FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 4, 2019
LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Public Service Commission issued its 2018 Annual Report today, highlighting achievements in implementing the state’s energy laws, helping customers with heating bills and utility complaints, infrastructure renewal, tax cut refunds for ratepayers, and technical assistance to expand broadband across the state.
In the first full year of enactment of the state’s energy laws (Public Acts 341 and 342 of 2016), the Commission decided its first rate case on the mandated shorter, 10-month timeline; expanded programs to reduce energy waste; approved new voluntary “green pricing” options for customers who want to take advantage of renewable energy projects; studied all electricity providers’ plans to ensure the long-term adequacy of Michigan’s power supplies; and reviewed initial integrated resource plans that look forward at all aspects of a utility’s options to meet customer needs.
The Commission approved two rounds of monthly refunds on bills for customers of rate-regulated utilities as a result of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The MPSC determined the impact of the lower corporate tax rate and ordered utilities to return the savings to customers. Ten utilities returned $379.5 million in annual savings and $233.2 million in additional credits.
Infrastructure improvement was a priority for the Commission in 2018 to ensure safe, reliable, and accessible energy and telecommunications services to residents at reasonable rates:
MPSC staff conducted 959 natural gas facility inspections, investigated 14 incidents, and authorized and monitored the replacement of more than 275 miles of distribution lines through accelerated infrastructure replacement programs.
Commission staff worked with electric utilities and stakeholders to develop a long-term distribution planning process to better understand the condition of infrastructure, the anticipated investment in and prioritization of replacement projects, and how emerging technologies will impact the distribution planning process.
The MPSC supported efforts to expand broadband, and nearly 64 percent of homes statewide now have access. It also worked to align the state and federal Lifeline programs and improve eligibility screening. There are approximately 379,000 Lifeline customers in Michigan.
Other highlights of the annual report, which is due to Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Legislature by the first Monday of March in accordance with Act 3 of 1939:
Approximately $90 million in grants were awarded to 10 service organizations across the state through the Michigan Energy Assistance Program. The funding helped 94,445 low-income households with their heating bills and moving toward energy self-sufficiency.
Commission staff helped more than 11,500 customers with complaints or questions about their utility and telecommunications service.
Wind energy contracts, expanded use of demand response, and energy waste reduction programs were among proposals that were approved to ensure reliable, cleaner sources of energy as older power coal plants retire.
Certificates of necessity were approved for DTE Electric Co.’s natural gas plant in southeast Michigan.
Commission rules governing technical requirements, cybersecurity, safety, and customer protection for gas, electric and telecommunications service were updated to provide increased protections for consumers and to better align with industry best practices.
Several Michigan Agency for Energy divisions and sections were reincorporated into the MPSC, including information technology, administration, and MEAP.
The Commission was involved in Governor Rick Snyder’s 21st Century Infrastructure Commission, served on the Michigan Infrastructure Council to revamp the state’s infrastructure through the development of a coordinated 30-year investment plan for all utilities, and was part of the Consortium of Advanced Networks, which produced the Michigan Broadband Roadmap with recommendations on expanding the access, adoption, and use of high-speed Internet in all areas of the state.
Employee engagement at the Commission continued to improve with the latest statewide survey, exceeding State of Michigan and service industry benchmarks.
The MPSC handled hundreds of cases involving rate and policy determinations and issued 656 orders and minute actions. Of those, 410 involved electric cases, 132 telecommunications, 100 natural gas, eight steam, and six video/cable.
The members of the Commission are Chairman Sally A. Talberg, Commissioner Norman J. Saari, and Commissioner Daniel C. Scripps. The MPSC has approximately 175 full-time employees, eight divisions -- Regulatory Affairs, Energy Resources, Energy Operations, Regulated Energy, Telecommunications, Customer Assistance, Administrative Services, and Strategic Operations – and a staff of administrative law judges who are part of the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules.
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