LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday debated and discussed Senate Bills 437 and 438, legislation that if signed into law would massively change the state’s energy policy.
The legislation has been worked on for almost two years, but despite seven different versions of the bills, Sen. Patrick Colbeck felt that their passage would create more harm than good.
“Whenever you look at a legislative package as massive as this, that touches on so many different areas, it can become a very complex process,” said Sen. Colbeck, R-Canton. “In this case, after all the work that was put into this legislation there is simply still not enough here to protect ratepayers. There is not enough to give the people of Michigan relief on their bills or true consumer choice.”
Sen. Colbeck went on to voice concern that he felt energy rates would increase under the bills, even though Michigan already has some of the most expensive rates in the Midwest. He also mentioned negative impacts in the legislation for people who generate a portion of their own power through the “net metering” program.
Lastly, the senator voiced his concern that the legislation did not address consumer choice when it came to making sure people could pick where their energy came from. Sen. Colbeck offered two amendments: one to increase the number of customers who can change where they buy their power from, and one regarding true choice for smart meters. Both amendments were defeated.
“The bills that we have voted on today not only keep the utility monopolies that are already in place, but strengthen their grip on the ratepayers of this state,” Sen. Colbeck said. “I know for example that in my district that some schools would have to pay more for energy, which ends up costing all taxpayers. To change our energy policy in Michigan while not expanding options for self-generation, meter choice, and resource choice, we are simply propping up by legislation a dying energy market that may help utility stockholders, but does not help our ratepayers.”
Sen. Colbeck has also introduced additional legislation, SB 1164, which would create more choice for ratepayers by allowing them to both choose and pay for the specific type of energy that they want.
“We need to allow for people to be able to better choose what type of resource they want their energy to come from,” Sen. Colbeck said. “They can then pay for that type of energy as well, picking choices that align with their wishes and helping to steer supply and demand. In the long run, we need more options and not less, and if one person wants to buy all wind power and not participate in smart-metering, we need policies that will allow them to do that.
“If another person wants to buy nuclear power and use time of day pricing, we need to allow them to do that. If we are going to have utility monopolies in Michigan, and people can’t change who they buy their power from, we here in Lansing need to do everything we can to ensure that the provider they are forced to buy from gives them as many choices and options as possible”.