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Discussions on helping utility customers continue after February ice storms

WZZM-TV Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek 3/22/2023 Micah Cho

Customers of Consumers and DTE Energy sounded off to the Michigan Public Service Commission Tuesday night about response times and service issues following ice storms in mid-February that left tens-of-thousands of people without power.

"I got back on there, and it took me I bet 17 buttons to get me to a person," said a Consumer's Energy customer on the east side of the state. "And she said she would get somebody to come out here a day and a half later."

While West Michigan communities saw tens of thousands of customers without power in February, it was even worse for those on the south east side of the state.

"I'm actually calling on behalf of the residents of Birmingham, I'm the assistant city manager for the City of Birmingham and we literally had thousands of people without power," said a DTE customer. "It was in the city during the ice storm, the winter storm, and for an extended period of over a week we had many areas around town that didn't have power."

During Tuesday's virtual meeting, Commissioner Katherine Peretick said there are three new changes to help utility customers.

First, once a customer's power has been out for more 120 hours, the $25 a day credit that's given to customers will now be raised to $35.

Utility companies will also have to send out monthly reports on outages and fixes, that will be posted to the Michigan Public Service Commissions Website.

Lastly, DTE and Consumers will undergo an audit on their electric systems to identify any deficiencies. 

Commissioner Dan Scripps emphasized the importance of helping Michigan utility customers, especially after seeing the effects of last month's ice storms.

"They were the worst in 50 years," said Scripps, "But it's also clear that we're having historic storms every other year. And at that point, they're no longer historic. They are the new normal. And we've got to make sure that we have a grid that's ready for it."

13 On Your side reached out to Consumers Energy on Tuesday nights meeting. In response, a spokesperson with the company said:

“We completely understand the frustration of those who lost power, and appreciate the opportunity to hear what our customers have to say. We are interested in working with the Michigan Public Service Commission and others to continue our work of building a stronger and smarter electrical grid.”

DTE Energy also responded to a request for a statement. A spokesperson with the company said:

“We completely understand the frustration voiced this evening. When it comes to a more reliable electric grid our customers expect more and our customers deserve better. Which is why everyone at DTE is laser-focused on delivering just that. Through accelerated investments in tree trimming and rebuilding our grid to reduce the number and duration of outages, we can build a system to better withstand the ever-strengthening weather impacting our state."

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