Livid DTE customers vent to Public Service Commission at forum

The Public Service Commission is essentially three people who have oversight of DTE Energy. It held a forum to see how people were affected by the recent storms.

The program was held inside Fordson High School in Dearborn - a chance for DTE customers to be heard.

"I’m on a fixed income and I am retired. And I lost a lot of food in the refrigerator," said an elderly woman named Diane.

"I hunkered down in my freezing home to avoid spending even more money on hotels and lodging," said another woman.

And DTE was there, listening.

"They deserve to be heard, and we want to do better by them," said Rodney Cole, DTE director of community engagement.

It wasn't all DTE bashers speaking to the Public Service Commission.  At least seven people spoke about DTE being a good member of the community.

"I’m here to speak in favor of DTE because I think they are doing the best they can," said Rev. Horace L. Sheffield III.

"How much did they pay you?" asked another in the audience.

"See that's how we do things, we go to disparage people by what they get paid or whatever," said Rev. Sheffield. "No one paid me anything to be here."

But a majority of people voiced frustration.

"DTE is not the victim here, the people in this room are," said one woman at the town hall. "DTE is not going to go hungry when the food spoils."

"We can’t move to another electric company as individuals, we don’t have that choice," said another in attendance.

"We must do something to build the resiliency of our power grid," said US Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan). "Status quo is not okay."

As for solutions, DTE says it is working on those now.

"Maintenance, tree trim, automation, where can we bury lines," said Cole. "Anything we can look at that will give customers a better experience."

However, it plans to ask for additional money, $600 million more for infrastructure upgrades.

"Make sure the grid can stand up to our changing weather patterns," Cole said. "That's not a popular answer but a truthful answer."

But a lot of people in attendance feel the power company can do that without raising rates.

"How are we going to the next level if this body sitting in front of me doesn’t hold them accountable?" one man said.

The Public Service Commission plans to rewrite service quality rules to include paying $35 a day to customers who lose power for an extended amount of time and hiring a 3rd party to audit the power company.