DTE Energy to invest $7 billion in Southeastern Michigan’s electric grid

Company to increase grid’s capacity, improve infrastructure following summer of widespread power outages

DTE Energy on Thursday announced a plan to invest billions of dollars into Southeast Michigan’s electric grid following a summer of widespread power outages across the region.

DETROITDTE Energy on Thursday announced a plan to invest billions of dollars into Southeast Michigan’s electric grid following a summer of widespread power outages across the region.

The utility company is planning to invest $7 billion over five years into the state’s electric grid in an effort to accommodate “increasingly severe weather trends” and the “fast-evolving needs of consumers and businesses,” officials said Thursday morning. The plan reportedly prioritizes increasing the grid’s capacity to “deliver reliable energy” to DTE customers throughout the region, which includes improving infrastructure to combat power outages.

Officials say the investment will “harden and upgrade” the grid for the coming 10 to 15 years.

“This visionary plan recognizes that our customers’ homes and businesses interact with the electric grid in ways we couldn’t imagine just 20 years ago, and the future of mobility is being revolutionized again in Michigan through electrification, all of which means the grid we share must be adapted to the 21st century,” said Jerry Norcia, DTE Energy CEO. “Much of our grid was designed and built more than a century ago, providing customers the energy required for a much simpler day-to-day life.”

In addition to modernizing infrastructure and investing in pole maintenance and more, the company will also reportedly study the cost and benefits of “non-wire alternatives, like energy storage, and burying existing overhead power lines in residential areas,” officials said Thursday.

The news comes two months after the company announced an additional $70 million investment to address weather-related power outages after hundreds of thousands of customers were impacted by outages this year. That plan focused on removing trees and trimming branches away from power lines, as officials said trees are responsible for almost all power outages in high-wind events.

At that time, the company was already spending $190 million on tree-trimming in the region.

DTE Energy has been under scrutiny this year by Michigan leaders, like Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, for not investing enough in infrastructural improvements necessary to prevent widespread power outages. Their criticism came after more than 800,000 customers lost power following a storm this summer -- one of the biggest power outage events in the last five years.

“As a state, we must put a heavier priority on examining our utility companies and how they adapt to the changing climate and needs of their millions of customers,” Nessel said in a statement in August. “It remains unacceptable that Michigan residents have grown to expect power outages every time there’s severe weather in the forecast. We can -- and must -- do better.”

Nessel and Whitmer sent letters to DTE Energy and Consumers Energy this summer to encourage them to offer credits to Michigan customers who were impacted by power outages. The letter sought to raise the number of credits offered to customers by DTE Energy from $25 to $125.

In September, Norcia issued the following statement after announcing the additional $70 million investment:

“We tripled our tree trimming effort and doubled our infrastructure upgrades several years ago when we began to see more severe weather patterns. But the extreme weather we experienced this summer -- nine hard hitting, severe storms in nine weeks -- is something we have never experienced. That’s why we made the decision to invest even more now, directing an additional $70 million into tree trimming to combat the large and recurring outages that have been so challenging for our customers. We will do what it takes to protect Michiganders from power outages caused by catastrophic storms and extreme weather patterns.”

Jerry Norcia, DTE Energy CEO

The utility company announced earlier this month a plan to expand its solar energy parks and invest in solar panels that pivot with the sun.

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Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.