Michigan AG wants to know what electric companies are doing to prevent more power outages

Document contact with power companies

Thousands of people were without power, some for several days, after severe weather moved through Metro Detroit.
Thousands of people were without power, some for several days, after severe weather moved through Metro Detroit.

LANSING, Mich. – Thousands of people were without power, some for several days, after severe weather moved through Metro Detroit.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel spoke with Local 4′s Hank Winchester and revealed her plan to hold the utility companies accountable.

During the latest round of storms in August, DTE Energy called in crews from all over to assist in the response. The majority of the 500,000 affected customers had power restored by the Sunday timeline. There were around 40,000 still without power on Monday night.

“I’m frustrated. But I’m half as frustrated as their customers are,” Nessel said.

Nessel’s team is asking Michigan residents who have been impacted by expansive power outages in August to share feedback with the state. Nessel’s team uses the information they gather to work with DTE Energy to prevent more problems.

Nessel and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sent letters to DTE Energy and Consumers Energy to encourage them to offer credits to customers who were impacted by the outages. The letter raised the number of credits offered to customers by DTE Energy from $25 to $125, but not all customers are eligible for these credits. Consumers Energy is now offering $25.

To get a credit for the last storm your power had to be out for 120 consecutive hours to be eligible because the weather event was considered non-catastrophic.

DTE Energy and Consumers Energy spent millions on system updates. DTE has significantly stepped up the tree-trimming effort. Nessel wants real numbers and real insight into how the money is being used and what will be done to limit outages in the future.

If another big storm knocks out your power you should contact DTE and Consumers daily and inform them that you’re still without power. Document every contact you have with the power company.



DTE Energy released the following statement:

“We appreciate the Attorney General’s focus on customers who have experienced hardships caused by the series of severe storms that have swept through Michigan over the last several weeks.

This recent string of hazardous weather including wind gust reaching 75 mph has been responsible for record rainfall, extreme flooding and uprooted trees that have destroyed homes, wiped out businesses and overwhelmed some of our major road and highway systems. DTE has experienced nine storms over the last nine weeks, five of which reached Catastrophic outage levels. In our history, DTE has never experienced nine storms in nine weeks nor have we ever experienced five Catastrophic outage level storms in one summer. Because of the widespread storm and flood damage, Governor Whitmer successfully obtained a major disaster declaration from the federal government for Michigan to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in recovery assistance.

DTE is actively working in the communities hardest hit by these recent storms to improve our service while also accelerating efforts to reduce future outages for all our customers.

Trees are responsible for two-thirds of the time DTE customers spend without power. That’s why, over the past decade, we have tripled our investment in our tree trimming program and are adding more tree trimmers to our work plans, so we can quickly get to neighborhoods that have been inundated by recent storm and flood activity. In communities where we’ve completed this tree trimming work and upgraded our infrastructure, customers are experiencing 50%-70% improvements in reliability, and we are aggressively working to more broadly extend this improved performance across our service territory.

DTE is also the largest investor in capital in Michigan and a significant part of our investment involves replacing infrastructure such as cables, poles and modernizing electrical substations to better serve Michigan’s energy needs. We work closely with customers, community leaders and regulators in seeking regular feedback, approvals and offering public disclosures regarding our infrastructure projects designed to improve our energy service.

In the aftermath of the most recent catastrophic storm that swept through Michigan, DTE applied automatic bill credits to eligible, impacted customer accounts. Moving forward, we will seek oversight guidance from the Michigan Public Service Commission on ways to administer bill credits to customers who may be adversely impacted by outages in the future.

DTE electric rates have not changed since May 2020 and will remain unchanged into the later part of 2022.

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For clarification – customers will not receive a $125 credit. There are two separate credits that will be applied to the customer’s account, one for $100 and one for $25. All customers will not receive both credits. See statement below.

DTE Energy is proactively applying $25 Reliability Credits to the accounts of customers impacted by the August 11 storm, in cases where their outages totaled more than 120 hours. In addition, we are proactively applying $25 credits for customers who have experienced eight or more outages in the past twelve months. Customers who meet both these conditions will receive both credits for a total of $50.

In addition to these Reliability Credits, we have issued a $100 credit for customers who experienced an outage from the August 11 storm and remained out of power on Monday morning, August 16.

Customers will see the credits as line items called Reliability Credit on the printed bill they receive in the mail. For customers enrolled in our eBill program, the credit may be seen on the PDF version of the bill, viewable by logging in to their accounts at dteenergy.com.

We are notifying customers who qualify to receive the credits, and they will see the credits applied on an account billing statement within the next 45 days.”


About the Authors:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.