High Electricity Rates in Michigan

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While nationwide electricity rates have fallen in recent years, rates in Michigan are up--more than 27 percent since 2008.

"The conclusion to draw from this is that when we have monopolies prices go up, when we have competition prices come down," said Dr. Theodore Bolema, a Mackinac Center Researcher, who presented his findings to an audience Wednesday in downtown Lansing.

In 2008, a law capped the number of alternative energy suppliers at ten percent. Now more than 11,000 customers--mostly businesses-- are on a waiting list to get power from a company other than DTE and Consumers.

Still, others say the findings don't take all the factors into consideration and are blown out of proportion.

"Many studies have been done that show states with choice have better rates, and other people will say, 'Not so fast, you didn't take this into consideration. In fact, if you look at these states they're not doing better.' It's not a simple decision to make," said Judy Palnau, a spokesperson for the Public Service Commission.

Whether the study is or isn't perfect, Palnau recognizes the electricity rates in the state are high.

"Michigan is not competitive. It's a concern the governor has laid out, and it's a concern of the commission," said Palnau. "Over half of our electricity comes from coal, and we don't have any coal in the state of Michigan so we rely on imports from other states."

That on top of the long power outages in December, and many people would like to switch electricity companies.

"People wanted to find out what is the procedure for switching so that they could explore their options," said Milton Scales, a Meridian Township Trustee who talked with dozens of residents during the outages.

For a select few there are options, customers who live outside of a municipality but get their energy from the city or town are allowed to switch to another provider.

"For example if you live in East Lansing and you have Board of Water and Light, there is a provision that would allow those customers to become Consumers Energy customers for example," said Palnau.

People interested in making the change would have to contact the new provider and see if its an option for them.

"Competition is good business for the consumer. When you have competition the consumer is the winner," said Scales.

In the next few weeks the public service commission will issue its annual report on electricity.

The governor said his priority is to make electricity both affordable and reliable while protecting the environment.

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