2019 Annual Report highlights MPSC's work to improve infrastructure, save costs, help customers and guide state's transition to clean energy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   March 2, 2020

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The Michigan Public Service Commission’s 2019 Annual Report released today highlights an exceptional year in which the agency launched a major effort to guide the state’s transition to maximize the benefits of the transition to clean energy, issued a Statewide Energy Assessment after a cold-weather energy emergency gripped the state, and refunded significant tax cut savings to ratepayers.

In addition, the report outlines how the MPSC continued its efforts to expand broadband across the state and help customers with heating bills and utility complaints.

The Commission also issued final orders in five electric and natural gas rate cases approving $417.5 million in rate increases in 2019, $245.5 million less than utility companies had sought. The main driver behind the rate increases has been spending on upgrades as utilities replace aging infrastructure to improve safety and reliability.

At the same time, the Commission completed its work to ensure corporate utility savings from the federal 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act were passed on to ratepayers. Through three rounds of calculations, the Commission ensured more than $4.1 billion was returned to customers through immediate bill credits and long-term adjustments to rates.

The year kicked off with a statewide energy emergency amid a polar vortex cold snap as a Macomb County compressor station fire limited the state’s natural gas supply, resulting in calls for customers to turn down their thermostats to conserve natural gas. A simultaneous regional electricity generation emergency led to customers on special interruptible rates being asked to reduce electricity use.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called on the MPSC to review the state’s energy supply and preparedness. The agency in September released a 200-page Statewide Energy Assessment outlining immediate steps the Commission and its Staff would take to ensure the state’s energy systems become more resilient and able to withstand extreme weather events, aging infrastructure and other challenges.

As the agency continued implementing the state’s 2016 energy laws, the MPSC also launched MI Power Grid, a multiyear effort supported by Gov. Whitmer to guide the state’s transition to clean energy as utility companies increasingly retire aging power plants and look to wind, solar and energy waste reduction as ways to meet the energy needs of their customers. MI Power Grid’s areas of emphasis are customer engagement, integrating emerging technologies, and optimizing grid performance and investments. Among its goals is a modernized electric grid that will improve reliability and facilitate adoption of new technologies, from electric vehicles and electricity storage to smart sensors and controls.

Providing customer assistance and help for vulnerable residents remained a top priority for the MPSC. The agency:

The MPSC’s annual report is due to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Legislature each year by the first Monday of March under Act 3 of 1939. Other highlights of the 2019 annual report:

  • MPSC Staff conducted 955 inspection days on new and existing natural gas pipelines, investigated 13 natural gas incidents, and authorized the replacement of 300 miles of gas distribution lines and 26,000 meters inside homes.
  • The MPSC’s Gas Operations Section launched a new database system to track inspections of gas pipeline companies, investigation of incidents and damage prevention activities. Staff investigated issues related to utility companies being late to mark thousands of excavation notifications.
  • Approved the launch of electric vehicle pilot programs by the state’s two largest utilities, Consumers Energy and DTE Electric.
  • The Commission supported the efforts of the state’s Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force as it assesses the energy needs and challenges of the U.P.
  • The Commission issued 563 orders and other actions involving hundreds of matters ranging from rate cases to regulatory policy determinations.
  • In 2019, six electric utilities filed integrated resource planning applications addressing their options for meeting long-term energy needs. The Commission issued final orders on IRPs for Consumers Energy, Alpena Power Co. and Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corp. and an interim order for Upper Peninsula Power Co. Four IRP cases were pending at the end of the year, two of which have since been finalized.
  • The Commission approved a new fee structure for pipeline siting applications to better reflect the costs of the MPSC’s regulatory work.
  • The MPSC staff participated in a steering committee with other state departments on the Connecting Michigan Communities broadband grant program; $20 million in grants will be awarded in summer 2020.

Members of the Commission are Chairman Sally A. Talberg and two new members appointed in 2019 by Gov. Whitmer: Commissioners Daniel C. Scripps and Tremaine L. Phillips. The MPSC has 175 full-time employees with expertise in engineering, law, accounting, economics and other fields across its eight divisions: Administrative Services, Customer Assistance, Energy Operations, Energy Resources, Regulated Energy, Regulatory Affairs, Strategic Operations, and Telecommunications. As well, there is a staff of administrative law judges who are part of the Michigan Office Of Administrative Hearings and Rules

For information about the MPSC, visit www.Michigan.gov/MPSC, sign up for one of its listservs, or follow the Commission on Twitter.

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