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DTE raising rates by $65.2M

The Detroit News

DTE Energy is set to raise its rates by more than $65.2 million starting Tuesday, but there may be good news for some southeast Michigan customers.

Utility officials say the increase doesn’t necessarily translate into higher bills. The average residential customer could see a drop by about 2 percent, DTE spokeswoman Randi Berris said.

In another move that could spell some relief for customers, a $65 million hike the Michigan Public Service Commission recently authorized for DTE is less than the $125 million rate increase the company set on its own while awaiting a commission decision. So the utility will be issuing refunds to customers, officials said.

The hike is 28 percent of the $231 million that the Detroit-based company asked for in April 2017 when filing its rate case, a legal proceeding to determine amounts to charge customers. It’s also 1.4 percent higher than rates set in its last case, the commission said.

New energy laws that went into effect last year ended the self-implementation option, and DTE’s is the last rate case of any utility where the practice is allowed, according to the Public Service Commission.

The rate hike was necessary, the commission said, to ensure stability in providing electricity.

“It’s important that DTE Electric customers have a reliable electrical grid so they can be confident power is available when it’s needed,” Sally Talberg, chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission, said in a statement. “The commission believes it is vital that utilities are committed to upgrading infrastructure to promote safety, provide reliable service and reduce customer outages.”

This fall, DTE electric and gas customers also are slated to see their costs reduced about 3 percent thanks to the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which cut the corporate tax rate, Berris added. “Because we are a regulated energy company, that saving gets passed along to our customers,” she said.

Meanwhile, the latest rate increase approved by the commission allows the company to upgrade electric infrastructure, said Trevor Lauer, DTE Energy president and COO.

“It means the average residential electric bill will go down beginning in May and will allow us to keep customer bills below the national average while delivering reliable, safe, clean and affordable energy,” he said.

DTE is slated to spend on distribution operation and maintenance, including tree trimming; pole top maintenance; substation and station improvements; and system upgrades to prevent problems associated with potentially overloaded equipment as part of the Gordie Howe International Bridge development project in Detroit, officials announced.

“While we cannot control extreme weather, we are hardening our infrastructure to help reduce the impact of major storms on our energy grid; DTE’s investments in smart meters and smart technologies also will help improve service quality and reliability,” Lauer said. “We are committed to delivering the reliability and peace of mind that our customers expect.”