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AG Nessel Focuses on System Reliability Improvements, Increased Outage Credits & Affordability in Continued Advocacy Before MPSC

LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is once again advocating for consumers before the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) in response to utility operations and oversight in the state.

In August, the MPSC opened a feedback period following repeated and ongoing power outages focused on additional utility oversight. The deadline for submissions was last Friday.  

In this latest deadline, the Commission sought feedback on whether the current utility distribution plans reasonably: 

  • address the need for reliability; 
  • provide appropriate metrics to reduce outages; 
  • provide incentives and penalties that align with the goals to reduce outages; 
  • reflect appropriate balance between investment and affordability; 
  • address equity considerations; and  
  • consider best practices to improve customer safety and reliability. 

In response to this latest series of questions, Nessel submitted comments and recommendations to assist the MPSC.

The Attorney General noted that although the utility distribution plans filed with the Commission propose large investments over the next five years, they provide few quantifiable goals or metrics for system reliability and do not clearly demonstrate improved system reliability to meet the expectations of the Commission and customers. Moreover, there is a lack of consideration in the distribution plans concerning affordability to customers and equity concerns.  Finally, the Attorney General's comments summarized the results of her online electric outage survey and reiterated her call for greater outage credits to compensate customers fairly for their loses following these extended electric outages.

"I've long said we need increased reliability to prevent these regular electric outages, but we also need quantifiable metrics set for these utilities to adhere to in order to achieve that reliability, as well as appropriate penalties for failure to meet those standards," Nessel said. "In addition, the utility distribution plans must address affordability, inequities in the current electric system, and properly compensate customers who suffer multiple and lengthy outages."

The Attorney General's comments can be found on MPSC's website.

The filing includes takeaways from the Department's online feedback form, which Nessel launched in August. The data represents a total of 4,377 responses from across the state, the overwhelming majority of which were from DTE and Consumers Energy customers.

Also last month, the MPSC announced a technical conference focused on storm response, preparedness and reliability to be held Wednesday, Oct. 22. Nessel submitted recommendations for that conference, which primarily focused on prioritizing the protection of customers during extreme weather events and improving benchmarks for grid upgrades meant to address frequent outages - such as tracking tree trimming.

The input also provided MPSC with the National Association of Statute Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA) 2019 resolution regarding emergency disaster preparedness.

Since taking office, Nessel has saved Michigan consumers more than $1 billion by intervening in utility cases.