Lawmaker aims to look into spike in customer energy bills
A Michigan lawmaker says things need to change when it comes to customers battling utility companies over high energy bills.
This week the 7&4 newsroom has received dozens of emails from customers who are angry over January bills that have doubled and even tripled in some cases.
"It is not just Traverse City," said State Rep. Gary Glenn, (R) District 98. "It's mid-Michigan, it's southeast Michigan. Hundreds and hundreds of people are complaining to local television stations, to the public service commission, about doubling and tripling and quadrupling electricity bills."
As Chairman of the House Energy Policy Committee, Glenn is on a mission to let Michigan residents do some shopping, when it comes to who they pay for electricity.
"These monopoly utilities can act any way they want and the consumer has no recourse," Glenn said.
Consumers like April Sandberg who saw her Consumers Energy bill go from around $100 to just under $400.
"My bill has never been this expensive," Sandberg said. "So something just doesn't seem right."
Some customers have even filed reports with the Attorney Generals office.
"We're on this case and we are trying to investigate what is indeed the cause of this spike in energy," AG Bill Schuette said.
Because of an influx in calls, Consumers Energy says they've been looking into any potential mistakes.
They maintain that the sometimes shocking bills are due to the combination of a colder winter and a longer bill period.
"We have had cold winters in Michigan before," said Glenn. "So the utilities can basically say whatever they want and the consumer is still stuck."
Glenn wants to bring the state back to a time when there was a choice.
"If consumers were free to choose to leave and go buy their electricity, providers would have to be a lot more conscientious and careful about their billing practices, their shutoff practices," Glenn said.
He also wants to hold the companies accountable.
"We need to bring the utilities in front of the House Energy Policy Committee and hold them to account, find out what's behind this, get them on the record. And I encourage the public service commission to be even more aggressive," said Glenn.
He says in the early 2000's when customers could choose their electricity provider, Michigan had the 4th lowest electricity rates in the Midwest, and was below the national average.
He says now Michigan has the highest electricity rates in the Midwest and is 12th highest in the nation.
After our interview with Glenn, Consumers Energy reached out to us again and had this to say:
“With record cold weather and a longer-than-normal billing cycle in December due to the holidays, we’re hearing concerns from Michigan residents and businesses about higher-than-normal energy bills this winter. We’re doing everything we can to help people stay warm and safe, while ensuring affordable energy for all customers. While our meters are nationally certified and tested, if citizens have concerns about their meter they can give us a call. We look forward to working with the Legislature and any stakeholders on concerns they have related to this issue in the coming weeks.”