'This is the first time': Why MPSC is ordering an audit of DTE, Consumers Energy

Posted at 10:48 PM, Oct 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-05 23:17:55-04

ROYAL, Mich. (WXYZ) — In one Royal Oak neighborhood, an August storm brought down branches and wires, knocking out power for many homes in the area.

Justin Skrzynski lives nearby and says every storm, he and his neighbors fear an outage. They went six straight days without power last summer and now stay prepared as best they can.

“This little chunk of Royal Oak is kind of notorious for power outages,” Skrzynski said. "I think everyone on this block has generators and all their backup plans.”

According to the Michigan Public Services Commission, nearly 500,000 Michiganders lost power for several days after storms this August. And in August 2021, roughly 1 million people lost power — some for over a week.

“Our reliability performance, our safety performance isn't where it needs to be," MPSC Chair Dan Scripps said. "It's not what customers deserve.”

Scripps, says the commission has concerns about reliability and safety. This August, downed power lines killed a 14-year-old girl in Monroe and critically injured an 8-year-old boy in Warren. The commission is now ordering a third-party audit of DTE Electric and Consumers Energy.

"This is the first time we've used this and the first time we've used this audit power in state law in living memory,” Scripps said.

This decision comes as DTE is asking the commission for a rate hike. At a public hearing in August in Detroit, angry residents packed the room sounding off on unreliable power.

Ponsella Hardaway and her organization MOSES were on hand. She’s happy to see a third-party audit.

“I really congratulate the Michigan Public Service Commission for all they've done in putting this issue out before public and actually doing their due diligence,” Hardaway said. “I think they’re doing a great job on putting the pressure on, really holding Consumers Energy and DTE accountable for anything they're asking for.”

In response to the audit, both Consumers and DTE issued statements.

DTE Energy Statement:

"We share the concern of the Michigan Public Service Commission and look forward to providing a full accounting of storm damage, safety precautions and recovery efforts. We will also detail our long-term plans to address DTE Energy’s needed infrastructure improvements to help improve reliability and reduce and prevent electric service outages in the future."

Consumers Energy Statement:

“Safety is our top priority at Consumers Energy, not just for our coworkers but for everyone in our state. We appreciate the MPSC’s interest in ensuring that energy providers are taking steps to protect and inform people before, during and after severe storms, and improve electric system reliability and resilience. We look forward to working with the MPSC and focusing on the well-being of the people we serve.”