Nessel pushes DTE, Consumers to provide outage credits

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is asking Consumers Energy and DTE Energy to credit customers whose power went out during the latest of several severe weather events this summer. 

As of Monday night, just more than 33,000 people remain without power after a storm last week knocked out electricity to more than 850,000. DTE reported 20,070 outages and Consumers said 13,592 customers remained without power.

Large pockets of outages remained near the city of Wayne in Wayne County, the Village of Maybee in Monroe County and Hartland in Livingston County.

The storms last week led the companies to deploy 3,000 workers to restore power throughout the state, including Metro Detroit. 

Nessel asked the power companies in a Monday statement to voluntarily credit customers who went without power and to provide additional support to those have lost food or have had to seek alternative housing. 

“The utility workers for Consumers Energy and DTE Energy are working hard to restore power, and I appreciate those who have worked tirelessly the last several days on behalf of the communities they serve, but these companies also need to work hard to restore trust with their customers,” the attorney general said in a statement. 

Consumers Energy said Monday it will continue to follow state regulatory policy that allows customers who have lost power for several days to request an outage credit. The company has restored power to 98% of those who lost electricity, Consumers Energy spokeswoman Katie Carey said.  

“We understand how hard it is to be without power, which was why we proactively hosted over 29 different community events across the state of Michigan helping over 12,500 customers with access to bottled water, ice, lunches, ice cream or vouchers to Binder Park Zoo and Zehnder’s Splash Village for customers," Carey said in a statement.

DTE Energy said it is working to make access to the credit "as easy as possible" and has already reached out to some qualifying customers who will have their accounts credited within 45 days. 

"We know many of our customers have been challenged by the recent weather and resulting power outages, and we’re working to make the reliability credit process as easy as possible for them," the company said in a statement.

Usually, customers would need to file with their utility to obtain an outage credit but Nessel argued Monday that Michigan utilities should make the credit automatic. 

DTE Energy and Consumers issue outage credits, by request, to those who had service interrupted more than 120 hours in five days because of catastrophic  conditions or more than 16 hours in normal conditions, according to their websites. Credits also are available to people who have service interruptions more than eight times in a year under standards developed with the Michigan Public Service Commission.

DTE Energy said credits are about $25.

However, the companies can ask state regulators for relief from their credit responsibilities in "extraordinary circumstances" that prevent them from meeting the standards.

DTE Energy noted on its website that the company does not pay for property loss or damage if it is caused by an act of nature.

Consumer's Energy vice president for electric operations, Guy Packard, said Thursday's storm was one of "the top 10 storms in our company’s 135-year history."

Mid-morning Monday, DTE Energy reported 20,000 customers remained without power, while Consumers Energy reported fewer than 28,000 remained without power.