LANSING – Representatives Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) and Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) announced legislation that would provide relief to customers who lose power during outages and increase accountability over utility companies’ poor performance. Supporters from the League of Conservation Voters and We the People Action Fund spoke at the event in favor of the legislation.

The five bills would provide a number of protections for utility customers, including automatic bill credits when the power goes out repeatedly, escalating credits based on duration of outage, greater transparency on utility bills and requirements for distribution and grid investment plans to be reviewed by the Michigan Public Service Commission.

“Investor-owned monopoly utility companies DTE and Consumers Energy have made record profits in recent years, yet communities across the state are still left in the dark with frequent power outages,” Rabhi said. “Our legislation will ensure that people are fairly compensated with bill credits when their power goes out, and that those credits come from utility profits, not rate increases. The status quo is not working for Michigan families. Our utility companies must do better.”

Under the new legislation, utility companies will be required to issue automatic credits to residential customers who experience outages. This will also include requiring credits for renters whose electricity costs are covered by their landlord for associated costs, like spoiled food. Local governments would also be compensated for reasonable costs of responding to an outage such as operating heating and cooling centers for vulnerable residents.

Under the proposed credit structure utility companies would be required to compensate customers with an hourly credit that would escalate based on the duration of the outage, starting at $5 for the first hour and increasing up to $25 per hour for outages that last for 72 hours or more. Frequent interruptions would also be covered by requiring that utility companies give customers an additional $100 credit for four service interruptions lasting longer than one hour within a four-month period; $200 for six outages in a six-month period, and $300 if eight interruptions occur within 12 months.

“When the power goes out, which happens far too often, there are real financial burdens for Michigan families. These bills will provide much needed relief and incentivize utility companies to improve their services and keep the lights on,” said Aiyash. “We continue to pay more and more for our electricity, but receive the same abysmal service year after year. Our legislation will improve accountability by giving state regulators and intervenors more scrutiny over utility distribution and maintenance plans.”

Year after year, federal energy data shows customers of monopoly utility companies DTE and Consumers Energy pay the highest residential costs for energy in the Midwest and receive some of the worst service in the country. The most recent example of the rampant power outages happened last summer when a series of storms knocked out power for nearly a million residents across the state. Despite frequent outages, rate increases and record profits, utility companies have not been held accountable for improving their service.

“We pay the highest costs for energy in the Midwest but receive some of the worst service in the nation,” said Nick Dodge, communications director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “We applaud Reps. Rabhi and Aiyash for working to provide relief to Michigan residents while holding investor-owned monopoly utility companies accountable.”