Michigan AG Says Power Outage Credits Too Small, Should Be Automatic

July 25, 2019 - 5:33 pm

DETROIT (WWJ) - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel wants automatic, and in some cases larger power outage credits for utility customers. 

In a letter sent to the Michigan Public Service Commission, the board that regulates utilities in the state, she asked them to consider making it easier to get the money, and upping the rater. 

((Read a copy of the letter))

Michigan utility customers are currently eligible for a $25 outage credit under three scenarios: (1) failure to restore electric service to a customer within 16 hours after an interruption that occurred during normal conditions; (2) failure to restore electric service to a customer within 120 hours (five days) after an interruption that occurred during catastrophic conditions (defined as when 10 percent or more of a ulitliy's customers lose power); and (3) repetitive interruptions of the same circuit more than seven times in a 12-month period.

Nessel urged the Commission to consider increased penalties that adequately reflect the costs borne by customers, and graduated fees for the length of the outage.

“A $25 credit is fine for a customer who has been without power for 16 hours, but the outage credit is exactly the same amount – $25 – for someone who has been without power for five days – and there is nothing in between for the person who was without power for two or three or four days,” said Nessel. “That’s simply not fair and I am counting on the Public Service Commission to address this inequity.”

In all cases, she noted the burden is on the consumer to report the outage and request the credit.

“There is no reason a utility customer with a smart meter should have to endure an outage and then take it upon themselves to apply for a credit from the utility company,” said Nessel.   “The companies know when and where each outage occurred, and they know the length of the outage. Utility companies can and should automatically credit every customer’s account rather than forcing customers to apply for the credit. That’s just one more hassle for someone who has already been seriously inconvenienced.”

In her letter, Nessel noted that electric service interruption rules were written years before the implementation of smart meters and that with this new technology changes things. 

“Michigan utility customers spent millions in increased electric rates so utility companies could upgrade to smart meters,” Nessel said. “This new technology tells utility companies exactly when their customers lost power and when it was restored. These companies have all the information they need to automatically process outage credits. The burden should be on the company, not the customer.”

The chairwoman with the Michigan Public Service Commission said they were already looking into such ideas, although it's unclear if any changes are planned. 

Meanwhile, those whose lights recently came back on following last weekend's damaging storms should note that this latest bout of outage falls into the catastrophic category, meaning only those out for at least 120 hours can apply for a credit.  Customers should call their utility, DTE Energy or Consumers, to determine whether or they are eligible.  Also, check out the tip sheet at this link