Fixing Detroit's antiquated power system will take years

DTE Energy charged with costly project of moving city off Public Lighting Department grid

By Guy Gordon - Reporter/Anchor

DETROIT - The parts of the Detroit power system in some cases date back to World War II.

Upgrading the system would be a $250 million project. Utility leaders and the government say that's just too expensive.

The best fix: Take the 1,400 buildings and and 150 customers that are on the antiquated Public Lighting Department system, disconnect the fragile lines and hook them up the DTE Energy's more reliable grid. But it's complicated.

For example, Cobo Center:

"We don't have a feed directly tied to Cobo Hall, so where is that feed going to come from? What street are we going to have to dig up? Where exactly are the connections going to be, and it's probably more than a one-feed building," said Ron May, DTE Energy's senior vice president of major projects.

Read back: DTE to take over Public Lighting services in Detroit

How do you divide up the costs? For the most part they'll be borne by the new DTE customers such as the city of Detroit, Cobo Center and Wayne State University. The state government may also help. DTE Energy will pay part of it and so will you -- all regional DTE customers will share a small part of the load.

"We just began going to each customer. We're not even sure where their meter is. We're not sure where all of their activities are and we're not sure what their costs are," said May.

With every customer moved off the grid the load will reduce and reliability should improve.

"We would expect to start to see some of that happen within the next year," May said.

Getting everybody hooked up could take 5 to 7 years. The regulatory hearings don't even begin until next spring.

Moreover, there could be legal challenges from city residents who don't think the city should be giving up its customers or the revenue to DTE.

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