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Michigan City Adopts Shut-off Protections for Elderly

Bay City, Michigan, has adopted new utility shutoff rules intended to ensure elderly, low-income, and critical care customers are protected. The city received national attention this past January when an elderly resident froze to death after his electricity service, which was on a service limiter, was shut off by Bay City Electric.

The new rules prohibit the use of service limiters at least until the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) establishes uniform standards for their use. Bay City Electric had placed a service limiter, which reduced electric power, on the home of the elderly resident because he hadn’t paid his bill.

The rules say that electricity cannot be shut-off at the homes of known senior citizens (defined as age 65 or older) during the winter heating season, or on summer days when temperatures are forecast to be above 95 degrees. Additionally, low-income consumers who are behind on their bills must be given the option of payment plans and there are new requirements regarding customer notification before shut-offs and company outreach about energy assistance programs and protections. 

The Bay City rules closely follow the model rules proposed by the Shut-off Protection Workgroup of the Michigan Municipal Electric Association and are intended to meet or exceed proposed legislation currently under consideration by the Michigan House and Senate.

While the MPSC hasn’t developed uniform standards on service limiters, it did announce on October 13 that extra efforts are underway by utilities to reconnect utility service for senior citizens free of charge and no questions asked during the heating season. The utilities are trying harder to identify customers who are senior citizens and get them reconnected, if they aren’t currently receiving utility service, and on a shut-off prevention program for the winter months.

Source: Michigan newspapers, MPSC