OPINION

Letter: Energy choice benefits Michigan consumers

DetroitNews

Senior executives Steven Kurmas at DTE Energy and David Mengebier at Consumers Energy recently wrote a rebuttal (Re: “Facts on utility rates, energy policy,” March 1) to an opinion piece which, they said, was filled with “half-truths and distortions.”

The utility executives say they “work hard to control costs and keep rates as low as possible.”

Let’s look at the facts:

■Michigan’s rates are the highest in the Midwest, and among the highest in the nation. Michigan’s average prices rose three times as fast as the U.S. average since 2008 when DTE and Consumers Energy received a 90 percent monopoly over the electricity market.

■Michigan ratepayers have paid more than $10.5 billion in above-market rates since 2008, when compared to our neighbors in Illinois, a state with full electric choice.

■Indiana, another utility monopoly controlled state, had average residential rates nearly 30 percent lower than Michigan’s last year.

■Even Wisconsin — a utility monopoly controlled state with brand new, multi-million dollar power plants built into ratepayers’ bills — has lower residential rates than Michigan.

■Last year alone, Michigan’s residential rates were 14 percent higher than the national average and ranged from 14 to nearly 16 percent higher than Ohio and Illinois respectively, states with electric choice.

DTE and Consumers Energy say the utility-backed Nofs-Nesbitt legislative energy plan would preserve electric competition in Michigan “at 10 percent.”

Yet as reported by the Swiss-based global bank UBS, one of the biggest, most powerful financial institutions in the world: “Senator Nofs’ bill looks good for CMS and DTE and would likely end customer choice through tougher rules.”

That is the very reason why the Nofs-Nesbitt bill failed last year to advance in the state House. Concerned citizens, neighborhood small business owners, large employers and public school leaders spoke out about the hundreds of millions in additional energy costs they would incur if the bill were passed and electric choice was eliminated.

The bill supporters say that the process for setting electric rates is open and transparent. But they’d rather not talk about the 69 lobbyists they employ in Lansing and the $2.5 million ad campaign they bankrolled in 2015, smearing anyone who wants to compete with them. .

They also say electric choice is about “out-of-state energy marketers.” It isn’t.

But we are worried about the 200 school districts in Michigan and the kids they educate. Michigan public schools currently saving $23.5 million a year thanks to electric choice. If the utilities get their way, those savings would disappear.

We do worry that if the Nofs-Nesbitt plan becomes law, schools would be forced to make spending cuts the equivalent to taking 380 teachers out of the classroom.

We are concerned about the welfare of the thousands of Michigan small businesses that currently save millions on their electricity by shopping competitively, and the 11,000 Michigan consumers who have signed contracts with lower cost electric providers but who are not allowed to realize those savings because of state law.

Since December 2000, every Michigan resident has seen the rates they pay to turn on the electric switch increase by 82.9 percent. Now they want more.

Michigan policy makers need to look out for the best interests of Michigan school kids and ratepayers — not just two massive monopoly businesses and their shareholders on Wall Street.

Wayne Kuipers, executive director

Energy Choice Now