DTE needs ‘more time’ to repair outages
Aug. 10, 2018 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
“We did not build or expand our infrastructure sufficiently to keep-up with the growth in your area…”
After almost two years of ongoing and persistent power outages, DTE Energy officials told Plymouth city officials they “need more time” to address the intermittent service problems.
DTE has been the target of public criticism and scrutiny and the subject of a Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) investigation regarding the ongoing and continual service interruptions in both Plymouth Township and the City of Plymouth.
Amidst public allegations of nonfeasance from irate customers suffering from the frequent service breakdowns and an admittedly old and worn-out infrastructure, DTE admitted there have been problems, In an open letter last week addressed “Dear DTE Customer,” officials finally acknowledged the service provided to the community has been, in their words, “unacceptable.”
The letter dated Aug. 1, 2018 from Heather Rivard, senior vice president-distribution operations, said that while the company is “working as quickly as possible” they expect “it will take us 9-12 months to complete all of the work…”
“We did not build or expand our infrastructure sufficiently to keep up with the growth in your area…” Rivard said in the two-page letter.
After a fire and explosion destroyed the Farmer Street substation in August 2016, DTE Executive Director of Operations Ryan Stowe told area residents that 70 percent of the outages were caused by the lack of tree trimming.
Last October, Stowe and other DTE representatives told city officials they planed to offer-improved service with “system upgrades.” They sent out surveys, scheduled several public forums, mapped out area “hot spots,” and announced the need for tree trimming. During the forum, DTE officials also told attendees they were taking steps to replace equipment in the township substation. They visited Township Hall and held up the same maps and reiterated the same promises made in the city.
“The work we committed to you previously is work that needs to be done and is currently underway (sic). However, it has become evident that it will not be sufficient to truly solve the service interruptions in the area,” Rivard wrote.
Rivard said that the initial $1 million “significant investment” needed to “upgrade the overhead system” was insufficient and outlined additional work in an amount of more than $5 million necessary to solve the continued service interruptions. No solution is possible until the proposed work is complete, according to DTE officials.
In May 2018, Plymouth Township Trustee Jack Dempsey urged the state Public Service Commission to take action regarding the numerous DTE outages and outlined the deterioration of the DTE system in the city and township. So far Dempsey has had no reply from the commission. The Public Service Commission concentration on the legal aspects of the DTE distribution system is significant in that the focus is on the ability of the utility company to provide reliable and safe service in accord with electrical service safety regulations, especially during large storms.
In June 2018, in a similar letter addressed to city officials, DTE Regional Manager Barbara J. Rykwalder said the company “recognized the frustration they have caused residents and businesses,” and the dependability for electric service in the Plymouth community has been “beneath their high standard…We want you to know DTE Energy is taking action to fix the problem.”
City Manager Paul Sincock was hesitant to criticize the lack of progress and said he was unsure if DTE was a planning to mail the letter to area residents. The letter from Rivard was included in the city Pulse newsletter this month.. “The letter from DTE says it all…they have maintenance issues and they’re addressing them. We’re confident they’re going to do what is best.” Sincock commented.