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AG Nessel Urges Public Service Commission to Consider Affordability and Quality of Service in Energy Assessment Report

LANSING – Attorney General Dana Nessel filed comments Friday on the Michigan Public Service Commission’s Initial Report of the Michigan Statewide Energy Assessment, urging greater sensitivity to ratepayers. In her role as ratepayer advocate for Michigan utility customers, AG Nessel expressed serious concerns about the ability of customers to afford utility service and the quality of that service.

The report, which was issued in response to the Governor’s request to study the state’s energy resources, addresses Michigan’s energy system including electric, natural gas, propane, cyber and physical security, energy emergency management, gaps in existing planning, operational, and emergency response processes.  It also provides recommendations for further actions and observations including added redundancies and resilience programs.

In the comments, the Attorney General urged the Commission to consider affordability in all recommendations and not preordain any particular outcome without the appropriate review and examination by interested parties in cases before the Commission. 

“While it is important to assess Michigan’s energy system and its ability to respond to natural and man-made catastrophes, it is just as important to remember who is paying for these potential upgrades,” Nessel said.  “There is always a balance that must be struck between reliable and affordable service.”

In addition, the Attorney General reiterated her earlier comments for automatic outage credits and the need to reconsider the penalties for substandard service.  The Attorney General agreed with the Commission’s review of emergency response to disasters to restore power but asked that it also consider the impact of a disaster on the customers themselves. 

“Again, restoring power is important, but it is just as important to address the customers who are displaced by the disaster and how to meet their immediate needs,” said Nessel.

Finally, the Attorney General raised concerns on behalf of customers who are required to pay huge bills before continuing or reinstating service for delinquent bills, a hardship especially for lower income customers.

“The reluctance to allow customers to set up payment plans after shut-offs forces them to rely on energy assistance programs,” said Nessel.  “Customers who are already struggling to pay their bills should be allowed to reinstate service at least once without being required to make large payments up front, including deposits.” 

After reviewing all the comments filed, a final report is scheduled to be issued by the Public Service Commission by September 13, 2019.

A copy of the Attorney General’s August 9, 2019 comments can be found here.