New Energy Laws Top Priority For Michigan Energy Agency

LANSING – State energy industry regulators said Thursday their top priority in the coming months is to continue implementation of new comprehensive energy laws passed late last year and don’t expect to see much in the way of major initiatives coming before the Legislature this fall.

“It’s a huge amount of work with a lot of deadlines,” Michigan Agency for Energy Executive Director Valerie Brader said of the coordination with the Public Service Commission.

Law changes include having the PSC issue final orders in rate cases in 10 months instead of 12 months, reviewing federal Public Utility Regulatory Power Act avoided cost determinations at least once every five years and requiring utilities to file documents outlining intent when seeking state approval for new electric generating sources.

PSC Chair Sally Talberg said the new energy laws provide a “pretty tremendous upside for Michigan.”

“At the end of the day it’s going to keep prices down, make things more reliable,” Talberg said.

An advantage over the last rewrite of energy law in 2008, Brader said, is “we’ve got a law that’ll allow us to be responsive” and more flexible to changes in the energy landscape.

“We’re no longer assuming we know the future. We have an off-ramp,” Ms. Brader said.

She said one example is if a project gets underway but later needs to be halted and abandoned during the process for reasons such as not being viable. It’s an option some other states don’t have.

Brader said the overall flexibility built into the new energy laws is a potential model for other states to follow.

Talberg said the shortened timeline for rate cases in the law will allow for a more streamlined process to expedite decisions. The certificate of necessity filing requirements also allow for other entities to provide feedback, which can bring other valuable input to the proceedings.

Next month the PSC will have public hearings in Livonia, Grand Rapids and Marquette for comment on a proposed draft plan for what rate-regulated utilities will be required to provide when filing integrated resource plans with the state.

Items to be included in the IRP for consideration will be energy waste reduction, environmental requirements and modeling scenarios to test the utility’s plans. The purpose of IRPs is to have utilities have identified options for meeting electricity needs.

Talberg said the IRPs will allow the PSC “to look at the full picture before us.”

This story was published by Gongwer News Service.