$25 isn’t enough – AG says Consumers, DTE should reimburse powerless customers for spoiled food, hotels – MLive.com

$25 isn’t enough – AG says Consumers, DTE should reimburse powerless customers for spoiled food, hotels – MLive.com

An estimated 67,000 Michigan residents were still without power Monday morning, prompting Attorney General Dana Nessel to call for customers to be automatically credited by utility companies for the inconvenience.

Storms last week knocked trees and power lines down across the state, at one time leaving up to 760,000 residents without power. Despite around the clock service and out-of-state crews coming to assist, there were still thousands who did not have power as of Monday morning.

“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,” Nessel said.

The Michigan Public Service Commission’s threshold for “catastrophic conditions,” meaning more than 10% of customers were affected by power outages, was met last week, according to Matt Helms, public information officer for the MPSC.

Under catastrophic conditions utility companies are given more time to repair damages. Customers must be out of power for 120 hours to be eligible for a $25 credit on their utility bill. Outage credits are also available if a customer’s power was out for more than 16 hours in a non-catastrophic incident. In both instances, customers must apply for the credit.

Nessel is urging the companies to extend their resources more directly and voluntarily credit customers affected by the outages. She called on DTE Energy and Consumers to “provide greater credits to assist customers who have lost hundreds of dollars or more in food and alternative housing costs.”

Both companies currently offer a $25 credit.

In addition, the Attorney General asked DTE and Consumers to create a fund to assist displaced customers during significant power outages. In her statement, Nessel noted that severe storms have become more frequent and the utility companies should be proactive about helping those affected.

“We know that climate change is having a significant real impact, and a business-as-usual approach is no longer sufficient,” she said. “That is why it’s imperative that our utility companies adapt to the changing climate and needs of their thousands of customers. Consumers Energy and DTE must do better than this.”

In response to the attorney general’s request, Consumers spokesperson Katie Carey sent the following statement to MLive:

“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. We have restored over 98% of our 372,000 customers who lost power and we are grateful for our customers’ patience and cooperation as our crews work around the clock to restore power following last week’s historic storm. We will follow the Michigan Public Service Commission’s guidelines for credits and encourage customers who have been without power for over five days to fill out the form for the outage credit.”

DTE spokesperson Je’well Pearson said the company would also be following MPSC guidelines on credits in a statement provided to MLive.

“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. DTE started proactively identifying qualifying customers as defined by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) over the weekend and will be applying the credit to those customers’ accounts within 45 days. Customers who qualify will receive notification directly from DTE this week.”

Michigan utilities rank in the bottom quartile of reliability when benchmarked against utilities around the country.

A 2018 assessment by the Citizens Utility Board of Michigan ranked Michigan 13th worst among the states in overall average number of minutes of outage per customer over the year. This includes “major event days” when large outages occur due to weather.

When taking major event days out of the equation, Michigan ranked 9th worst in number of minutes of outage per customer over the year.

Including major event days, the state ranked low for outages per customer at 24th worst and 8th worst in the country for average restoration time.

As part of the MPSC’s MI Power Grid initiative, the agency is working to update grid security and reliability standards, and that includes updating the rules on power outage credits. Proposals include raising the maximum credit available and making it apply automatically for affected customers.

The report’s recommendations are expected to be taken up by the Commission as early as this fall.

Currently, customers must fill out a form apply for the credits. DTE Energy customers can find the form here. Consumers Energy customers can find the form here.

More on MLive:

Michigan attorney general warns to watch out for disaster cleanup scams

‘Boom!’ of tree falling wakes Kalamazoo resident amid overnight storms

Crews coming from 3 states to help restore power across Michigan

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