Nessel: Customer credits for outages should be automatic

Michigan
smart meter

File — A Consumers Energy smart meter.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Thursday urged regulators to require that utilities automatically credit customers who go without power for too long during outages, saying the burden should not be on them to seek the credit.

People currently can get a $25 credit if they lose power for more than five days as a result of “catastrophic” event, their utility fails to restore electricity within 16 hours during a normal outage or there are numerous interruptions of service in a one-year period.

Nessel, in a letter to the state Public Service Commission, said the rules should be re-examined, noting that dominant utilities DTE Electric and Consumers Energy have installed electronic smart meters in their territories, replacing old analog meters at homes.

“Placing the burden on customers to notify the utility and conduct further research on whether their particular outage entitles them to a credit is unacceptable and unnecessary in light of the new technology that many utilities have employed,” she wrote. In a prepared statement, she said having customers apply for the credit is “just one more hassle for someone who have already been seriously inconvenienced.”

Nessel also pressed the regulatory body to consider boosting the $25 credit to “more reflect the cost borne by customers” and implementing penalties that increase with the length of an outage.

The commission’s chairwoman, Sally Talberg, said the panel this month submitted to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer a recommendation that electric service quality and reliability rules be updated. Staff studied best practices in 10 other states and, in a footnote in the initial statewide energy assessment, said automatic service credits should be considered.

“We look forward to working with the Attorney General and other stakeholders to update the rules for utility performance and reliability, and implement next steps based on the assessment,” Talberg said in a statement.

Nessel’s move came less than a week after heavy storms knocked out power for more than 800,000 homes and businesses in Michigan.

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