DTE Energy criticized for cuts made right before power outages impacted hundreds of thousands in Michigan

Posted at 9:57 PM, Mar 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-13 21:57:13-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — During a power outage that impacted hundreds of thousands of people, DTE Energy shared with investors that it had made cuts. Now people impacted by the outages are asking whether the cuts led to delays in a return to service.

During the year-end earnings presentation in February,  the company shared that when it didn’t get the full rate increase it requested from the Michigan Public Service Commission - it made cuts. 

“These actions include delaying hiring, reducing our contractor workforce, deferring maintenance work in the short-term, and limiting overtime accordingly. Through taking these actions we remain confident we will achieve our financial goals for the year without sacrificing safety, reliability, or customer service,” said Dave Ruud – Senior Vice President and CFO.

DTE says it didn’t impact reliability - but now Republicans and Democrats - are questioning that. 

“I mean, they are getting huge bonuses for the executives. They are posting huge profits at a time when they are cutting back on services that would impact this latest storm,” said State Senator Jim Runestad, R-Oakland County.

“Maintenance is key." U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib told WXYZ. “What we see now is an older, rundown grid that hasn’t been invested in.”

Democrat U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and Republican State Senator Jim Runestad held separate town hall meetings on the topic Monday.

Activists with the community solar group Soulardarity and the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition Action say they want to see people speak up.

“If they were to say they really needed us to pay higher rates, we would say you first,” said Rafael Mojica, Soulardarity Program Director.

“It is completely unjust that the day after the storm, 600,000 people are without power and DTE is on the phone with shareholders saying they delivered high profits by cutting maintenance,” said Bridget Vial, an energy democracy organizer with the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition.

DTE released a statement.

“We hear the concern from our customers. When an historic ice storm struck our state, 20 percent of them were left without power. Our customers deserve better, which is why we need to continue to invest to improve the reliability of our electric grid in the face of increasingly severe storms. We look forward to continue working with our state, federal and local leaders to achieve our shared goal of improving reliability, delivering cleaner energy and maintaining affordability for our customers,” said the statement from Trevor Lauer, DTE President and COO of the DTE Electric Company.

Trevor will be testifying and answering questions about the ice storm this Wednesday before the Michigan House Energy and Communications and Technology.