AMP Tele-Town Hall: Electric Deregulation

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Earlier this week, the Alliance for Michigan Power held a telephone town hall devoted to the issue of electric deregulation in Michigan.  Thank you to everyone who joined us and to our great panelists who provided important perspectives on the electric deregulation debate.  If you missed it, you can listen to a full recording of the event here.

Our panelists included three of the state’s leading policy experts:

Deregulation Doesn’t Work for Electricity

Former Senator Sikkema began by debunking the idea that deregulation of the electricity market would mean greater choices and more savings for consumers and explaining that, unlike some industries, deregulation doesn’t really work for electricity.

He also discussed some lessons learned from other states, highlighting Montana’s experience first.

“In Montana, the governor and the legislature quickly jumped on the deregulation bandwagon [which was] back in the late 1990’s. But what happened was prices quickly went up…some companies in Montana had to close operations for awhile because they literally couldn’t afford the price of power.

“The reality is, a lot of people got hurt in Montana because of legislation like [Michigan’s] HB 5184.”

Chamber of Commerce’s Priorities: Affordability, Reliability & Certainty

Geer discussed the Chamber’s concern for the state’s businesses, namely the importance of reliable energy.

They want to know when they flip the switch, the power is going to be on,” he said. “They want to know it’s going to be accessible, that when they come into work every morning or every night, that it’s going to be there serving them so they can serve their customers.”

Geer emphasized that, several years ago, the Chamber was supportive of deregulation for Michigan. But, after seeing how deregulation failed to deliver promised cost-savings and severely impacted reliability, they have come to recognized that there are better ways to achieve the goals of deregulation that don’t put the state’s businesses and economy at risk.

“We All Need to Be More Involved.”

Gleason appealed to supporting Michigan jobs and our state’s energy future rather than sending our dollars out of state. 

“Local energy providers support tens of thousands of much-needed jobs across Michigan.  These jobs are held by highly skilled Michiganders—our friends, our family, our neighbors,” he affirmed.

“I can safely say today that if this state was to go deregulated right now…it would be right close to 4,000 immediate jobs that would be lost in the construction industry.”

He singled out Consumers Energy and DTE Energy as two of the largest supporters of the Pure Michigan initiative, investing $1.5 billion in Michigan-based businesses.

Audience Says “No” to Deregulation—But What about the Rest of Michigan?

In addition to a Q&A session in which the audience was able to voice their concerns and ask questions of our guest speakers, we held a couple of quick polls during the tele-town hall. The first asked, “Do you think Michigan should expand electric deregulation in our state?”  A whopping 90 percent of our participants said “No.” When asked why, 42 percent said they were concerned about the “impact on Michigan’s future.”

In addition, a recent statewide poll of Michigan voters found that only two percent of voters believe electric deregulation is an important concern for Michigan.  And, when voters are educated about deregulation, the vast majority of Michiganders favor remaining with a regulated system—71 percent.  Look for more on the results of recent state polls on electric deregulation on the AMP blog in the next few days.