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MPSC marks progress on collaborative efforts to better address energy affordability and assistance
February 10, 2022
Media contact: Matt Helms 517-284-8300
Customer Assistance: 800-292-9555
The Michigan Public Service Commission today noted progress in its efforts to address energy access and affordability issues amid the coronavirus pandemic, extending the work of the MPSC’s Energy Affordability and Accessibility Collaborative for an additional two years, directing utilities to continue reporting monthly data on customer shutoffs and arrearages, and approving up to two low-income energy policy summits to be held this year (Case No. U-20757).
The MPSC began the ongoing work of reexamining energy affordability and assistance issues in 2020 as COVID-19 began disrupting lives and the economy. Building on work to better understand energy assistance needs and best provide help, Commissioners in February 2021 directed MPSC 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 pandemic, affordable energy bills, and issues related to data collection and communication and engagement.
Staff filed an interim report on progress and recommendations Dec. 17, and the Commission today noted some of the Collaborative’s accomplishments so far. They include launching a public database with data updated monthly on utility customer shutoffs and arrearages, and creating an energy assistance outreach toolkit with materials including brochures, postcards, example letters, example social media messages, and video message files translated into multiple languages. The toolkit was distributed in December 2021 to advocacy groups and other stakeholders to help spread awareness of energy assistance programs.
The Commission took several steps today, including:
- Directing Staff to hold up to two low-income energy policy summits in 2022, with details about the timing and agendas for the summits to be determined.
- Encouraging Staff to coordinate its efforts with access and affordability work being done by the Governor’s Poverty Task Force, the Governor’s Council on Climate Solutions, and the Council on Future Mobility and Electrification, helping develop cohesive policies across state agencies.
- Directing Staff to file an interim report detailing the progress, challenges posed, and recommendations of the EAA Collaborative by Dec. 16, 2022, and directing rate-regulated utilities to continue filing monthly reports detailing data on service disconnections and bill arrearages for occupied and unoccupied residences.
- Accepting the Staff’s recommendation to work to broaden representation of historically marginalized communities in the collaborative, saying that diversity in representation correlates to diversity of input, experience, knowledge, and ideas to best assist communities with high energy burdens. Staff will ensure the Collaborative works in tandem with the MPSC’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiative to increase the diversity of representation in the collaborative.
- Adopting the Staff recommendation that investor-owned utilities continue filing monthly shutoff and arrearage data reports in until further notice.
MPSC APPROVES CONSUMERS ENERGY PILOT PROGRAM FOR LOW-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS STRUGGLING WITH UTILITY BILLS
The MPSC today approved a two-year pilot program in which low-income customers of Consumers Energy Co. will be provided both energy bill assistance and access to programs and education to help them reduce energy waste and lower their monthly bills (Case No. U-21021). Consumers’ percent of income payment plan (PIPP) pilot program’s goal is to gauge the effectiveness of percentage of income-based payment plans compared to existing programs at assisting low-income customers in arrears on their energy bills. The pilot will begin Oct. 1, 2022, and will target for enrollment a maximum of 1,500 customers who get natural gas, electric or both from Consumers. Qualifying participants will be placed on a fixed payment plan equivalent to 6% of gross income, with the difference in monthly bills covered by a PIPP credit, with arrears forgiven over the term of the pilot. The Commission’s order also directs Consumers to automatically assess PIPP pilot participants for potential energy waste reduction services and measures, including weatherization, to help them improve energy efficiency and lower their bills. The projected $4.5 million cost of the pilot, including $1 million in information technology costs, will not impact customer rates.
MPSC APPROVES MEASURES ALLOWING CODE OF CONDUCT WAIVERS AS TEC FIBER SEEKS TO EXPAND OF BROADBAND IN MICHIGAN’S THUMB
The MPSC today approved Code of Conduct waivers sought by Thumb Electric Cooperative of Michigan, doing business as TEC Fiber, which seeks to provide high-speed broadband internet service to unserved and underserved rural areas of Michigan (Case No. U-21161). TEC Fiber indicates Thumb Electric Co-op will deploy a fiber ring that connects utility substations to foster a smarter electric grid; TEC Fiber created a broadband division within its corporate structure to lease fiber from the co-op to provide broadband and voice phone services to its members. TEC Fiber sought a waiver of several Code of Conduct provisions designed to prevent anticompetitive behavior or subsidization of the business of affiliates. The Commission’s order approves with the exceptions of R 460.10103(1) and (3), which the Commission denied as unnecessary. The Commission also directed TEC Fiber to include, in its annual report to the MPSC, a detailed accounting of its business activities and expense allocation related to the waivers approved today.
MPSC GRANTS REHEARING BUT DENIES CONSUMERS ENERGY’S BID FOR RECONSIDERATION OF DISALLOWED COSTS IN 2019 PSCR RECONCILIATION
The MPSC today granted Consumers Energy a rehearing on a disallowance on $71,191 in replacement power costs associated with an outage at its Ludington pumped hydroelectric facility, but denied the company’s request to allow the cost or reopen the utility’s reconciliation of its power supply cost recovery expenses for the 2019 calendar year, which the Commission approved in October 2021 (Case No. U-20220). The Commission also rejected a petition by the Residential Customer Group for a rehearing of the Commission’s decisions in the case concerning the Jackson and Zeeland laterals, gas management agent costs, and biomass merchant plants.
To look up cases from today’s meeting, access the MPSC’s E-Dockets filing system.
Watch recordings of the MPSC’s meetings on the MPSC’s YouTube channel.
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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