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Michigan’s Electric Choice Debate at Critical Point; How You Can Help

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Over the past year, electric choice in Michigan has been hotly debated.

Spurred by fear tactics and factually incorrect information, legislation was introduced to eliminate the 10 percent of electricity load allowed to choose a retail energy supplier today.

The debate centers around the question of whether there is sufficient capacity to serve Michigan’s energy consumers. Utilities have argued that – despite controlling 90 percent of the market – they cannot build new generation unless the other 10 percent returns. However, that is simply not true. Across the border in Ohio – which has 100 percent open electric choice – new generating plants are being built. After utilities have backtracked in testimony and spent ratepayer funds on misleading ads, this debate is coming to a close.   

The real issue? Electric choice is revealing how bad Michigan’s utility rates really are. And if electric choice is eliminated, there will be no competition, allowing utilities to freely gouge customers.

Senator Mike Nofs – chair of Senate Energy and Technology Committee – originally introduced legislation, which would seemingly allow 10 percent of the market continue to choose a supplier.  However, a closer read revealed provisions that would make it impossible to serve the 10 percent, effectively closing the market. Senator Nofs stated in hearings that he didn’t view it as final language and is actively seeking recommendations and amendments to maintain the 10 percent, but not expand choice. He continues to work with interested parties.

Representative Aric Nesbitt – chair of the House Energy Policy Committee – introduced legislation that would kill electric choice. He later amended his language to allow the 10 percent, followed by provisions that undermined the electric choice option for customers. This week, he announced that on Wednesday, November 4th he plans to introduce a third amended version of his legislation and put it to a committee vote. We do not currently know the new version’s language, but it is likely to take away Michigan customers’ rights to affordable and reliable electricity. For many Direct Energy Business customers, this amounts to hundreds of thousands or, in some cases, millions of dollars a year.

Importantly, there are legislators who are fighting for energy choice and would like to see it grow in Michigan. Senator Mike Shirkey has introduced legislation to incrementally increase the 10 percent over time. Representatives Gary Glenn and Jim Runestad have also proposed several amendments that would increase electric choice for schools, hospitals, entities that purchase renewables, and even residential customers who enter into energy efficiency products.

Michigan’s electric choice debate is at a crucial juncture and the stakes have never been higher for the state’s customers. Tell your legislators to vote NO on any legislation that takes away competitive, cost-effective energy options and does not offer you the opportunity to choose a supplier.

Posted: October 30, 2015