Letter: Energy key to Michigan’s future growth

Re: Greg McNeilly’s Feb. 18 guest column in The Detroit News, “Utilities work to stifle choice, boost rates”: It is disappointing to see a recent opinion piece twisting and inaccurately portraying Michigan’s energy policy debate.

The author is not an energy expert, but a political activist with an agenda. And his message is the kind of heated rhetoric that’s sadly becoming all too common. It does Michigan’s families and small businesses a real disservice. Everyone needs and deserves to know what’s happening; and how the very complex realities of energy production and delivery could affect us all in the years ahead.

Energy is one of the most pressing issues facing our state. It’s key to future economic growth and stability in Michigan. And the necessary transition to new, cleaner and renewable energy sources requires careful planning and deliberate decisions.

Our leaders must move cautiously, wisely and collaboratively. Their decisions will affect homeowners, businesses and Michigan’s prospects for continuing to grow and thrive.

We need the straight facts. We need collaboration. We need informed public involvement. The Michigan Freedom Fund’s crude “cronyism” allegations aren’t just a distraction; they’re counterproductive.

Allegations that Michigan ratepayers have been overcharged are simply not true. Michigan is home to an independent regulatory commission that reviews our public utilities and considers and approves all rate increases in a transparent, public process. The state’s public utilities are allowed to recover costs through rates only when they conclusively prove that the money was spent prudently to benefit ratepayers.

The unavoidable fact is that our energy infrastructure is wearing out.

Our public power plants are just like our roads, bridges, water systems and sewers — they are infrastructure, and infrastructure is the bedrock of our communities. When we squabble on a fix, everyone loses. The simple fact is that our hometown public utilities have done a great job keeping the lights on in Michigan for the past 100 years. But if we expect them and others to provide 21st Century service to power the state forward, it is more than time to collaborate and act.

Politically fueled drama only serves to leave Michigan residents in the dark. We can and must do better.

Ken Sikkema,

a senior policy fellow,

Public Sector Consultants

Randy Richardville,

former Michigan Senate

Majority Leader