LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Top officials from DTE and Consumers Energy spent Wednesday trying to explain why it took them so long to restore power to thousands of customers following February’s ice storm.
The storm that engulfed large portions of lower Michigan late last month will not be forgotten, especially by the more than 600,000 utility customers who lost power and then waited for their power to come back on.
It also will not be forgotten by legislators, who took turns quizzing utility leaders on the delay after their constituents bombarded them with a mountain of complaints.
The hearing began with an apology.
DTE COO Trever Lauer blamed climate change for part of the problem while pointing out that his company restored service to 95% of its customers within three days.
It was the leftover 5% that drew lots of criticism.
“Executives are raking in millions of dollars and customers are not getting a reliable service,” said State Rep. Sharon MacDonell.
Lauer told lawmakers he did not cut the budget for returning power in order to fatten the dividends for investors, but when asked if he favored giving customers more than $35 back, he said that was up to the state public service commission.
“I know I’m not directly answering your question but I will follow up with you,” Lauer responded.
Turns out the state utility regulating commission is now proposing a rebate of $35 a day to cover losses from long power outages.
Consumer Energy’s CEO was not at the table, but two vice presidents did appear and summed up this problem with one simple answer.
“We all want the service a reliable gird would provide. What we need to do is work tighter for the proper investment so we can have a reliable grid for all stakeholders,” said Consumers Energy VP Tonya Berry.