Michigan commission approves larger power outage credits for impacted residents

Credit kicks in after 96 hours during ‘catastrophic conditions’

Michigan residents who lose power for an extended period of time will get a larger credit from their utility company moving forward, according to newly approved changes from the Michigan Public Service Commission.

MPSC approved changes that update rules and technical standards for regulated utilities like DTE Energy and Consumers Energy.

The MPSC’s order today in Case No. U-20629 increases power outage credits to $35 for eligible customers plus $35 more each additional day the power’s out, and makes the credits automatic. Until today, the credit had been a total of $25 per qualifying outage and required customers to apply with their utility.

This change is not retroactive -- it’s for future power outage events.

The power outage credit kicks in after 96 hours during catastrophic conditions, defined as a utility having 10% or more of its customers without power; after 48 hours during gray sky conditions affecting between 1% and 10% of a utility’s customers, and after 16 hours during normal conditions. The outage credits now also will be indexed to the rate of inflation. (This infographic lays it out nicely)

“We know we have a lot more work to do, and we’re grateful to have heard from Michiganders during the MPSC’s recent town halls about their frustrations with unreliable service and their ideas for improving reliability, utility response to outages, and customer service,” Commissioner Katherine Peretick said. “We’ve heard you loud and clear, and we are committed to taking concrete actions to improve the power grid.”

The MPSC order also shortens the required times for utilities to restore long-duration outages; reduces the amount of time first responders must guard downed wires until they’re relieved by a utility lineworker; updates reliability standards to ensure Michigan’s performance indicators match industry guidelines; and establishes annual reporting requirements for rural electric cooperatives and all investor-owned utilities to ensure they’re reporting service quality and reliability performance to the Commission.

DTE Energy said in a statement: “The Company has been anticipating these rule changes and chose to implement an automatic customer credit on a voluntary basis following the February ice storm. The Company will implement the rules formally approved by the Commission going forward.”

Consumers Energy said in a statement: “To better serve customers who are impacted by severe weather events that cause outages, Consumers Energy worked with the MPSC and other stakeholders to develop changes to Michigan’s outage credit model. We supported increasing outage credits to $35 and supported the goal of automating customer credits so that customers no longer have to manually track and apply for credits. We remain committed to strengthening our grid in order to reduce the length and number of power outages.”

---> Previous: Many DTE Energy customers found $35 power outage credit insulting -- here’s what the CEO had to say

Utility companies like DTE Energy have been facing heat in recent weeks over massive and sustained power outage events during winter storms.

“Even in an historic ice storm, the grid needs to stand up to these increasingly severe weather patterns,” CEO Jerry Norcia said last month. “We are going to do better, we will be better, and we’re investing billions.”

Customers have been showing up to commission hearings to oppose rate hikes proposed by DTE Energy.

---> DTE Energy’s time of day rate takes effect: What to know

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.