When the coronavirus pandemic began this past spring, University of Chicago Law School scholars and students had already spent months battling Detroit’s electricity provider over a proposed rate increase. In the face of COVID-19, already pressing concerns about energy affordability suddenly took on a heightened urgency—and the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic quickly switched gears.

“We were advocating for low-income consumers, highlighting how these individuals already suffer from energy insecurity, and how utility bills are often a much larger percentage of their income,” said Clinical Prof. Mark Templeton, director of the Abrams Clinic. “And once COVID-19 hit, we talked about how the pandemic was adding some serious additional challenges.”

The Abrams Clinic first got involved in the case through their client Soulardarity, a Detroit-area nonprofit that advocates for affordable energy rates, equitable service and increased solar-powered energy in low-income neighborhoods. When southeastern Michigan energy company DTE proposed a rate increase before the Michigan Public Service Commission—which regulates investor-owned utilities—Soulardarity was one of many parties to oppose the move.

That opposition took on increased importance as the virus spread and stay-at-home orders took effect—and the Abrams Clinic began focusing on the ways in which higher electricity bills could create additional harms.

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Areas of Focus: Energy Markets
Definition
Energy Markets
Well-functioning markets are essential for providing access to reliable, affordable energy. EPIC research is uncovering the policies, prices and information needed to help energy markets work efficiently.
Electric Power
Definition
Electric Power
As the electric power system faces new pressures and opportunities, EPIC research is working to identify the mix of policies needed to accelerate the global transition to clean, reliable, affordable...
Abrams Environmental Law Clinic
Definition
Abrams Environmental Law Clinic
The Abrams Environmental Law Clinic attempts to solve some of the most pressing environmental problems throughout Chicago, the State of Illinois, and the Great Lakes region.