Consumers Energy column: Electric deregulation is a bad idea for Michigan

December 16, 2013
Catherine Reynolds & Patricia Poppe

Healthy and strong companies can make communities healthier and stronger.

Consumers Energy's relationship with Jackson ties to our founding here 126 years ago on Dec. 6, 1886.

We appreciate our mutually beneficial relationship. As Jackson developed, so did we.

Consumers Energy is now the fourth-largest U.S. utility, privileged to serve 6.6 million people in all 68 counties in Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

Over the years, we've been able to significantly increase our financial contributions to numerous Jackson institutions. Total annual giving by our company, employees and retirees to Jackson-area nonprofits is more than $1.3 million.

Those contributions mean books for pre-school children learning to read. Financial support and volunteer mentors for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Senior citizen programs through the United Way of Jackson County. Utility bill and emergency assistance for Salvation Army clients.

With 2,000 employees in Jackson County we're one of the largest employers in the area. As part of our leadership support for Pure Michigan Business Connect we’ve awarded more than $21 million in contracts to businesses in Jackson and Hillsdale counties.

A legislative bill (HB 5184) introduced by state Rep. Mike Shirkey and co-sponsored by Rep. Earl Poleski would have broad and sweeping negative effects on greater Jackson, if it were to pass.

Essentially this bill would undermine Consumers Energy's long-term commitment to service through a short-sighted electric deregulation policy that could affect the reliability of the energy we provide.

Michigan tried electric deregulation a decade ago and it didn't work. The company pedaling the idea at that time? Enron. We believe that a regulated environment ensures that we act in the best interests of our customers day in and day out.

States that followed the deregulation path – like Texas, New Jersey, New York and Illinois – now suffer from a host of ills, including power shortages, higher prices and bigger government. The U.S. Energy Information Administration issued a warning this year about black-out concerns in Texas.

Given the poor track record in deregulated states, it's hard to understand why our elected state representatives would support such risky legislation.

Keeping the lights on and factories running is a job best done by regulated – not deregulated and unchecked – electric markets.

Our 2,000 employees here in Jackson are not strangers to you and we are Consumers Energy customers too.

We work very hard to keep energy costs low. Our commitment to this community is long standing and personal. We choose to work for this company because serving our customers is a privilege that we take seriously.

This new legislation would put your service in the hands of out-of-state marketers that have no commitment to Jackson or the State of Michigan.

We think that is a bad idea. Living and working in the communities we serve is part of our Promise to Michigan, and that's particularly important here in our hometown.

Catherine Reynolds/Senior Vice President and General Counsel

Patricia Poppe/Vice President of Customer Experience, Rates & Regulation

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