The Michigan Senate announced in late October its determination to pass new energy choice legislation in lame-duck session (which begins Nov. 9). The move well belies the true nature of the Senate bills proffered by Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, and John Proos, R-St. Joseph. Were these bills intended to offer Michigan businesses a choice of energy providers, the two bills would guarantee exactly that (they do not) and would certainly not be shoved onto an agenda that serves only special interests and lobbyists in lame-duck sessions.
Instead, Michigan legislators have given much time over two years to hiding egregious roadblocks to choice — even just maintaining 10 percent choice, hard fought in 2008 when Michigan’s choice plan was attached to a sunset date. The political rancor over giving Michigan businesses choice is the result of nothing other than Michigan’s two utility company monopolies attempting to continue to increase investor earnings by continuing monopolistic practices.
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce October political surprise was its swing to support the legislation, because it claims the bills retain the grandfather clause “ensuring customers who have been on choice prior to the 2008 law remain able to stay on electric choice and expand their electric use, despite the 10 percent cap. Furthermore, it would permit any customer who is served by an alternative energy provider for their total electric load to be able to expand usage under certain conditions, despite the 10 percent cap.” But that evaluation is seriously flawed.
As the Business Journal has been reporting the past two weeks, Consumers Energy wants to decrease payments for renewable energy produced by Independent Power Producers Coalition of Michigan and limit contracts with suppliers to one-year commitments. Collectively, IPPC is spending tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills to fight the proposed changes.
Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce deserves salute as it “steadfastly stands opposed to the legislation as it currently stands based on our priorities of ratepayer protection and the preservation of a viable electric choice program,” according to GRACC director of government affairs Joshua Lunger.
Meijer, Amway, Steelcase and a long list of West Michigan companies are invested in Michigan’s continued move forward on new energy policies. Health care and educational institutions that have counted savings since the 2008 legislation also have opposed the Senate proposal. Even regional breweries have heavily invested in alternative and renewable power for operations. The proposed legislation does not serve Michigan businesses, residents or its purpose.