Consumers Energy explains request for $225 million annual electric rate hike

MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) – Starting next year, the price residents in much of Mid-Michigan pay for electricity could be going up.

Consumers Energy is asking the Michigan Public Service Commission for a $225 million rate increase. That comes on top of a $90 million rate increase approved just a few months ago.

“The proposal we have is about serving our customers better,” said Consumers Energy spokesman Brian Wheeler. “We know people want energy to be available 24/7 and so do we.”

A portion of the increase would go toward maintaining and upgrading the existing power grid, which serves around 1.9 million customers in the Lower Peninsula. All of Mid-Michigan west of Tuscola County and the Thumb region gets electricity from Consumers.

The rate increase would also go toward clearing trees from power lines to help reduce the number and length of power outages during severe weather by 15%.

Wheeler said the rate increase request is a standard procedure the utility goes through every year or every other year. If the increase is approved at the full amount, he said customers would pay an additional $10 or less on their monthly utility bill.

But customers can take steps to reduce energy consumption and mitigate how much the rate increase actually costs them.

“People are often using less electricity today than they would otherwise because they upgraded their light bulbs, they have appliances that run more efficiently, so that’s another part of it,” Wheeler said. “While we’re talking about the basic rates, if we can help our customers to use less energy, they actually can save money or make any increases very minimal.”

The rate increase request has caught the attention of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who has requested to intervene in the process. Her office is planning to closely examine the request to make sure the increases are reasonable and necessary for the utility.

The Michigan Public Service Commission ultimately will decide how much of an increase Consumers Energy will be allowed to charge customers.

“This really is a long process and it’s good to have the input from the Attorney General and others, because what ultimately will happen is that the public service commission will look at all the different opinions and all the different ideas and try to help us come up with an approach that’s best for our customers,” Wheeler said.

The Attorney General’s Office also intervened in Consumers Energy’s last rate increase, which resulted in customer savings of about $154 million. That’s more than 60% off the utility’s original rate increase request.

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