Michigan Energy Promise is a front group with strong ties to the monopoly utility DTE Energy. It registered with the state on January 2, 2019. According to Midwest Energy News, Michigan Energy Promise is supporting DTE Energy’s position on net metering and other issues before the Michigan Public Service Commission.
The landing page for Michigan Energy Promise states that it is a “project” of the Alliance For Michigan Power. Alliance For Michigan Power originated from Michigan Energy First.
The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs database shows that the assumed names for Michigan Energy First are also Alliance For Michigan Power and Michigan Energy Promise. In other words, all three organizations appear to be coordinated jointly as a single entity.
According to its 990 tax forms, Michigan Energy First has received over $28 million in contributions since 2014. The group has not disclosed its donors, but it has close ties to DTE Energy. Michigan Energy First’s president is DTE Energy’s Vice President of Corporate and Government Affairs Renze Hoeksema, and its treasurer is Theresa Uzenski, a manager of regulatory accounting at DTE Energy.
Organizations that are listed on Michigan Energy Promise’s “allies” page are mostly churches, chambers of commerce, and nonprofits that advocate for communities of color. Many of the organizations have either received money from the DTE Energy Foundation in recent years, list the utility as a corporate sponsor on organization websites, or a utility employee is a member of the board:
- Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services has received $150,000 from the utility’s foundation from 2016 to 2017.
- Detroit Association of Black Organizations received $112,500 since 2015.
- Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development received $55,000 in 2016.
- Church of God in Christ received $30,000 in 2015.
- Urban League of Detroit and Southeast Michigan received $10,000 in 2015 and 2017.
- Detroit Cristo Rey High School received $4,500 in 2016 and 2017.
- Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce lists DTE Energy as a corporate partner.
- Council of Asian Pacific Americans lists DTE Energy as a sponsor, and four members of its advisory board are DTE Energy employees.
- Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s executive board includes DTE Energy’s Vice President of Legal and Chief Tax Officer JoAnn Chavez.
The first Twitter follower for Michigan Energy Promise was DTE Energy’s Daniel Mahoney, a policy strategy and advocacy manager.
One of Michigan Energy Promise’s first Facebook posts promoted former Chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission John Quackenbush’s recent Detroit News’ opinion piece that attacked net metering and advocating for regulators to continue their pursuit of the “inflow/outflow model.” Critiques of the inflow/outflow model say rooftop solar customers are not adequately compensated for the power they send back to the grid.
Its Facebook page and Twitter accounts have also promoted former Michigan Public Service Commissioner Monica Martinez’s Lansing State Journal opinion piece, which discussed the state’s solar policies. Martinez writes that all customers need to pay a “fair and equitable market price for the solar from their neighbors.” Martinez has written similar opinion articles over the years with the same talking points. She is the co-founder Hispanics in Energy, which has received funding from the investor-owned utility trade association the Edison Electric Institute (EEI).
Multiple studies have shown that solar customers actually provide more benefits than costs to all electric customers, and a report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab offers the latest evidence that the utilities’ cost shift argument is, for the most part, a self-serving myth.
Michigan Energy Promise’s webpages are also filled with pro-utility industry messages that criticize rooftop solar and even the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), which is a law that encourages competition by requiring utilities to purchase power from independent power providers.
Some of Michigan Energy Promise’s talking points appear to be straight from the playbook maslansky + partners created for EEI. One of maslansky + partners’ recommendations to the industry was rebrand rooftop solar as “private solar” and call utility-scale solar “universal solar.”
Self-employed political consultant Graham Davis’ LinkedIn profile shows that he worked for the Alliance For Michigan “project” in 2013 alongside DTE Energy and DDC Advocacy when he was the director of digital media at Truscott Rossman. The second Twitter follower of Michigan Energy Promise was DDC Advocacy Senior Vice President William Bertles.
DDC Advocacy is a Washington D.C.-based public relations firm. It won a silver Pollie in the Internet category in 2014 for its work on behalf of DTE Energy on the Alliance for Michigan Power website. According to the American Association of Political Consultants website, the Pollie Awards are “the most prized and sought-after awards in the political communications and public affairs industries.”
Truscott Rossman is a Michigan-based lobbying and public relations firm. The CEO of the firm, John Truscott, managed the public relations for the 2012 DTE Energy and Consumers Energy-funded campaign to fight a 25% by 2025 renewable portfolio standard ballot proposal. Additionally, Truscott Rossman’s website boasts of its success at its ability to work with the utilities to get energy legislation passed in 2016.
Ron Fournier, president of Truscott Rossman, is the spokesperson for Michigan Energy Promise. He is also the former editor of Crain’s Detroit Business and former senior political columnist at the conservative National Journal magazine.