GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The state is considering cracking down on power companies in the wake of storms last week that left 500,000 customers in Michigan without electricity.
A new proposal by the Michigan Public Service Commission, which regulates the state’s utilities, calls for financial penalties for repeated outages and for taking too long to restore power.
That could include penalties for utility providers whose customers experience four or more sustained power outages a year, according to the proposal.
Last year, that happened to more than 163,000 DTE Electric customers and more than 173,000 Consumers Energy customers, the MPSC said.
“We clearly are struggling with outages in Michigan, and it’s been an ongoing story over the last several years that we’ve been working to address,” MPSC Chairman Daniel Scripps told News 8.
The state would penalize utilities even more if customers were to face seven or more outages a year.
Last year, that happened to a total of 26,000 customers between DTE and Consumers.
The proposal also calls for penalties tied to how long it takes to restore power, with a focus on the time it takes during major storms.
“When you look at the number of customers who have outages over and over again over the course of the year and the length of time to restore power, particularly in storm events, we’re just not where we need to be,” Scripps said.
The state hasn’t determined how much those penalties would be.
The state is accepting public input on the proposals through the end of the day on Sept. 22.
“It’s really, I think, to focus the attention of the utility providers on these metrics, that we want to see improvement. And if we don’t see improvement, if we continue to be at the fourth quartile, the bottom of the list in terms of how they perform in comparison to other utilities, that there will be financial repercussions,” Scripps said.
The state also awarded a $1.8 million contract for an outside audit of Consumers and DTE — funded by the utility companies.
The audit will focus on reducing outages and how long it takes to restore power.
About 200,000 Consumers Energy customers statewide lost power Aug. 24, which was blamed on tornadoes and straight-line winds of up to 80 mph.
By noon Monday, 26,000 Consumers customers were still without power.
A spokesperson for Consumers told News 8 via email that the utility is reviewing the state’s proposals.
“Consumers Energy shares the commission’s commitment to improving our customers’ experience and improving the reliability and resiliency of our system,” the statement said. “We are working hard to achieve that goal and will provide feedback on the proposal as invited by the commission.”
The MPSC said comments can be mailed to Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909. They can also be emailed to email@example.com or filed through the commission’s E-Dockets system at Case No. U-21400. Instructions are available on the E-Dockets website.