Energy executives grilled by Michigan lawmakers over power outages

Posted at 5:42 AM, Mar 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-16 11:13:13-04

(WXYZ) — Michigan utility companies were in the hot seat in Lansing on Thursday following multiple lengthy power outages earlier this month and late last month.

Top executives from DTE and Consumers Energy were called to testify before the Michigan House Energy Committee. Each is facing tough criticism for the response to those power outages.

Hundreds of thousand of people lost power over the course of two weeks when we were hit with an ice storm and then a snow storm, and some were left in the dark and cold for a nearly a week.

For Elouise Sirleaf, she had COVID-19 when she lost power, and for days, she described sleeping near an open stove to keep warm.

"(I was) afraid to sleep through because I don't know what will happen," she said.

"This is not the experience we want for anybody. We have a plan. We need to continue to invest in that plan," DTE President and COO Trevor Lauer said.

"We hold ourselves accountable after the storm because we do not sleep at night knowing our customers do not have power after a storm," Tonya Berry, the senior VP of transformation and energy at Consumers Energy, said.

Those leaders told legislators about a plan of improvement, including more underground framework, continued tree trimming and technology that will allow companies to remotely change the flow of energy and infrastructure.

7 Action News' Kim Russell questioned Consumers Energy, asking if holding themselves accountable means only giving customers the legal minimum of $25 in response to days in the dark.

"I think it is a step in the right direction. As we heard from the MPSC, we will work with them. The accountability piece for us is preventing the outage in the first place. That is what we will strive for," Christopher Laird, the VP of electric operations at Consumers Energy, said.

There will be more opportunities for customers to make sure their voices are heard. On Monday at 8 p.m., there will be a meeting in Dearborn and a virtual meeting will happen on Tuesday.