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Study says Michigan ranks among slowest states at restoring power

Lauren Janes

A recent study says Michigan utility companies are some of the slowest in the country at restoring power. The Citizen's Utility Board of Michigan study says Michigan is the fourth slowest state to turn the lights back on after an outage.  For outages not caused by extreme weather, Michigan is the second worst.

The numbers come from the U.S. Department of Energy's 2017 data. The nonprofit commissioned 5 Lakes Energy, a Michigan-based policy consulting firm to analyze the data. 

Amy Bandyk is the Executive Director of the Citizen's Utility Board of Michigan .

"The point of doing this study was using this nationally available data and we were hoping that it forces this poor performance to either be explained as outside the utility's control and regulators control, or as something that really needs to be addressed," Bandyk says.

She says the 2017 data shows DTE Energy as the slowest company at restoring power in Michigan.

"I think people are just frustrated because we understand that there are issues with trees falling in storms and we understand that and we want everyone to be safe. But, we really want the utilities to focus on preventative measures so that we're not stuck so long in the dark," Bandyk says.

In an email statement, DTE said:

Regarding the Citizen's Utility Board Study: The study is flawed, basing its data from 2017, a year when hurricane force winds caused Michigan's most damaging windstorm in a century – It creates an inaccurate data point. DTE had 800,000 outages during that March storm. The report itself states “excluding major event days, Michigan is actually slightly above average.” DTE began hardening its systems in 2015 by investing in more durable infrastructure and power poles as well as sharply ramping up investments in its tree trimming program to reduce the number of outages caused by downed trees, which causes two thirds of outages.

Consumers Energy says:

Consumers Energy is committed to protecting the environment while providing reliable, affordable and cleaner energy to Michigan residents. We view the world through a wider lens – considering how our decisions impact people, the planet and Michigan’s prosperity. We have invested more than $500 million over the past five years to strengthen our electric distribution system and over $200 million was targeted to line clearing activities specifically. Regarding duration, much of our service territory is rural, less densely populated and it naturally can take longer to travel resources to outages than in highly populated areas where homes are located back-to-back. In general, the population density of a state, the utility’s service area and number of customers should be considered. Regarding frequency, meaning the number of interruptions per customer per year, Consumers Energy ranks in the second quartile (very good rating) relative to its utility peers.

Nevertheless, the study says DTE had the slowest response time compared to other utility companies in the state as well.  

CLARIFICATIONWe have edited the official statement sent by DTE because the company used a partial quote from the Citizen's Utility Board's report in the company's defense.  DTE responed, "The report itself states "excluding major event days, Michigan is actually slightly above average. However, even with fewer outages."  The full quote from the Citizen's Utility Board is this: "excluding major event days, Michigan is actually slightly above average. However, even with fewer outages, Michigan customers still spend more time in the dark than customers in most states, suggesting that Michigan utilities are particularly bad at restoring power once there is an outage." We apologize for not checking the quote provided by DTE for accuracy in its meaning and intent.

ED NOTE: Both DTE and Consumers Energy are corporate sponsors of this station.

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