Hey, Consumers Energy! Why am I always hearing about another “Rate Case” – didn’t you just increase rates last year? What’s the deal?
This is a question we hear a lot. And we get it.
We’re really not that different than other companies and businesses. They also change the cost of the goods they sell due to rising costs or other factors. Depending on the season, the month or sometimes just the day of the week – clothes prices are slightly more expensive, the cost of groceries increases, admission fees rise, ticket prices go up. The difference is, other companies aren’t required to seek approval to make sure the increase is necessary and fair. We do.
Your favorite grocery stores aren’t making headlines every time they raise their prices. As a regulated utility we can’t just raise our rates whenever we feel like it without explaining why it’s necessary. Before we can raise rates, we must make our case to the Michigan Public Service Commission about why we are raising rates and how the money will be used.
And in most cases, we are seeking more money to make the improvements our customers care about. Fewer, shorter and less frequent power outages. A more reliable and resilient system. A cleaner future for the next generation.
Think of it like maintaining a house. You have your yearly budget – the amount you expect to spend based on a combination of your previous year’s spending and your current income. So, you look at the monthly costs like your mortgage, utilities, trash service, etc. and you make a projected budget based on what you know. But any homeowner knows, there are always unexpected or new costs that arise. Sometimes it’s an on-going issue you know you need to take care of such as chipping paint, a crumbling driveway or old windows. Other time it’s an emergency like a leaky roof or a flooded basement. And then there are times it isn’t something broken, but you want to make an upgrade, so you invest in an improved product or add something new for your house. Whatever the case may be, there are always costs that you don’t plan on and therefore aren’t budgeted for.
And much like unexpected house expenses, that’s what you’ll see any time we file a rate case. A combination of plans for making necessary repairs, upgrading current equipment and investing in new, cleaner technology. All working toward the goal of fewer, shorter and less frequent power outages. We’ll do that by trimming trees, replacing poles and wires and upgrading substations and key equipment. We’ll also make upgrades like smart meters, sensors and automation devices to enhance reliability and efficiency. And we’re adding new technology, programs and incentives to help customers save money and energy and help attract new businesses and encourage new businesses to expand in Michigan.
If we go back to the store comparison, while they might not have to tell you when they are raising their prices, they are always sure to inform you about current deals and upcoming sales. We may not send out coupons to our customers, but we do have lots of tips on how you can reduce energy and your bill and programs you can enroll in to help you do so. Look at our programs as the utility version of a coupon or sale. We also have an online store where you can buy energy-efficient products to help reduce costs in your home. And while rates and bills may change, we always have payment plans and assistance available to help.