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DTE electricity rates to rise, but utility doesn't get its residential solar rate wish


The Michigan Public Service Commission says DTE Energy can raise residential electricity rates by nearly 9%, starting in May. That's roughly a $6 per month increase for most customers.

The rate increase will pay for infrastructure, including a new billion dollar natural gas plant, plus an increase in the utility's tree-trimming activities. DTE says tree limbs falling onto lines during storms are responsible for a majority of power outages.

But the commission has rejected DTE Energy's proposal to raise fees and slash credits for customers with solar panels.

DTE proposed to add a $12 to $15 monthly fee for new solar rooftop customers, in addition to a roughly 70% decrease in the credit given to those customers for excess electricity they put on the grid.

Instead, the commission approved a so-called "inflow, outflow" rate that subtracts presumed transmission costs from the credit. People who already have solar panels will be grandfathered in under the old, "net metering" scheme for ten years. 

Net metering gives solar customers a credit for the electricity their panels put on the grid equal to what it would cost the utility to provide the electricity.

Becky Stanfield is with Vote Solar.

"DTE had hoped to crush rooftop solar," says Stanfield. "The big picture is: DTE's attempt to really outrageously block customers from going solar has been rejected."

Stanfield says solar advocates still hope to convince the MPSC that the original net metering scheme is more fair, besides being far simpler for customers to understand.

She says it's too soon to know what the outflow rate will be, but it will certainly be better than the rate proposed by DTE. 

Consumers Energy does not submit its solar rate proposal until next year, so that utility's customers will still be eligible for the old net metering scheme until then.

Stanfield suspects the commission's response to DTE Energy's proposal means Consumers Energy will not try to propose the same thing.

DTE says it is overwhelmingly in favor of renewables but the utility believes customers without solar panels are subsidizing those who have them.

Editor's note: DTE Energy is a corporate sponsor of Michigan Radio.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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