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Energy consumers approved to raise electricity rates must double solar on rooftops

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LANSING, MICH. – State officials agreed to an electric tariff increase for Consumers Energy customers, but required the company to double its rooftop solar cap, amid additional efforts for electric vehicle charging, community solar, grid reliability and electrification of heating residential.

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on Jan. 19 approved a $155 million rate increase for Consumers Energy’s electrical customers, a figure 43% lower than the utility initially sought. This increase comes with a marching order checklist to improve reliability and increase renewable energy efforts.

An average Consumers Energy residential customer using 500 kilowatt-hours of energy per month can expect an overall net increase of 77 cents to their monthly bill. The new tariffs come into effect on January 20.

The company said in its filing with the MPSC that the requested rate increase was driven by continued investment in infrastructure and the need to serve more customers. Investment expenses are associated with new solar and natural gas power generation, system reliability and resiliency, security and compliance, and improved technology, consumers said in their case argument.

Brian Wheeler, a spokesman for the company, said Consumers Energy is committed to providing safe, reliable, affordable and increasingly clean energy to power Michigan homes and businesses while keeping bills as low as possible.

“From cutting more trees to employing the latest smart technology, we are committed to achieving fewer power outages for our customers as we prepare our system to withstand electric vehicles and the challenges of the 21st century,” he said.

The settlement agreement now approved involved 17 parties plus three that did not oppose the agreement. Among those who opposed the initial request for a fee increase were Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan’s non-profit Citizens Utility Board (CUB).

“As a result of this settlement agreement, Consumers Energy must make important strides to use taxpayer dollars more efficiently. This includes measures to prevent power outages before they happen,” said Amy Bandyk, Executive Director of CUB.

“Michigan utility customers pay some of the highest rates in the country for some of the worst electrical services in the country. Settlement agreements like this one could put us on the right track to reverse this situation.”

Michigan’s CUB conducts an annual review of the state’s utility performance, and for 2022 found that Michigan ranks terribly against other states on some reliability metrics – such as average time to restore power after a power outage – and only median in others.

Among the details of the state-approved settlement, consumers agreed to double the cap on their legacy distributed roof solar and grid metering program from 2% to 4%. In addition, the rate at which the company pays rooftop solar customers for excess energy fed into the grid will be based on energy supply rates that take transmission costs into account.

This provision of the agreement means the rooftop solar industry in Michigan can continue to grow and participants will be better compensated, said Laura Sherman, president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, a nonprofit renewable energy advocacy group that also intervened in the agreement. rate case.

“We are very close to hitting the 2% threshold again for these customers. So there’s a need to make sure those customers can continue to install solar on their roof when they want, and if we hadn’t been able to do that, that could be in question,” she said.

Other provisions of the agreement include: a straw proposal for community solar energy in the green pricing program; a pilot study program on curbside charging for electric vehicles that eventually becomes permanent; require discounted EV charging stations to meet federal operating standards; and Consumers should also aim to fell trees and other growth along power lines at the worst performing load concentration points as part of their next fee case.

As part of the agreement, the three-member MPSC panel also approved a plan for consumers to provide a one-time voluntary refund of $15 million of 2022 revenues to customer accounts via a monthly credit.

“We understand that many Michigan residents are facing tough times and no one wants to see rising energy bills – especially our most vulnerable customers. We are working to manage rising energy supply costs while continuing to help customers manage their monthly bills and provide payment assistance programs to customers in need,” said Wheeler.

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