Germfask Community Group Seeks Retail Utility Rate Law Changes in Michigan

A community group based in Germfask Township, Michigan–members of which are customers of the Upper Peninsula Power Co. (UPPCO) – has asked state legislators to push for energy law changes that they say would reduce residential rates and give utility ratepayers more clout with the state commission responsible for overseeing investor-owned utilities, according to a December 14 report in the Mining Journal.

UPPCO serves about 54,000 retail customers located in 10 of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s 15 counties. Earlier this year, Germfask residents held several public meetings with community officials and UPPCO representatives to discuss high monthly electric bills, in the $300 to $400 range; with some saying they paid as much as $600 a month.

An online petition opposing UPPCO’s 6.02 percent self-implemented rate increase, which became effective in March, had garnered nearly 3,000 local signatories as of this week.

As a result of this community action, new energy regulations currently are pending before the Michigan House of Representatives, the Mining Journal said, although it remains uncertain whether the lawmakers will take any action before the legislative term ends today.

The community group’s proposal includes several amendments, one of which requires that utilities serving between 50,000 and 100,000 customers cannot set rates for any specific customer class that exceed 150 percent of the utility’s average kilowatt-hour (kWh) rate.

Another amendment would require the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to hold a public hearing in the service territory of a utility seeking new rate to provide customers with the opportunity to express their opinions in person to the commissioners.

Gary Talarico, a spokesperson for the group, said the proposed amendments “would dramatically improve the plight of thousands of U.P. electric customers.”

An order from the Michigan Public Service Commission in September (Case 17895) resulted in an increase of about 65 cents per month to average residential customers over what they had been paying since March, according to UPPCO documents.

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