Could another power supplier besides DTE be brought to Metro Detroit? Experts weigh in

For hundreds of thousands of people, it’s been a difficult week without power. During that span, we’ve heard customers and lawmakers bring up the idea of wanting more than one power distributor in Michigan.

As our FOX 2 crews traveled all over Metro Detroit this past week, we heard the frustration caused by what was called a once-in-a-half-century ice storm.

Seven days later and thousands of customers were still in the dark.

Some are so fed up, they question the possibility of more power suppliers in Michigan.

"I just wish we had a competitive choice, I don't think we'd be treated like this if we did," said Nicole LeBoeuf in Berkley.

LeBoeuf and her neighborhood waited in the dark for five days before electricity was restored.

While there hasn’t been any formal discussion of a change in distribution supply, which is the company whose wires connect to your home — it’s ultimately up to the state legislators in Lansing.

"I think it is more likely now that we have a Democratic majority in the House and Senate because the 2008 law — there was a wish list from both sides," said Chris Kobus, Oakland University. "I think the Republican side were more on the side of getting these monopolies in place."

Kobus is an OU professor and the director of engineering and energy education.

He says lawmakers could repeal the monopoly provision of the current law, allowing for more distributors to compete with DTE and Consumers Energy.

"Those are largely natural monopolies," said Dan Scripps, the chair of the Michigan Public Service Commission., "We don’t want three different sets of wires running down every single street."

The Michigan Public Service Commission, which oversees the power supply statewide.

While opening the market for distribution supply may sound good on paper, Scripps says Michigan would need a large-scale investment to add just one more supplier.

Even then, it may not prevent the inevitable aftermath of a generational storm.

FOX 2: "If there was another power supplier, power suppliers, would that have made the power recovery a lot easier, more efficient?"

"Nothing would change. Wouldn’t change at all," Kobus claims. "Because all the power suppliers, they're on pressure from on high to switch over to more renewables."

"I’m not sure that opening up the choice market would actual solve the distribution challenges that we saw last week so clearly," Scripps said.

The Michigan Public Service Commission says a focus on tree trimming, vegetation management, and distribution planning will help limit widespread outages in the future.