DTE Energy Monday restoration update: Current power outages, $35 customer credits, what’s next

Customers who lost power for more than 96 hours to receive credit

Power lines covered in ice. (Aleksander Khitrov, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

DETROIT – DTE Energy provided an update Monday afternoon on the restoration outlook for customers who are still without power, the new outages caused by Monday’s weather, a $35 credit for certain customers, and what’s next for the company.

Ryan Stowe, the vice president at DTE Electric, offered an update at 3 p.m. Monday (Feb. 27) as about 68,000 people remained without power in Metro Detroit.

Stowe said last week’s ice storm was the largest in DTE’s history and called it one of a utility’s “worst nightmares.”

Remaining power outages

More than 4,000 field workers and linemen have been deployed to work on restoration since ice, sleet, and snow arrived on Wednesday and Thursday.

More than 600,000 customers have had their power restored.

“I know that’s little comfort if you’re still without power right now, and I want you to know that I commit to you, along with the thousands of people here at DTE who are continuing to work around the clock, that this process is not going to stop until we can get every single customer restored,” Stowe said.

DTE Energy reports around 30,000 customers who lost power from the initial storm still have not had it restored.

“We’re working through kind of our primary restoration, so restoring the primary lines, getting large chunks of customers restored,” Stowe said. “But at the same time, we’ve also stood up and are running our service restoration process, where we’re trying to get individual homes that may have had their service dropped, taken down, getting those restored, as well.”

New outages Monday

While DTE says fewer than 30,000 customers remain without power from last week’s storm, more than double that number were still in the dark as of Monday afternoon. Stowe said some of those outages are new.

“We’ve continued to see additional outages come in on the system,” Stowe said. “We’ve had a total of over 65,000 additional outages since Friday.”

That includes more than 10,000 customers who have lost power Monday due to another round of precipitation, he said.

As of Monday afternoon, DTE Energy was specifically monitoring ice buildup north of M-59.

“I believe the weather watch lasts through about 4 p.m. and hopefully will lessen as the temperatures raise up here a little bit through the remainder of the afternoon,” Stowe said.

$35 customer credit

DTE Energy is offering a $35 credit to any customers who were without power for more than 96 hours during this process, Stowe said. That credit will process automatically to customers.

“We’re going to process that automatically,” Stowe said. “We’ll use data from our AMI system to track which meters were out for that longer period of time, and we’ll process those credits automatically.”

Stowe reiterated that this was one of the largest operations he’s seen during his 20 years at the company.

“We know this is a real challenge for anybody who’s been out of power this long, and we’re going to continue working until the last customer’s been restored,” Stowe said.

Response to criticism

Stowe was asked to respond to lawmakers who have called DTE’s response to the storm an “epic failure.”

“The damage and the impact to the system overall is certainly extreme and catastrophic in nature,” Stowe said. “I know there’s going to be a lot of discussion about what happened, and we’re more than willing and happy to go through that process in sharing the findings and what happened.

“We certainly want to always look for ways we can improve, and we know if somebody’s been out of power for this long that they’re certainly not happy about it. We will say the ice sure puts quite a burden on all these trees that are around our area, and around our lines, and are outside of our right-of-way, and we’re going to continue to look for ways to make the system more resilient, able to handle any damage that’s coming from those trees.”

How to improve in future

Stowe said DTE Energy has invested more than $1 billion in system improvements over the past year and applied for funds to make additional updates.

“We know it’s not good enough, especially as we get this increasing severity of weather,” Stowe said. “Here in just the last couple years, we’ve seen some of the most extreme weather that I’ve seen in my 20-year career. It’s something that we’re going to have to continue to harden the grid, make it more resilient. That’s going to take investment, and that’s investment that we want to make.”

There are over a million poles and more than 45,000 miles of power lines, he said.

“It’s going to take sustained investment for some time to continue to make these improvements,” Stowe said.

In response to frustration over unreliable restoration estimates, Stowe said sometimes crews think they’ve found the main cause of an outage, only to learn that there are other causes of damage behind it.

Here’s the full briefing:

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.