U.S. House passes historic climate, tax legislation with no GOP support

Bill a step toward fair, secure energy for Michigan

Steve Kurmas

The recent vote by the House Energy and Technology Committee was an important step toward securing an affordable, reliable and clean energy future for Michigan. Bills — passed with strong bi-partisan support — also help assure that Michigan maintains control over its own energy future and does not give up control to the federal government or out-of-state interests.

Committee Chairman Aric Nesbitt, R-Porter Township, and Minority Vice Chairman Bill LaVoy, D-Monroe, showed vision and leadership on these critical issues for our state.

DTE Energy supported the bills originally introduced by Nesbitt. But after months of hearings, the versions approved by the committee have some sharp differences from the original bills, particularly in the areas of retail access, renewables and energy efficiency. Even with those changes, the bills approved by the House committee support the key principals of reliability, affordability, fairness and adaptability.

Perhaps most importantly, the legislation addresses the fundamental problems with Michigan’s current electricity regulations while retaining the current 10 percent cap on “retail open access.”

■It protects families and businesses from potential electric reliability problems and from increasing subsidies that unfairly cost most Michigan ratepayers more than $300 million a year.

■It assures that all electric providers play by the same rules and are responsible for reliably serving their customers. If the Michigan Public Service Commission predicts a generating capacity shortfall in its three-year outlook, it will require all electric suppliers to demonstrate that they have sufficient capacity in place to serve their customers in those years.

■It prevents customers from quickly jumping back and forth between out-of-state energy marketers and utilities when market conditions change. A sudden return of large customers to utility service could jeopardize the utility’s ability to maintain reliable service.

The legislation also would continue Michigan’s progress toward a cleaner mix of electric generating technologies. As 25 coal-fired generating units close in the next five years across the state — including nine closures next spring — that capacity will be replaced with a mix of renewables, energy efficiency and generating plants fueled by natural gas. Over the next 15 years, the statewide investment in new generation technologies is estimated at $15 billion.

Another provision would establish a goal that Michigan achieves 30 percent of its electricity supply with a combination of renewable energy and energy efficiency by the year 2025.

The bills also create incentives for utilities to help their customers save energy by reducing energy waste in their homes or businesses.

Finally, the package creates a new power plant approval process which requires utilities to file long-term plans for how they will meet reliability and environmental requirements in the best way to keep power prices low. This process will be fully transparent and allow everyone to have a chance to present alternatives to the utility’s plans before the state regulators approve any new investments.

We urge House approval of this legislation and urge the Senate to adopt its own bills that similarly support the key principals of reliability, affordability, fairness and adaptability.

Steve Kurmas is president and chief operating officer of DTE Energy.