During the past two years, thousands of DTE customers in Southeast Michigan fell behind on their bills and, as a result, had their power turned off by DTE Energy at various times, according to new reporting in ProPublica. That’s despite a three-month power shut-off moratorium implemented by the utility at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While DTE turned the lights out on people more than 80 thousand times during 2020, that number soared to over 178 thousand last year — making for the company’s highest shut-off total since 2016. That occurred as the energy provider’s rates have continued to rise.
DTE’s power shut-offs were much higher in comparison to Michigan’s six other privately-owned utility companies, according to the same reporting — roughly doubling the second place company on the list.
“Even when you are shutoff for nonpayment, you often have to pay a deposit to get turned back on.” — Sarah Alvarez, Outlier Media
Listen: The consequences of a monopolistic company controlling much of Michigan’s electricity.
Sarah Alvarez is the founder and editor-in-chief of Outlier Media. She is the author of a piece in ProPublica entitled, “Lights Out: Profitable Utility Company Shut Off Electricity to Homes Hundreds of Thousands of Times.”
Alvarez says when people fall into debt and stop paying their electricity bills, it often leads to those same DTE customers falling further into debt to get their power turned back on.
“Even when you are shutoff for nonpayment, you often have to pay a deposit to get turned back on,” says Alvarez. “That deposit can be hundreds of dollars, so that can make those shut-offs last longer.”
DTE says its customers experiencing financial difficulty should reach out to them as soon as possible to connect them to aid that is available today. Contact them at 1-800-477-4747 or visit https://dteenergy.com/help.
In the past, DTE Energy has been a sponsor of WDET.