MICHIGAN — Back in December, Consumers Energy received a $90,000,000 rate increase. Since then, they’ve requested another multimillion-dollar increase, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, is stepping in to intervene.
“We thought that was a bit excessive especially since we’re still in the midst of a pandemic for them to come around and ask for an additional increase. We feel like that it’s ill-timed,” said Derrell Slaughter, a clean energy advocate with NRDC. “I think we would prefer them to hold up, but if they already filed their case, we’re going to be active along with our other colleagues to intervene in these different cases. We’re going to be heavily scrutinizing their rate increase request.”
Slaughter said Consumers Energy is specifically requesting a $253M—or 8.3 percent—increase.
The NRDC is working with Citizens Utility Board of Michigan, the Michigan Environmental Council, the Sierra Club and Attorney General Dana Nessel to intervene and advocate for residents, they stated in a press release back in March. One main thing they're going to focus on is how Consumers plans to upgrade its distribution system.
“We want to make sure that they’re not only being spent to upgrade the distribution but also prepare us for more renewables to go in our distribution system,” Slaughter said during a Zoom interview on Tuesday afternoon. “So, just replacing one piece for a similar piece is not going to cut it. Upgrades are going to ultimately enable more wind and solar battery storage technology.”
Slaughter added that right now Consumers Energy’s request is just a proposal. It has to go before an administrative law judge. Then it has to get approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission. That ruling won’t come until next year.
Nevertheless, he said they’re going to continue to keep a close eye on their activity.
“We just want to make sure overall that these dollars are being spent in a way that we think that moves Michigan forward, that decarbonizes our grid and also makes sure that these dollars are being spent equitably,” Slaughter said. “Making sure definitely Black and Brown folks are not bearing the major brunt of these rates increases. But, these are things we’re going to be looking at.”
Consumers Energy released a statement to FOX `17 about the proposed rate increase now before the Michigan Public Service Commission.
"Consumers Energy is committed to providing affordable energy to Michigan homes and businesses. The average household we serve will pay around $4 a day for electricity next year, about the national average. We are making the request to adjust rates so we can strengthen Michigan’s electric grid - clearing trees from power lines, reducing power outages, funding electric vehicle chargers and more. Our request is the first step in a process that should run through the end of the year before the MPSC makes any decisions."