In Lansing in early December . . . legislators passed a sweeping overhaul of the state's energy laws in a marathon lame duck session that ended on Dec. 15. After Governor Rick Snyder stepped in to broker a compromise, Senate Bills 437 and 438 passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan votes. The Governor is expected to sign the bills. What will they mean for older Michiganians?
Electric bills are not expected to go down. A major purpose of the new legislation is to make sure Michigan has all of the electricity it needs, even though several, old coal-fired plants are closing. New plants will be costly to build.
Customers leaving Consumers Energy and DTE for alternative suppliers will not face a penalty. However, if they decide to go back, they will be required to stay with the major utility for at least six years.
A proposal called decoupling was dropped at the urging of AARP and the Michigan Senior Advocates Council (MSAC). (MSAC is a group of senior volunteers, appointed by Area Agencies on Aging, who travel to the State Capitol to advocate on aging issues.) Decoupling would have allowed utilities to raise their rates to compensate for falling revenues due to energy efficiencies.
Utilities will be required to increase the percentage of electricity generated from renewable sources from 10% to 15% by 2021, and utilities will get more incentives to reduce waste. (A significant portion of the electricity generated is wasted.)
A last-ditch effort to pass no-fault auto insurance reform failed. The Michigan Hospital Association broke with other groups and negotiated a compromise bill with insurance companies, but legislators didn't buy it.
*Published with permission of Area Agencies on Aging Association of Michigan.