Precipitation fell again across most of Michigan on Monday, though unlike last week, it's currently more rain than ice. The slightly warmer temperatures are a small relief for the Michiganders who are still without power since last Wednesday's ice storm hit.
"It's incredibly unfortunate that there are families that are still in the cold and dealing with bad weather today, that will continue to stay without power as a result of for-profit monopolies' negligence to address their actual job of strengthening the grid to ensure that people have power," House Majority Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash, D-Hamtramck, said Monday afternoon.
As of 5:00 PM Monday, DTE, which mostly serves metro Detroit and southeast Michigan, reports 61,085 customers remain without power, around 3% of the company's customers.
In other parts of the state, Consumers Energy, which provides power to the majority of the state, reported 81,265 customers still had not seen their power restored, which is more than 4% of its customers.
"We understand how frustrating it is to be without power, especially if you're one of the customers who are still waiting for your power to be restored," Consumers Spokesperson Josh Paciorek said.
The long outages, with some residents now five days without power, are prompting some lawmakers to say enough is enough, as families are forced to huddle at home or go to hotels to stay warm.
In April 2022, Rep. Abraham Aiyash, in coordination with then-House Minority Floor Leader Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, introduced a series of bills aimed at holding power companies accountable for outages.
"We have been accustomed to accepting a norm that if your power goes out, it is the responsibility of the resident to find ways to make it work," Aiyash, D-Hamtramck, said at the time.
A year later, and Aiyash is now the Majority Floor Leader, helping to make decisions about what bills will come to the floor for a vote.
Aiyash pointed the finger at the monopolies both DTE and Consumers Energy have in Michigan as a cause for the utility companies' struggle to keep the power on during serious weather.
"We have the same storms that Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio have faced, yet DTE and Consumers residents seem to have longer outages, more frequent outages, and we pay some of the highest rates in the nation, and definitely the highest rates in the Midwest," Aiyash said.
The bills would require that payments to customers come from the energy company's profits and not from rate increases to consumers, and it would require companies to pay Michiganders more for outages.
"Our legislation would simply provide compensation by the hour that you do not have power, back to the customer from the utility company's profits," Aiyash said. "My hope is that they're going to realize that being neglectful and upgrading the grid and making sure that the infrastructure can withstand basic inclemental [sic] weather — a little bit of ice here and there, a little bit of rain — should not result in widespread outages."
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The credit plan that is expected to be introduced by Aiyash for impacted customers would require utility companies to pay $5-$10 for every hour the electricity is out. If power is not restored by the third day, the energy company would be required to pay a customer $25 per hour for every hour the home did not have power.
Consumers Energy currently offers a one-time $25 credit to homes that go without power for five days, while DTE announced on Monday that some customers who lost power would receive an automatic $35 credit. Paciorek said Consumers did not have plans to announce a change to the credit amounts at this time.
Other Michigan legislators condemned DTE and Consumers Energy over the weekend on social media.
"The length of this outage, in freezing temperatures, is completely unacceptable," tweeted Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak. "The frequency of outages and lack of reliability is completely unacceptable. I hear you, and I’m as frustrated and angry as you are. My focus right now is trying to ensure everyone gets through this safely. But please know I will do the work to hold DTE accountable and demand improvements. They must upgrade the grid to withstand the new normal."
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On Monday morning, Attorney General Dana Nessel called for DTE and Consumers Energy to do more to help customers, saying the current standards are not sufficient.
“While this ice storm appears to have been one of the worst we have seen in many years, winter weather is an expected occurrence in Michigan," Nessel said in a statement. "Residents deserve a grid they can rely on.”
"Living in Michigan, we know we can't control the weather," Paciorek said. "And there have been an increase in the number of severe weather events over the last decade or so. And so our focus is on reducing the number of power outages and the length of those outages."
Consumers said it is investing in a $5.4 billion Electric Reliability Plan that aims to reduce power outages. Paciorek said Consumers Energy has adjusted to severe storms, making response times shorter by getting crews in the field in advance of major weather.
"We know we have more to do," Paciorek said. "This ice storm demonstrates that, and so we're going to continue our efforts to harden the grid, make it more reliable, make it more resilient in the face of these more extreme weather events."
Aiyash said he is putting the finishing touches on the energy company accountability legislation, and will introduce the bills as soon as possible. He also called upon his fellow legislators who accepted campaign contributions from energy companies to stop accepting such contributions.