How we’re holding DTE Energy Accountable (and how you can help)
Widespread and recurring power outages in the Detroit area have been making headlines and sparking new calls for utility accountability. While going toe-to-toe with powerful monopoly utilities isn’t easy, Vote Solar and a broad network of activists and advocacy groups are already doing just that. While some of that work happens in the legislature, some of the most impactful energy decisions are also made by state regulatory bodies. In Michigan, that’s the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), a group of three appointed commissioners. While engaging at public service commissions to move the needle on clean energy policy is one of Vote Solar’s favorite things to do, the process is often shrouded in jargon and made needlessly difficult to follow. We’re here to help! Read on to learn more about what’s going on behind the scenes at the MPSC and how you can get involved.
Currently, the MPSC is considering two meaningful proposals by major Michigan utility, DTE Energy, which provides service to 2.3 million Michigan customers. Both have the potential to push our state further toward a just carbon-free economy for the Great Lakes State – and both require the voices and perspectives of Michigan residents like you.
First, MPSC is considering DTE’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). Utilities develop proposed IRPs to outline how they plan to generate energy for years to come. The proposals are then submitted to energy regulators for approval, rejection, or changes. In DTE’s case, the IRP will determine DTE’s energy resources for two whole decades. Unfortunately, the company’s proposed plan falls short of the deep decarbonization that is needed to create a just and equitable clean energy future.
We and our partners are working to show DTE, the MPSC, and ratepayers that a cleaner, more equitable alternative is possible. Through expert testimony and state-of-the-art modeling, we’ve shone a light on our vision for DTE’s resource plan – one that moves away from polluting coal five years sooner, adds 1,307 more megawatts of solar to the grid, and replaces harmful and expensive fossil gas with energy storage that can make our grid more resilient to power outages. The MPSC is expected to make a decision on DTE’s plan by August of this year.
At the same time, the MPSC is considering DTE’s proposed rate case. Similarly to an IRP, a rate case is drafted by the utility and submitted to state energy regulators. The difference is that, instead of energy resources, a rate case outlines how much utility customers are charged for energy.
In DTE’s last rate case, the company requested $388 million, though the MPSC approved only a small fraction. Now, DTE is nearly doubling that already sky-high figure, asking customers to foot the bill for a staggering $622 million. This will raise residential electricity rates by 13.9%, adding $12 to the average customer’s monthly bill. Ratepayers have a right to know where their money is going and why DTE claims to need such an exorbitant amount of it. This is particularly true given that DTE already charges among the highest rates in the Midwest and has notoriously unreliable service. Unfortunately, only 20% of that $622 million will be directed toward operational costs. As for the rest? Much of it will likely pad the pockets of shareholders and increase DTE’s own return on equity.
Both the IRP and the rate case will set the stage for the next era of Michigan’s clean energy transition, and it’s your right to speak up for what you want to see. The MPSC is currently accepting public comments in both proceedings. You can submit comments on the IRP here and the rate case here. No expertise or experience is necessary; if you’re a DTE customer who wants everyone to have access to affordable and reliable power, you’re more than qualified to comment. You can also help bring awareness to both proceedings by writing a letter to the editor or sharing your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #DoBetterDTE.
We’ve seen what can happen when people come together to stand up to powerful utilities. In DTE’s last rate case, Detroit residents packed the hearing rooms, offering moving testimony about how such a steep increase would impact their lives. Meaningful clean energy progress can be achieved through the regulatory process – but we need you with us! Stay tuned for updates from Michigan and more ways to stand up for affordable, accessible, and reliable clean energy.