MPSC orders DTE Gas to refund $24.9 million from tax cut to customers

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LANSING, MI – Customers of DTE Gas Co. will see an average reduction on their monthly bills of $2.21 after the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) today approved the second round of rate adjustments for the company tied to changes in the federal tax law.DTE Energy

DTE Gas will return a total of $24,995,319 to ratepayers (Case No. U-20189), who will see the refunds, known as Credit B, on bills from January 2019 through June 2019. An average residential customer who uses 10,000 cubic feet of natural gas a month will see bills drop $2.21.

The MPSC in May approved an initial bill adjustment, known as Credit A, for DTE Gas customers as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. Monthly bills declined starting in July an average of $2.12 based on the Credit A recalculations ordered by the Commission after passage of the TCJA.

DTE Gas is the seventh utility company to have its Credit B refunds OK’d by the MPSC. In September, refunds were approved for electric customers of Alpena Power Co. and Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corp. (UMERC), and gas customers of Michigan Gas Utility Corp. (MGU), Northern States Power (NSP), SEMCO Energy Gas Co., and UMERC. In August, Northern States Power Co. (NSP) was the first utility to have its Credit B approved.

Including DTE Gas today, the MPSC has so far ordered $32,620,909 in Credit B refunds. That’s in addition to $379.5 million in Credit A rate reductions for utility customers in Michigan.

Credit A calculations were the first round of refunds approved by the Commission. Customers have seen those monthly adjustments on their bills since the summer. Credit B refunds are calculated from Jan. 1, when the TCJA went into effect, to the date when Credit A adjustments started being applied to bills. A third round of rate changes, called Calculation C, will capture any remaining, long-term impacts of the TCJA.

Still to be calculated are Credit B impacts for Consumers Energy Co. gas and electric, DTE Electric Co., Indiana Michigan Power Co. (I&M), and Upper Peninsula Power Co. (UPPCO).

Utility data privacy policies approved

The MPSC approved data privacy policies for 10 utilities but found DTE Energy Co.’s proposed policy does not meet guidelines spelled out in the Commission’s Consumer Standards and Billing Practices for Electric and Natural Gas Service (Case No. U-18485).

Rule 53 of the Standards and Billing Practices addresses customer access to energy consumption data and confidentiality, and outlines what kind of customer information is collected, used and maintained by the utility.

Submitted policies were approved for Michigan Gas Utilities Corp., Alpena Power Co., Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corp., Wisconsin Electric Power Co., Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op, Northern States Power Co., Upper Peninsula Power Co., Consumers Energy Co., SEMCO Energy Gas Co., and Indiana Michigan Power Co.

The Commission said DTE’s policy could be improved if it allows a third party to work directly with the utility to obtain customer-approved data.

The MPSC also ordered its staff to conduct a forum with interested stakeholders to explore data privacy and accessibility issues.

For an MPSC Issue Brief on data access and privacy, click here.

Other rulings today

Comments sought on Lifeline discount: The MPSC is seeking public input on discounts to low-income and elderly Lifeline customers under the Michigan Telecommunications Act (Case No. U-20335). Topics for comment include the amount of the discount being applied to bills by providers of basic local exchange service pursuant to Section 316, how the change in the federal reimbursement provisions affect the discount, and if it is affected what the new discount will be and when it will apply. Comments should reference Case No. U-20335 and must be received by 5 p.m. Nov. 14, 2018.  Mail them to Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909 ormpscedockets@michigan.gov.

Advanced meter opt-out charge granted: Indiana Michigan Power Co., through a settlement agreement, was approved to offer customers an opt-out fee for advanced metering infrastructure (Case No. U-20137). Customers who keep their existing meters will be assessed a meter reading charge of $16.40 per month. Customers who have an AMI meter installed but decide later they don’t want the advanced meter will have to pay $81.30 as well as the monthly meter reading charge. I&M serves approximately 128,000 customers in southwest Michigan.

UPPCo meter reading waiver extended: Upper Peninsula Power Co. (UPPCo) was approved to extend its waiver of the monthly meter reading requirement under the Consumer Standards and Billing Practices for Electric and Natural Gas Service (Case No. U-20271). The waiver will extend to March 31, 2020. UPPCo argued the approval would be prudent since the company is proposing to install advanced metering at customer locations. The MPSC denied UPPCo’s application for a waiver of Rules 613 and 617(2) of the Commission’s Technical Standards for Electric Service. The Commission said since UPPCo has not been approved by the MPSC to install smart meters it must still do periodic testing of customer meters.

Billing errors to be reconciled: A Consumers Energy Co. settlement agreement was approved for reconciliation of a one-month customer error (Case No. U-18367). Consumers inadvertently either offered refunds or added surcharges to certain customers through a net decoupling revenue deficiency of $584,626. As a result, the average residential customer will see a one-time surcharge of $1 on their November bills.

To look up cases from today’s meeting, access the eDockets filing system here.

For information about the MPSC, visit www.michigan.gov/mpsc, sign up for one of its listservs, or follow the Commission on Twitter.