September 11, 2020
LANSING – The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on Thursday and late last month approved two settlements that include donations from both DTE Gas and Consumers Energy to several organizations that provide energy assistance for utility customers who struggle to pay their bills, an agreement Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office helped reach.
In the order released Thursday, the MPSC approved a settlement reducing Consumers Energy Gas Co.’s $245 million rate increase request by over $100 million, along with a moratorium on any new increase until fall 2022, a $1 million donation to The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW) and an additional $1 million going to nonprofits that provide energy assistance to customers in the utility’s service territory. None of these donations are included in the rates paid by customers. The order also prevents, until review and litigation in the next rate case, any cost recovery of the infrastructure improvements made to the Ray Compressor Station, where a fire in January 2019 caused the station to go offline and contributed to an energy emergency.
In the order released late last month, the MPSC approved a settlement reducing DTE Gas Co.’s $203.8 million rate increase request by nearly 50 percent along with a $1 million donation to THAW. Again, none of this donation is included in the rates paid by customers. The order also approved a demand response pilot program to increase energy resilience in the state as well as provide a framework to increase safety in DTE’s distribution system in keeping with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s push for a statewide energy assessment by the MPSC.
“As the state’s chief consumer advocate, I pushed hard for rate increase reductions as well as for donations in order to help customers struggling to pay utility bills during this pandemic crisis,” Nessel said. “With fall and the cold weather coming, $3 million in donations will go a long way to help customers stay warm."
Saunteel Jenkins, CEO of THAW, underscored the importance of the donation to Michigan families.
“Heat, electricity and water are basic and essential needs, especially during a pandemic. Attorney General Nessel’s work on behalf of struggling families has real impact in this regard,” Jenkins said. “The donation will enable THAW to keep thousands more families healthy, safe and warm as Michigan struggles with both the cold and the pandemic. We are grateful for an Attorney General who is committed to advocating for families who too often do not have a voice.”
The Attorney General also worked with the Citizens Utility Board of Michigan (CUB), another consumer advocate group in both of these cases to bring about these results.
“Working with Attorney General Dana Nessel and Commission staff has yielded great results for consumers in these cases and we’re pleased to see these donation commitments included in the recent settlement agreements,” said Amy Bandyk, Executive Director of CUB, a nonpartisan Michigan non-profit dedicated to making utility costs affordable for Michigan residents.
DTE Gas, a subsidiary of DTE Energy, is headquartered in Detroit and serves about 1.3 million customers in Southeastern Michigan.
Consumers Energy Gas Co. is headquartered in Jackson with roughly 1.7 million customers throughout Michigan’s lower peninsula.