State panel OKs energy rule reviled by critics

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Delta Charter Township — The Michigan Public Service Commission will require all electricity providers in the state to generate a still-undetermined amount of power from within state lines by 2022, the panel’s chairwoman said Friday.

Sally Talberg said the requirement could apply even to small Michigan utility companies other than DTE Energy and Consumers Energy and is meant to ensure Michigan has a reliable electricity supply.

Critics say the rule might force smaller companies into buying from DTE and Consumers rather than out-of-state companies, potentially increasing costs for consumers and hurting competition. She pushed back against criticism of the new rule – part of a broader energy overhaul signed last year by Gov. Rick Snyder.

“There’s been a lot of speculation and comments about the commission’s motivations and I would say some confusion about our earlier order on this,” Talberg told reporters after a commission meeting.

She said the commission is implementing the new rule in a way that is “true to the letter of the law” and that offers electricity providers “a lot of options and flexibility” in meeting the new order.

Affected companies will have to offer a certain amount of electricity from within a concentrated portion of the state.

“This law was carefully and contentiously negotiated deep into the night with the governor and lawmakers finally coming to an agreed upon compromise,” said Maureen McNulty Saxton, spokesman for Energy Choice Now, a group that supports energy competition.

“This action by the MPSC is a slap in the face of those lawmakers and the governor. It puts Michigan’s competitive electric market at risk, and worst of all, it will cost electricity customers — the schools and businesses and organizations that were part of this negotiation — millions more in higher electric bills.”

Jackson-based Consumers Energy said in a statement that “it’s the responsibility of all energy providers to ensure they have secured adequate capacity to serve their customers.”

The final version of the energy overhaul law Snyder signed in late December of 2016 did not include strict “local clearing requirements” included in earlier drafts.

A slew of Michigan companies, universities and religious organizations sent a letter to state lawmakers Friday criticizing the new rule. They say it was stripped from the legislation before Snyder signed it but later revived by the commission.

Among the companies and groups that signed the letter were Amway, Kellogg Co., the Bloomfield School District, Wayne-Westland Community Schools West, the Michigan Association of State Universities and the Michigan Association of School Boards.