GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan utility companies testified in Lansing Wednesday about the widespread and dayslong power outages caused by February ice storms, discussing topics ranging from increasing compensation for affected customers and making improvements to the grid.
Rep. Mike McFall, D-Hazel Park, called for utilities to do more to invest in infrastructure and help customers.
“It is the company’s fault that the grid has not been updated in a proper manner. I don’t understand why the taxpayers should take that fall, take that hit versus you,” Fall said.
Blaming the thick ice and high winds for the outages that lasted five days for some, power company executives said they are working to improve infrastructure to increase restoration times and prevent more outages.
“All I can do is continue to rebuild the electric grid as fast as I can against these weather patterns,” Trevor Lauer, the president and chief operating officer of DTE Electric, said.
Consumers Energy was asked about its culpability regarding a power line that claimed the life of Paw Paw Fire Department Lt. Ethan Quillen.
“We went through the investigation process. Our system did operate as it should,” Chris Laird, the vice president of electric operations, said. “But unfortunately Lt. Quillen passed away, so just condolences to him, his fellow firefighters, his family and his friends.”
Katherine Peretick, who runs the Michigan Public Service Commission, said the reliability problems stem from climate change causing more severe storms, poor vegetation management and deteriorating infrastructure.
“Outages occur far too frequently, impact far too many people,” Peretick said. “The utilities need to get better at anticipating and responding to the situations that arise.”
Consumers Energy says it has 90,000 miles of electric lines, more than 1,200 substations and is investing hundreds of millions in strengthening and maintaining the grid.
It also said says it goes far beyond the standard $25 a day compensation for customers established by the MPSC.
“We agreed to provide $15 million in bill credits to all customers,” Tonya Berry, senior vice president of transformation and engineering for Consumers, said. “We also are taking $10 million in shareholder funding investments to give to credits to our customers. Those are things that we do voluntarily.”