Pricey energy policy hurts everyone

Guest Editorial
You can find many businesses grousing over Michigan’s two-year-old energy law, but not the select few that made the break with Consumers Energy.

Some companies — typically, large manufacturers that use a lot of energy — have been allowed to find cheaper energy providers. But no more. Michigan’s energy law passed two years ago lets customers flee until a company like Consumers loses 10 percent of its electricity sales. Today, there’s a waiting list of customers who want to leave but can’t.

The issue of choice is popular among critics of the state’s energy reform. Rivals to Consumers and some manufacturers are clamoring for this cap that limits competition to be raised. They hope the new Legislature takes action.

We hope it does, too, but not necessarily to create a Wild West when it comes to competition for electricity. Consumers, which cannot turn away customers for any reason, has valid concerns. Chiefly, a free flow of energy users elsewhere could distort costs for those who don’t leave — especially residents, who have never had energy choice.

What lawmakers should do is less drastic: Review the impact of the energy law on businesses and the economy. There has been example after example of employers who have seen their energy bills skyrocket in the last two years.

Michigan remains a manufacturing-heavy state, and such companies feel the pinch when utility rates climb by even a few pennies. The state economy suffers along with them, either as they pass along their higher costs to customers or as they leave the state altogether.

A refrain among Gov.-elect Rick Snyder and incoming lawmakers involves making Michigan friendly to business. That should go beyond taxes and involve the regulations (and fees to promote environmental goals) that shape prices in our state-supervised energy industry.

Businesses were told two years ago that energy reform would ease costs. It hasn’t. State lawmakers must ask why and figure out whether any changes are needed.