Michigan residents can share power outage concerns with state officials in virtual town hall

Michigan Public Service Commission hosting town hall Tuesday

A DTE contractor crew works on a power line, Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, in northwest Detroit. Some Michigan residents faced a fourth straight day without power as crews worked to restore electricity to more than 165,000 homes and businesses in the Detroit area after last week's ice storm. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) (Carlos Osorio, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

State officials will hold a virtual town hall Tuesday afternoon, where residents can voice their concerns about power outages following several widespread outage events that have occurred in recent months and years.

The Michigan Public Service Commission is scheduled to host a live virtual town hall from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21. The event is intended for “electric customers to share their experiences during and after the recent ice and snowstorms across the Lower Peninsula and to hear what steps the Michigan Public Service Commission is taking to address reliability,” the commission says.

Anyone hoping to share comments with the commission is asked to submit those comments via email to mpscedockets@michigan.gov. Residents should note that any information submitted will be made public.

The town hall will be held on Microsoft Teams, which can be accessed using your browser, Teams app or by phone call. Click here to learn more about the meeting and how to access it.

Tuesday’s town hall is one of several being held by the MSPC to address power outage concerns, particularly after a February ice storm caused hundreds of thousands of outages across Metro Detroit. Many, likely thousand, experienced sustained outages for days amid frigid winter weather. Some had to seek shelter elsewhere -- at hotels, for instance -- to stay warm.

Two town halls were held by the MSPC on Monday: One in Dearborn, which is serviced by DTE Energy and was one of the Metro Detroit communities hit hardest by power outages amid the February ice storm, and another in Jackson, a city that is serviced by Consumers Energy.

More from Monday: Wayne County residents voice frustrations during town hall after going days without power

Leaders call out DTE Energy

Since the February storm, multiple town halls have been held as Michigan residents’ frustration with utility companies continues to grow. Southeast Michigan has experienced several widespread power outage events, that last many days for some, due to inclement weather over the last couple of years.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has been critical of DTE Energy, which supplies power to Southeast Michigan. In addition to calling on the company to make infrastructural improvements to prevent more outages, the state AG says DTE’s $35 credit offered to affected customers is not enough.

“The Michigan Public Service Commission decides whether or not utilities receive their requested rate increases or are required to provide other accommodations like automatic credits during sustained power outages,” Nessel said in a statement Tuesday. “... This is an opportunity for Michigan residents to ensure their concerns are heard. It is my sincere hope that in response, the commission takes action that our residents so badly deserve.”

Michigan lawmakers are demanding answers and action from DTE. In a letter sent to the company’s CEO, U.S. Michigan reps. Debbie Dingell, Rashida Tlaib, Haley Stevens and Shri Thanedar are requesting information about: which zip codes experienced outages longer than 96 hours, the number of DTE employees activated in response to the incident, the company’s own assessment of its personnel shortfall and more.

“For more than two weeks I have heard from people across Southeast Michigan who have been forced to face frigid temperatures without power, and are dealing with challenges including frozen pipes, lost food and income, and the financial burden of last-minute hotel reservations,” Dingell said in a press release.

“Extended power outages threaten residents living with health conditions that require electricity for treatment such as oxygen support, or accommodations like a stair lift. We need to understand the circumstances that led to this crisis, and ensure we are better prepared for future weather events.”

DTE Energy CEO Jerry Norcia told Local 4 earlier this month that 98% of those who lost power in the February ice storm early in the week had it restored by the end of that weekend -- but he agreed that it was unacceptable that some outages lasted into the following week.

He also said DTE has made a “tremendous investment” in the system without asking for a price increase in four years, but that the company still needs to do more.

Learn more about what Norcia had to say here.

DTE, Consumers service areas

Below is a map of DTE Energy’s service areas, courtesy of their website.

DTE Energy's Service Area Map of Michigan (DTE Energy)

Below is a map of Consumers Energy’s service areas, courtesy of their website.

About the Author:

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