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Watchdog group says DTE Energy is one of nation's worst for shutting off power to customers

A picture of a digital electricity meter
DTE Energy has one of the highest number of customer electricity shutoffs among utilities in a recent watchdog report.

DTE Energy shut off electric power to its residential customers 220,905 times between 2021 and June of 2022, according to a report by the Energy and Policy Institute, a utility and energy watchdog group.

The number of electricity shutoffs is the third highest of any utility operating in the 35 states in the report.

All told, DTE Energy shut off power, including natural gas, 377,492 times from 2020 through October, 2022, while paying $2,065,000,000 in dividends to shareholders.

Karlee Weinman, a Research and Communications Manager at the Institute, said that shows the utility's priorities.

"The cost of fixing this problem pales in comparison to what shareholders are raking in," she said. Weinman said DTE also stands out in another way.

"DTE has further harmed its customers by selling their utility debt," she said, "which is particularly predatory, and it stacks on top of those disconnections and the impact of those disconnections on its customers."

In a statement, DTE Energy said "the report appears to ignore the significant outreach the utility does every day to connect our at-risk customers to financial aid and avoid an interruption of service, which is a last resort we always strive to avoid. We offer special protections during the winter and for senior citizens, place customers on payment plans that lower their bills, and last year we connected customers to nearly $200 million in financial aid. We recently worked with the State of Michigan on new approaches to quickly get help to customers in need, directly applying funds to the accounts of eligible customers in an approach spotlighted by the White House. These actions have significantly reduced electric customer arrears by nearly a third over the past two years, and we have twice delayed electric rate increases – going more than two-and-a-half years with no increase -- in recognition of the impact the pandemic had on the communities we serve."

DTE Energy is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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