Hike service

DTE Energy’s proposed rate hike sparks protests and comments at Public Service Commission meeting

Residents of Detroit, Livonia, Ypsilanti, Dearborn, Ann Arbor and others gathered in Detroit Monday night to comment on DTE Energy’s request for a rate hike.

Most speakers were against the increase. They cited the inability to pay bills, frequent service interruptions and the company’s millions of dollars in profits last year as reasons for opposing the increase.

The utility requested an increase that would total $388 million more from its residential customers, an increase of about 8.8% year-over-year.

Despite this, DTE officials said in a statement that service affordability is the company’s top priority and its customer bills are lower than the national average.

In a more than 600-page plan that was submitted earlier this year, DTE wants to charge solar customers a fee based on their three highest days of electricity use in the previous year.

As Michigan Radio reported, the utility was unable to say exactly what the charges will be, but energy experts who did their own calculations on their electric bills said the additional charges could be $100 per month or more.

The company said the fee will help cover the cost of renewable energy. “DTE is all about solar development. That’s why we need to invest in the power grid to bring new forms of renewable energy,” DTE said in an emailed statement.

“There is no cap on private solar installations. There is only a cap on subsidies that offer lower rates than non-solar customers. We believe that everyone should pay their fair share for the ‘use of the power grid,’ the company said.

Monday’s session was the Michigan Public Service Commission’s first meeting to discuss DTE’s proposed new rate increase.

Dan Scripps, who chairs the commission, said the hearing was the result of the Detroiters’ commission hearing earlier this summer that they wanted more space for public comment.

Qiana M. Davis was one of the speakers. She said she lived in an old house and could not afford the proposed rate increase.

“You have to deal with issues such as faulty plumbing, faulty wiring, as well as lack of insulation or just a lot of drafts. And as a result, you have high energy bills,” she said.

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Corzetta Renee leads protesters in a song she wrote lyrics to with DeJuan Bland to protest proposed rate hikes by DTE Energy. Renee sang the song at a protest ahead of a public meeting over proposed rate increases.

A man who said he owned Bitcoin was booed during a public comment. He came out in favor of the rate hike, although he said electricity made up the majority of his business costs.

Another commenter said she currently has a stop notice from DTE for a $129 ticket. She said she couldn’t afford a rate increase.

Several commentators spoke of frequent power outages, with one man saying his electricity went out 14 times in the past year.

“I come and speak for myself and my family. These bills are ridiculous. We’re trying to make sure our kids have what they need every day. … It’s not fair,” he said.

Monique Taylor told the commission that the struggle to pay utility bills is common. “We should never have to go outside of an entity to help pay our bills. We can’t even pay the bus fare to give you, what, just 2 bucks? So if he please don’t raise our bills,” Taylor said.

Politicians also came.

Detroit City Council members Gabriela Santiago Romero and Angela Whitfield Calloway, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI 13), Wayne County Commissioner Jonathan Kinloch and State Representatives Laurie Pohutsky and Yousef Rabhi were among political speakers to urge the Michigan Public Service Commission to vote no on the rate hike.

Board member Santiago Romero said rate hikes are here to stay.

Briana Rice

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Radio Michigan

More than a hundred Michiganders gathered in Detroit on Monday to comment on DTE Energy’s request for a rate increase.

When DTE came to present to my health and public safety committee, they said the rate hikes would be indefinite. They will always happen. After I ask them, when are they going to stop? Their response to rate hikes is the cost of inflation and the cost of materials. We know it’s not good,” said Santiago Romero.

Tlaib said that in 2020, the DTE cut power to customers more than 80,000 times. She said the company has secured millions of dollars in federal funding through the Cares Act.

“You serve us, the public,” Tlaib told the commission. “Remember this, because companies will always put shareholders first. You are our buffer, and it’s too hard on our residents right now. I’m begging you, please make this decision in the best interest of the public. These rates are not reasonable,” she said.

Public commentary ceased at 8:45 p.m., so not all attendees were able to speak. The commissioners said they would still accept public comments online.

The Civil Service Commission says it must make a decision by November 21.

DTE Energy is a corporate sponsor of Michigan Radio.