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DTE Energy to invest more in tree trimming and line workers in wake of power outages

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

DTE Energy spent a lot of time and energy restoring power after a recent series of storms knocked out power. The power company now plans to spend $70 million hiring new crews for tree trimming. That will add about 300 workers, bringing the number of trimmers to 1,500.

A recent series of severe storms resulted in falling trees taking down lines and snapping utility poles. The president of DTE Electric said at the time more severe storms also mean bigger, stronger utility poles with better connectors are needed.

“So, it’s a combination of both things. We need to trim the trees so that they don’t fall on the lines or bring down the lines and poles and other infrastructure. And we also need to invest in the infrastructure which we are doing,” said Pete Ternes, spokesperson for DTE.

He said falling trees and limbs are responsible for 60% of power outages.

DTE said it should be able to trim all trees around the power lines in its service region every five years.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
A tangle of downed limbs, a broken utility pole and power lines knocked out power in much of Monroe during a storm last month.

“We’re spending a billion dollars a year in infrastructure investment. That doesn’t count what we’re spending on tree trimming,” noted Ternes.

DTE is also hiring another 200 line workers to “make the system more resilient.” That will bring the number of line workers to 1,050.

DTE crews had to replace 450 broken poles during storms last month.

Many customers complained about the number of outages that occurred because of the severe weather. While DTE officials are hesitant to blame the more frequent and stronger storms on climate change, they do concede the storms' severity is getting worse and challenging the electricity distribution system. Climate experts point out that climate change is bringing an increased risk of extreme weather events.

Editor's note: DTE is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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