Lawmakers to Michigan utilities: ‘Keep the power on or pay up’
LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Two state legislators and a policy advocacy group say it’s time to keep the lights on, or else.
State Reps. Abraham Aiyash and Yousef Rabhi, both Democrats, introduced legislation Wednesday that would tighten regulations on electrical utilities by penalizing them for power outages. House Bills 6043-6047 would require utilities to compensate customers for the costs of outages and would require regulators to hold evidentiary hearings on electrical distribution plans.
Background: Relief from power outages part of new legislation
Although Aiyash and Rabhi introduced the legislation, it has sponsors from members of both parties.
“Right now, everyone pays the price of power outages except the utilities,” Rabhi said. “Individual Michiganders lose the food in their fridge and the power they need to run their medical devices. Businesses lose stock and operating hours.”
“We can’t let power companies hold all the power,” Aiyash said. “We pay the highest residential electricity rates in the nation for reliability that is nearly the worst. These bills will help the people of Michigan hold these monopolies responsible for delivering the service we pay for.”
However, energy companies say it’s already in their interest to keep the lights on.
Katie Carey is a Consumers Energy representative.
“Consumers Energy views this legislation as unnecessary,” Carey said. “We already file distribution and investment plans with the MPSC and work hard to ensure reliability. Our plan calls for $5.4 billion over the next five years to reduce power outages with investments such as trimming trees, replacing poles and upgrading equipment to a higher, more resilient standard.”
The bills are House Bills 6043-6047.
- House Bill 6043 would require electrical utilities to automatically credit the bills of residential consumers for outages at a rate that increases for longer outages. It also has details on how a utility company would compensate people who do not pay for power directly, but otherwise may have lost income or property due to power loss.
- House Bill 6044 would prohibit electrical utilities from passing the cost of outage compensation on to customers in the form of higher rates.
- House Bill 6045 would require electrical utilities to automatically provide additional compensation to electrical customers who experience multiple outages.
- House Bill 6046 would require electrical utilities to disclose information about the number and duration of outages on customers’ bills.
- House Bill 6047 would require electrical utilities to file their distribution investment and maintenance plans as a contested case with the MPSC, so that this crucial reliability planning process will be accountable to the public.
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