Nonprofit calls for public power in Ann Arbor amid power outages

‘We did a petition drive where we got 1,300 petition signatures and brought that forward to the Ann Arbor Energy Commission as well as the Ann Arbor City Council’

Three days have passed since Monday's storms, and DTE reports 68 thousand customers remain without power. With residents frustrated by another widespread outage, a nonprofit in Ann Arbor hopes the city will establish its own public power utility. Local 4 was at an intersection on Stimson and South State streets, where they remain without power. We spoke to people who say while they understand there was a storm, but being without power happens way too often, and something has to change.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Three days have passed since Monday’s storms, and DTE reports 68,000 customers remain without power.

With residents frustrated by another widespread outage, a nonprofit in Ann Arbor hopes the city will establish its own public power utility.

It just shouldn’t be like this, that it’s this many times that it happens,” said Ann Arbor resident Linda Jo Doctor.

Jo Doctor said she has power outages multiple times a year.

“It’s happened in the summer, and It’s happened in the winter,” Jo Doctor said. “That couple of days in the winter, that was really scary. I mean, we basically sat in bed with all the covers around us constantly because it was so cold.”

It’s frustrating and inconvenient for many including Greg Woodring.

“It kind of causes everything in your life to become more difficult,” said Woodring. “You’re just helpless.”

Woodring is the president of the grassroots organization Ann Arbor for Public Power.

Over the last two years, they’ve encouraged the city to do a study on how feasible it would be to have its own public power utility.

“We did a petition drive where we got 1,300 petition signatures and brought that forward to the Ann Arbor Energy Commission as well as the Ann Arbor City Council,” Woodring said.

There are several other Michigan communities that have their own public power utility, including Lansing.

“The City of Ann Arbor would compel DTE to sell its electrical infrastructure,” Woodring said. “The City of Ann Arbor would then establish its own utility that would use that infrastructure in order to provide power to all the residents of Ann Arbor.”

In January, the city council authorized the study, and on Tuesday (Sept. 6), they decide funding for it. The study would cost $458,797.

“This (study) would help us figure out an idea of what the cost of that acquisition would be, as well as the operating costs of running a utility,” Woodring said. “Then it would compare that against the revenue that the utility would bring in to ensure that not only could we run the utility at a comparable rate but we’d also be able to pay off the bonds that we would take out to buy this infrastructure.”

“We should explore this option but at the same time would encourage DTE to really think through what are some things that they can do in order to enhance the service that would prevent this from happening,” Jo Doctor said.

Ann Arbor for Public Power claims the city having its own utilities will mean fewer outages, lower costs for customers and is a greener option. The feasibility study will explore that as well as if this option is the most beneficial.


About the Authors:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.