Jump to a Question:
- Can I receive any compensation from my utility for power outages?
- A credit of $25 seems very low if my power is out for many hours or even days.
- How can I get involved in Michigan Public Service Commission cases that affect me?
Can I receive any compensation from my utility for power outages?
Yes, under state law Michigan electric consumers are entitled to have a credit applied to their bill if their power has been interrupted under certain conditions.
Currently it is up to you, the consumer, to reach out to your utility to ask for a credit. Your credit, if you receive it, will only be $25 regardless of how long your power was out (more on that below).
You may be eligible for credits if you experienced one or more of the following:
- If your power was out for more than 16 hours straight under “normal conditions” (normal conditions means that a catastrophe in which 10% or more of the utility’s power has been interrupted did NOT occur)
- If your power was out for more than 120 hours straight under “catastrophic conditions” (so a situation in which 10% or more of the utility’s power has been interrupted DID occur)
- If your power was interrupted more than 7 times in a 12-month period (these interruptions must be due to a same-circuit repetitive interruption, which the utility will determine after you apply for the credit)
To apply a credit, contact your utility with the time(s) and date(s) of your outage(s). DTE customers can use an online form available here, and Consumers Energy customers also have an online form.
If you don’t know whether “normal” or “catastrophic” conditions applied when your power was out or if your repeated interruptions were on the same circuit or not, you are not alone. There is not any simple way for a customer to know this. The utility has this information, but the responsibility is placed on the customer to ask if they are eligible. The utility also has the ability to ask the MPSC to waive these requirements, and such a waiver would disqualify you from receiving credits.
In response to mass power outages after storms in July 2019, there is a new spotlight on whether or not this process is fair. On July 25, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel sent a letter to the Michigan Public Service Commission saying that “placing the burden on customers to notify the utility and conduct further research on whether their particular outage entitles them to a credit is unacceptable and unnecessary inlight of the new technology that many utilities have employed.”
The vast majority of DTE and Consumers Energy customers now have smart meters that are supposed to transmit a customer’s power status to the utility.
Nessel called for the MPSC to require the utilities to issue bill credits automatically. This is a developing issue. If you want automatic bill credits, you can contact the MPSC or read below for information on how to file a more formal complaint.
A credit of $25 seems very low if my power is out for many hours or even days.
Yes, it does. Losing power is not only very inconvenient and potentially dangerous, but can lead to many costs that build over time. For example, food in your refrigerator may spoil and you have to spend more money than you otherwise would eating out. Research into the economic costs of outages from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has estimated that the power being out for 16 hours costs a typical residential customer $32.40 (less or more depending on the time of day and the time of year).
But under Michigan’s standards, a customer whose power is out for 16 hours only receives $25, and even then, that is only under normal grid conditions. The credit also does not increase as costs for the consumer mount. A residential customer whose power is out for 120 hours gets the same credit as a residential customer whose power is out for 16 hours.
Michigan regulators may look into revising these credits soon. Michigan AG Nessel’s letter asked the Michigan Public Service Commission to “consider increased penalties that more reflect the cost borne by customers as well as graduated penalties that increase with the length of the outage.”
How can I get involved in Michigan Public Service Commission cases that affect me?
Members of the public can file comments on any case that is before the commission. For example, if a utility is proposing to place a new charge on its customers, that request will become a case before the commission as they decide whether or not to approve it. You can submit a comment that will become part of the public case record and be read by the commissioners.
Directions on how to submit a comment by mail or email are here. The trickiest part is that your submission must include the number for the case in question. Finding the case number can be a bit of a chore. One way is to go to the MPSC’s online library of cases and sort by date filed to find the case you are looking for. This is also where you will find filings in the case as they come in, such as testimony from the utility, testimony from intervening groups, public comments like yours and orders from the MPSC.
Another way is to look up active rate cases listed on CUB’s site, which includes the case number for all cases. We can’t keep up with every single case that comes before the MPSC, but we try to keep the site up to date with the most important ones, especially any that involve a rate increase.
General complaints (not tied to a specific case) about your utility service can be sent to the MPSC by going here, and then clicking on “Residential” for informal complaints. Directions for filing formal complaints are also listed on that page.