After an approved 7 percent rate increase in May, DTE requests another 9 percent increase for 2020

After getting approved for a 7 percent rate increase in May of 2019, DTE has submitted a request for an additional 9 percent increase in 2020.

Filed to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on July 3, the $328 million increase on the utility’s customers, are intended to pay for the company’s tree trim program, the modernization of their electrical grid and IT services that will improve customer service.

“This one comes two months after the previous approval,” said Pete Ternes, spokesperson for DTE. “One of the things was we didn’t get everything we asked for (from the last rate case).”

DTE originally requested $476.6 million in additional revenue during the last rate case. They received $203.3 million less. While the MPSC approved their new rates and investment in a three-year electric vehicle program, the commission rejected its proposal surcharge on renewable energy users. However, Ternes said because they didn’t receive as much as they needed last time, it’s necessary to submit another rate case.

“So in some ways, you just moved the ball forward in terms of paying for the next expense in business,” said Ternes.

In response to the request, Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a news release Tuesday saying her office would be intervening in the case, along with three other cases which includes Consumers Energy. Nessel’s decision is a pretty standard one after utilities make requests.

Dan Olsen, the spokesman for the AG’s office, said the goal when an attorney general intervenes is to make sure the increases are “supportable and reasonable increases.”

“Every situation is very different, but it ultimately comes down to making sure affordability and reliability are top priorities," said Olsen. "She's taking a look at if these rate increases make sense."

In a news release issued earlier this year, Nessel reported saving DTE customers $29.5 million. In another May news release, she reported saving ratepayers in the Upper Peninsula more than $11 million.

“It is part of the process that the attorney general gives the input into rate-making,” Ternes said. “That’s part of the law that there’s always a point in the rate making process where the Attorney General gives their opinion. It was that way with (former Attorney General Bill) Schuette and it will be with the current attorney general.”

The Consumers Energy case is a little more nuanced. After the utility's Ray Compressor caught fire early in 2019, Consumers issued a report to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) about its investigation into the fire in April. Then last week, the MPSC ordered the utility to report how much the incident would cost for upcoming rate cases.

Nessel said she plans to intervene in any increase requested by Consumers regardless.

"We will continue to closely monitor the developments of these cases and any subsequent filing by Consumers Energy to make certain that any unreasonable costs from the Ray Compressor Station explosion that forced Michiganders to dial back their heat in sub-zero temperatures are not offloaded on our state's residents," Nessel said in a news release.

After a utility files a rate case, several groups provide input: the staff at the MPSC, the attorney general and businesses, consumers and environmental groups. An administrative law judge then issues a recommendation to the MPSC, which then makes a final decision. The process takes about 10 months.