DETROIT – When DTE Energy offered customers a $35 credit last week if they had gone at least five days without power, many found the gesture insulting. So we asked the CEO of the company to respond.
“I spent hundreds of dollars on hotels and food and DTE is only giving me a $35 credit,” one viewer wrote. “Why can’t you reimburse me for the total losses?”
Devin Scillian sat down with DTE Energy CEO Jerry Norcia last week and asked him about the $35 credit.
“The $35, I would agree, is not going to cover the type of expenses that an extended outage would cause, you know, hotel stays, loss of food, and that sort of thing,” Norcia said. “When we work with our regulator, we’re trying to find a balance for how much do we reimburse for an outage vs. how much do we reinvest into making the future better and making the grid better.”
You can watch the full interview with Norcia above.
Customers who spent days without electricity were frustrated with DTE, and many found the credit inadequate. One Michigan lawmaker even proposed a bill that would force utility companies to pay customers for every hour spent without power.
The timing was also a topic of consternation, as DTE had just asked for a rate increase two weeks before February’s ice storm arrived.
Norcia said it had been four years since DTE asked for a price increase, even though the company continued to invest in the grid.
“If we’re going to invest another $9 billion into the grid, we’re asking for about an $8-$9 per month increase that covers that four years without any increase and also some future investments,” Norcia said.
He said the company also provided resources to some low-income customers who were without power.
“Beyond that, we’ve partnered with local agencies on supplying food resources to customers that have the least amount of resources among us, so our low-income customers,” Norcia said. “We are going to contact all of those that were impacted, as well as generally, a great number of those, that are in need of food resources. So we are going to do that above and beyond with our foundation.”