MPSC initiatives to tackle issues of customer engagement, equity as state's energy transition moves ahead

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  February 18, 2021

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The Michigan Public Service Commission today launched new efforts focused on educating and engaging utility customers amid sweeping changes in the energy industry and ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Michigan is in the midst of a significant transition from large, central power plants to clean, distributed sources of energy, and active customer involvement will be critical to taking full advantage of the benefits of that shift,” said MPSC Commissioner Tremaine Phillips. “Today’s actions take the next steps in exploring how to best engage and educate customers, and ensure we do so equitably, so that all Michiganders benefit from the energy transition, while also considering the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on access and affordability for so many residents and businesses.”

In Case No. U-20959, the Commission established a Customer Education and Participation workgroup as part of Phase III of MI Power Grid, the MPSC’s multiyear initiative supported by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to maximize the benefits of the energy transition for residents and businesses. The workgroup will wrap in the customer data access section of the existing Data Access and Privacy workgroup. The goal of the workgroup is to examine the evolving role of utility customers as active and effective participants in Michigan’s energy system amid the transition and best practices for customer education and outreach.

That includes exploring the adoption of energy waste reduction and demand response programs, time-of-use rates and distributed energy resources that will be essential to ensuring the energy transition maximizes the benefits for all ratepayers while also ensuring the reliability of service. The workgroup will also address equitable access to energy programs and services, customer data access and privacy issues and ways to improve outreach. The order directs MPSC staff to file a report by Feb. 25, 2022, summarizing the workgroup’s efforts and providing recommendations for the Commission to consider.

In Case No. U-20757, the MPSC directed staff to convene an Energy Affordability and Accessibility Collaborative in coordination with the MPSC’s Energy Waste Reduction and Low-Income Workgroup to address recommendations in the Commission’s ongoing work on its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, affordable energy bills, and issues related to data collection and communication and engagement. The order directed Staff to file an interim report on progress and recommendations by Dec. 17, 2021.

MPSC ADOPTS INTEGRATED RESOURCE PLANNING ADJUSTMENTS AS IT WORKS TO INTEGRATE GOV. WHITMER’S MI HEALTHY CLIMATE GOALS

The MPSC today approved near-term modeling scenarios for utilities to include in their integrated resource plan (IRP) filings as the regulatory agency works to adapt Michigan’s utility IRP requirements to consider Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s goal of economywide carbon neutrality by 2050, laid out in her MI Healthy Climate Plan executive order (Case No. U-20633). A stakeholder workgroup is evaluating updates to IRP parameters as part of the MPSC’s MI Power Grid initiative, work expected to be completed in 2022, and will take into account goals set by Michigan’s utilities and how those goals align with greenhouse gas emissions targets set by Governor Whitmer.

EXPANDED TERRITORY APPROVED FOR POINT BROADBAND

The MPSC today approved expansion of Point Broadband Fiber Holding LLC’s (PBFH) designation as a high-cost eligible telecommunications carrier so that the company can receive funding it won in the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Auction announced in December 2020 (Case No. U-20720). PBFH is a licensed provider of basic local exchange phone service in Michigan and offers voice telephony and broadband internet access in areas of mid-Michigan.

SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT APPROVED TO ALLOW CONSTRUCTION OF MICHIGAN GAS UTILITIES REPLACEMENT PIPELINE IN CALHOUN COUNTY

The MPSC today approved a settlement agreement that permits Michigan Gas Utilities Corp. to build and operate a natural gas transmitter pipeline in Calhoun County that will replace the aging Partello transmission pipeline to address safety and reliability concerns (Case No. U-20853). The proposed replacement 10-inch pipeline spans about 15 miles from the Partello Compressor Facility to the Vector Pipeline Marshall Station interconnect. The approximately $19.1 million pipeline is expected to be in service in 2022, with the costs addressed in a future MGU general rate case.

MPSC ANNOUNCES INVESTIGATION INTO MARKETING PRACTICES OF ALTERNATIVE GAS SUPPLIER REALGY ENERGY SERVICES

The MPSC has launched an investigation into the marketing and customer service policies and practices of alternative gas supplier (AGS) Realgy LLC, doing business as Realgy Energy Services (Case No. U-20978). Based on the number of complaints received under the Gas Customer Choice Program, the Commission today directed Realgy to submit a plan of action within 30 days to address the company’s marketing procedures and methods to avoid problems arising from complaints. Progress reports on the company’s implementation of the plan of action shall be submitted to MPSC Staff every three months for a year, so that Staff may determine whether Realgy has eliminated root causes of the complaints and otherwise complied with regulatory requirements. Realgy has been a licensed AGS in Michigan since April 2008.

To look up cases from today’s meeting, access the E-Dockets filing system here.

To watch recordings of the MPSC’s meetings, click here.

For information about the MPSC, visit www.Michigan.gov/MPSC, sign up for its monthly newsletter or other listservs, or follow the Commission on Twitter or LinkedIn.

DISCLAIMER: This document was prepared to aid the public’s understanding of certain matters before the Commission and is not intended to modify, supplement, or be a substitute for the Commission’s orders. The Commission’s orders are the official action of the Commission.

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