Legislation would shift power to D.C.

When people talk about the energy that powers their lives, they usually say they want it to be safe and affordable, and to be there when they need it.

They also expect basic fairness — everyone pays their share to keep our Michigan communities and businesses running.

The company I work for, Consumers Energy, hears a lot about what Michiganders want. We provide energy to more than 6.6 million people. We may serve your neighborhood, the places where you work or your child’s school. You expect us to be there on hot summer days or in the chill of winter.

That’s why I’m opposed to legislation introduced in the state Senate (SB 235) that would push Michigan in the wrong direction to deregulate its electric market.

Deregulation doesn’t deliver on its promises and would shift control of our power system from Michigan policymakers and regulators to Washington, D.C.

This risky idea is presented under the guise of freedom, allowing some customers to choose out-of-state electric providers. It does just the opposite, however, taking away freedom for almost all of us. Those who peddle deregulation know better.

Electric deregulation has been tried and rejected by other states. Why? While out-of-state marketers sell savings to a few and chase their own profits, they are not fair to the rest of us:

  • They leave everyone else paying for the cost to maintain the electric grid.
  • They don’t invest in the places they serve. None of the out-of-state electric salesmen in Michigan have any plans to build power plants here. They’d just as soon see new power plants — and jobs that come with them — be constructed in Ohio or Indiana.
  • They don’t save us money. The record shows, time and again, that electricity costs more in states with deregulation than in those that responsibly watch over their electric markets.

Michigan shouldn’t make the mistake of adopting deregulation. We should reject a system where out-of-state marketers pick winners and losers, hand-picking a few for special deals while leaving households, local businesses and community organizations paying higher prices.

What should we do? Michigan should support an approach that encourages our companies to build power plants and electric lines to continue connecting the state so that electricity is available — no questions asked — when homes and employers need it.

Our governor and state lawmakers are focused on making Michigan the best place to live and work, and so are we. We are reducing electric costs for businesses that use the most energy and create the most jobs. This will help them continue to put Michigan residents to work.

We also continue to work with economic development officials to offer innovative operational solutions and energy pricing to companies. The results speak for themselves. Employers such as Citic Dicastal (in Greenville) and Brembo Brakes (in Calhoun County) have chosen Michigan to locate and expand in recent years. We know and love our state, and we want to make sure we can attract employers that keep people working.

Electric “choice” isn’t really a choice at all. It would shackle Michigan, allowing out-of-state marketers and even the federal government to decide our fate.

We can do better. We need to reject deregulation and move forward with a plan that is made in Michigan and keeps the lights on as Michigan moves to a brighter future.

David Mengebier is Consumers Energy’s senior vice president for governmental public affairs. Consumers Energy is Michigan’s largest utility, providing natural gas and electricity to 6.6 million of the state’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

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