Michigan panel OKs Consumers Energy natural gas rate boost

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Michigan regulators have approved a nearly $66 million electric rate increase for Consumers Energy Co. that takes effect Sunday and is about 38 percent of what the Jackson-based utility originally sought.

The Michigan Public Service Commission says the increase approved Thursday means a residential customer using 500 kilowatt hours of electricity per month will see their monthly bills increase by $1.87 compared to previously approved rates. Since the utility self-implemented a $2.46 monthly increase in October, customers will see their bills decrease by 59 cents.

Consumers Energy customers in Mid-Michigan are expressing their frustration with the rate increase.

"I'm not happy with it," one customer said.

"I just feel like it's going to put people deeper into debt," another customer said.

Consumers originally sought a $173 million increase on March 31. Consumers later lowered its request to $148 million and on Oct. 1, 2017, self-implemented a $130 million rate increase.

Which means, Consumers has been overcharging customers. Those customers should be getting some money back.

"The average bill will decrease by about 59 cents per month. And people will also receive a refund on their bills. A bill credit for what we've over-collected already in the case," said Brian Wheeler, spokesperson for Consumers.

Wheeler said he knows customers don't want to hear the word increase, but he wants to remind them that Consumers offers programs to help reduce energy costs. He also said this rate increase helps give people the power they need.

"We want to make sure people have a good electric system that provides them with safe, affordable, reliable and sustainable energy," Wheeler said.

Copyright 2018 WNEM (Meredith Corporation)/Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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