MI AG Criticizes Electric Company's 5-Year Distribution Plan

Michigan Business NewsLansing, MI - Last week, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed comments with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on DTE Electric’s 5-year distribution plan.

The Commission required Indiana Michigan Power Company, Consumers Energy Company, and DTE Electric Company to file their 5-year distribution plan last fall and set separate deadlines this year for interested parties to file comments regarding the plans. 

The distribution plan details the company’s 5-year investment plans for their electric distribution grid. DTE Electric forecast therein spending $9 billion over that time to address electric reliability as well as other upgrades to the electric grid to address future increased electrification.   

“The 5-year distribution plans are a good idea, but the Commission should be demanding more of Michigan utilities in these filings,” said Nessel. “DTE needs to refile its distribution plan to address affordability concerns, and to tell their customers they will see noticeable reliability improvements, coupled with consequences for failing to meet those goals.” 

Attorney General Nessel argues to the MPSC the plan filed by DTE lacks both affordability and accountability. Similar to the $7 billion 5-year distribution plan filed by Consumers Energy, DTE is forecasting $9 billion over the next five years but with little to no discussion on affordability for its customers. The Attorney General notes to the Commission that this $9 billion investment, combined with forecasted expenses, translates to a cost per customer of approximately $4,350. This significant increase and potential customer burden should be addressed in the 5-year plan, alongside consideration of cost alternatives. These costs will appear in upcoming electric rate cases where interested parties can challenge them, though it is equally important utility companies forecast affordability and consider alternatives when they forecast necessary near-term grid improvements. 

DTE’s 5-year distribution plan, over the course of 279 pages, generally outlines programs and projects that the company plans to undertake. However, the plan would be more effective and informative if the company were willing to clearly identify specific problem areas, causes for power outages, and other deficiencies, and then present specific solutions to resolve those problems, as well as expected outcomes or goals that are to be achieved for customers. For example, DTE provides projections of some electric reliability metric goals (such as duration and frequency of outages) by 2029, but there are no actual goals that the company has committed to and no accountability to customers if the goals aren’t met. The 5-year plan filed contains no performance monitoring process to allow customers to see their money producing results and there are no accountability mechanisms such as penalties or refunds to customers if the company fails to achieve the results. Even though the MPSC is considering some accountability metrics in a current workgroup, DTE should commit to declared goals and accountability when proposing a $9 billion investment of ratepayer dollars

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