPSC’s, 3-member regulatory board with authority to regulate rates for the state’s public utilities. The approved legislation expands the Commission’s powers by shifting control away from local zoning authorities for large-scale solar, wind, and other “renewable” resources.
An upset coalition of energy consumer advocacy groups now say the MPSC has failed ratepayers by approving the electric rate increase for DTE Energy.
Former legislator Dan Scripps is the Commission chairman. Katherine Peretick, a former energy storage project developer, and Alessandra Carreon, with a background in “Carbon-Free Transportation,” are the other two commissioners. Each is appointed by the governor to a 6-year seat subject to the non-approval of the Michigan senate. Not more than two can be members of the same political party. Two votes can make a decision, and if one member abstains the other two gain in power proportionally.
The Commission’s website says “under state law, no more than 10 percent of an electric utility’s average weather-adjusted retail sales” can be provided by a competitor. “Due to the limit on participation,” the Commission advises, residential customers cannot take service from an alternative provider.
One might say DTE and the other Michigan electric utilities are monopolies.
Across the border, in Ohio, in a recent public example of utility corruption the previous utility commission chairman was charged in an 11-count bribery indictment returned on Nov. 29 for his participation in a scheme in which he ignored the consumers he was responsible for protecting, instead, taking a bribe from an energy company seeking favors. Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, 64, was sentenced in federal court last June to 20 years in prison for leading the racketeering conspiracy to receive nearly $61 million in bribes to pass and uphold a billion-dollar nuclear plant bailout. It has been labeled the largest corruption case in Ohio history.
The entire utility model needs reformation that will leverage the power of competition, infuse market-based principles, encourage customer choice – and stop corrupt utilities from fighting the interests of those they serve to pad the pockets of their shareholders.
It isn’t apparent how the ratepayers who were not protected by regulation will get any recompense.
When something goes sideways, it’s always the ratepayers who are stuck paying the bill.