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Michigan utilities say their customers will control their own thermostats

Recent event in Colorado brings to mind a hot Michigan day in May

Some customers of a Colorado utility company were unable to adjust their thermostats during a hot August day this year, but at least one energy company in Michigan says it won’t happen here.

Xcel Energy, a Minnesota-based firm that does business in several states, has signed up 22,000 customers in Colorado for its AC Rewards program, according to 9 News, an NBC affiliate in Denver. Xcel says on its website that customers who sign up for it “have the ability to opt out of control events at any time.” But it also warns, “On rare occasions, system emergencies may cause a control event that cannot be overridden.”

According to the TV station, one of those rare occasions happened on Aug. 30. “For the first time ever, Xcel Energy locked the smart thermostats of thousands of Colorado customers on Tuesday because of what it called an energy emergency,” it said.

Customers who sign up for the program let the company control their wi-fi enabled thermostats during times of peak demand. In exchange, they receive a one-time credit of $100 and an additional $25 annually.

Michigan Capitol Confidential asked Consumers Energy and DTE for their reaction to the August event in Colorado. Katie Carey, director of external relations for Consumers Energy, said, “Consumers Energy customers will always have control over their smart thermostats.” DTE did not respond.

Carey says the company offers several programs that provide incentives and bill credits. She says one of the programs does automatically adjust a home’s thermostat a few degrees from the usual comfort preferences. But, she said, customers are in full control of their thermostat and can override the temperature change. If they do an override, however, that could affect the incentives.

As previously reported by Michigan Capitol Confidential, utilities may have difficulties meeting consumer demand as they move away using coal and natural gas to fuel their generating plants. On one day in May, DTE told customers in Southeast Michigan it would adjust their thermostats by four degrees during a time of peak demand.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.