DTE Energy

Michigan utilities sent hundreds of linemen to the East Coast last week to help restore electricity to areas hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.

Now Consumers Energy is sending two dozen workers to help restore natural gas service to parts of Long Island, New York.

Roger Morgenstern is a Consumers Energy spokesman.    He says restoring natural gas service presents a very different challenge than getting the lights back on after a storm.

Michigan utilities are making their own preparations for Hurricane Sandy.

The storm is expected to strike the East Coast later today, but the hurricane's outer bands are being felt as far west as Michigan.

“Well, right now we’re monitoring the storm….and seeing how it might impact our southeast Michigan service area,” says Scott Simon, a DE Energy spokesman.

DTE has already freed up about a hundred contract linemen to help restore electric power in the Mid-Atlantic States that are expected to take the brunt of Hurricane Sandy.

DTE Energy CEO Gerard Anderson asked Michigan delegates to the Democratic National Convention to oppose a state constitutional amendment increasing the use of renewable energy. The proposed so-called 25 by 25 amendment would mandate 25 percent of electricity come from renewable sources such as wind, solar, or bio-fuels by the year 2025. It will appear on the ballot in November.

Anderson says he’s not opposed to increasing the use of renewable energy, but it should be done through the legislature, not by amending the constitution.

Kevin Lund, a senior geologist at the MDEQ's Department of Remediation, kicks over gravel to reveal the pollution along the Huron River.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Starting today, DTE plans to bring in the heavy equipment needed for the pollution cleanup along the Huron River west of the Broadway Bridge in Ann Arbor.

Black, oily coal tar pollution has been underground for decades.

It was left behind by an old manufactured gas plant owned by the utility company. Two years ago regulators discovered the coal tar was getting into the river. Now, DTE plans to spend between $2-3 million digging it out.

user wheat_in_your_hair / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - About 8,000 DTE Energy Co. customers in Oakland County will receive credits on future bills after losing service this summer due to a substation fire.

The Detroit News reports Friday that the credits will range from $25 to $250 and show up on bills over the next several months.

Residences and businesses in Royal Oak and Berkley, north of Detroit, lost power for two days last month.

DTE Energy spokesman Len Singer says the amount of the credits will depend on the length of time customers were without electricity.

The newspaper reports that customers can seek a $25 credit if an outage lasts more than 16 hours under normal conditions or more than 120 hours under catastrophic conditions.

The state's biggest electricity provider says customers who don't want a smart meter will have to pay extra for the privilege.

Smart meters use radio signals to allow two-way communication between a customer's residence and the utility.

The meters let utilities know immediately who has lost power, among other things.  The company will also be able to remotely shut off power and turn it back on. 

Kevin Lund of MDEQ shows a sample of oil and water he collected when he dug a hole in the bank of the Huron River. The analysis they did on the samples they collected showed that the contamination was coming from the old MichCon manufactured gas plant.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The city of Ann Arbor recently spent more than one million dollars rebuilding an old mill race along the Huron River. The Argo Cascades is a series of little waterfalls and pools where kayakers and people floating in inner tubes come to cool off.

But downstream from the Cascades on the other side of the river, there’s a problem.

There's been pollution lurking underground for some time from an old industrial plant, and two years ago regulators found that some of the pollution was making its way into the Huron River.

The days before natural gas

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

How hot was it today?

Hot enough for Consumers Energy to smash its all-time record for electricity demand.

DETROIT (AP) - Utility workers are battling high temperatures as they work to restore electricity to tens of thousands of Michigan homes and businesses without power following thunderstorms this week.

DTE Energy said early Saturday about 45,000 of its customers were without power, mostly in Oakland and Wayne counties. Consumers Energy reported about 23,700 of its customers without power.

Most of those without electricity lost service after storms late Wednesday and Thursday. DTE says most of its customers should have power back by Saturday night.

user Coolcaesar / wikimedia commons

Nearly 150,000 Michiganders are sweating through today without electricity.

Severe storms earlier this week knocked out power to more than 400,000 Michigan utility customers.

Spokesmen for DTE and Consumers Energy say it may be late Saturday or early Sunday before all the electricity is restored.

Dan Bishop is a spokesman for Consumers Energy. He says utility crews expect to make a lot of progress today, despite having to work in temperatures around 100 degrees.

“The heat is obviously the story of the day,” says Bishop. “The most important concern for us is to make sure our crews are well hydrated and working safely.”

Consumers Energy is getting some extra help from linemen from Missouri and Indiana.

DTE Energy shareholders were met by protesters at their annual meeting in Detroit Thursday.

Hundreds of people demonstrated outside the company’s Detroit headquarters.  And inside, several interrupted CEO Gerard Anderson as he tried to run the meeting.

Protesters shouted for DTE to “Pay its fair share!”

They were talking about the fact that DTE was named as one of the nation’s “Dirty 30” companies in a recent report—one that paid more in lobbying expenses than federal income taxes from 2008 to 2010.

Demonstrators also protested the utility’s shutoff policies. The utility shut off service to 200,000 in its southeast Michigan service area in 2011.

That number has more than doubled over the past five years.

Demonstrators also criticized DTE’s continued reliance on coal-fired power, rather than renewable energy.

Protester Thomas Reinke said renewable power sources are now both cleaner and less expensive than coal.

 “We’re getting poorer and poorer every day, and we’re being forced to pay high costs of utilities that could be offset by wind and solar, or other types of renewable energy,” said Reinke, who says he owns a small, residential renewable energy business.

DTE officials announced Thursday that they’re looking for more wind energy suppliers.

“DTE Energy is seeking approximately 100 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy from Michigan-based wind projects that will be operating by the end of 2013.  This solicitation is part of DTE Energy's plan to meet Michigan's renewable energy goals,” the company said in a written statement.

By state law, they must provide 10% of their power from renewable sources by 2015.

As for the tax-dodging accusations, a DTE spokesman counters that the utility has paid more $1 billion in taxes since 2008, mostly to state and local governments.

Brown / michiganradio

A new energy company has moved into the residential power market in Michigan.

Glacial Energy has been operating in Michigan since 2008. But now they’re offering their services directly to households, too.

Glacial Energy regulatory affairs manager Derek Smiertka says the company only operates at the retail level—and that means they can generally offer cheaper rates than the big utilities.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Tonight at Cobblestone Farm in Ann Arbor, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will hold a public meeting to discuss a plan to clean up toxic pollution along the banks of the Huron River.

The soil near the Huron River just downriver of Argo Dam has been contaminated with substances leftover from an old manufactured gas plant that operated from around the 1900s to the 1940s.

Manufactured gas plants converted coal to gas for street lamps, cooking, and heating prior to the widespread use of natural gas.

But back in those days, converting coal to gas left behind some nasty pollution. And the tarry, oily-like pollution can bubble up decades later - as it has in Ann Arbor.

The site in Ann Arbor is owned by the Michigan Consolidated Gas Company (MichCon), a subsidiary of DTE Energy.

You can get an idea of where the pollution is on the site by clicking through the images above.

In a pollution response plan filed on behalf of MichCon, several pollutants were noted.

  • Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX) (associated with petroleum releases);
  • Total polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (associated with MGP tar and/or petroleum releases);
  • Metals (arsenic, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, selenium, silver, thallium, and vanadium) (some of these metals (e.g., arsenic) may be from natural background);
  • Ammonia; and
  • Available cyanide.

Here's more on tonight's public meeting from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality:

MichCon property owners are proposing to remove sediment, near shore soil, and some contaminated upland soil from the Huron River and its south bank at the MichCon plant site near Broadway Street. This plan requires a construction permit from DEQ.  

The public meeting and hearing will be held at Cobblestone Farm, located at 2781 Packard Road in Ann Arbor. Doors will open in the big barn on the second floor at 6 p.m. for informal discussion with DEQ staff, followed by a public meeting at 7 p.m., and a formal hearing to gather public comment around 8 p.m.  

As part of the permit review process, the DEQ also is accepting written public comment on the plan through April 30, 2012.

DTE Energy is planning several methods to control the pollution on the site, including removing polluted sediment, and capping and collecting other sources of pollution.

AnnArbor.com's Ryan Stanton reports Ann Arbor city officials are anxious to see it cleaned up:

Ann Arbor officials expect the cleanup to take place starting this summer. DTE has vowed to pay for whitewater improvements along the river as part of the project.

Matt Naud, the city's environmental coordinator, expects the cleanup project will go before the Ann Arbor Planning Commission for site plan approval because it will disturb natural features, but he doesn't expect that to be a significant issue.

"We're just glad this significant level of cleanup is happening," Naud said. "It's a big project. They're going to be moving a lot of soil."

wikimedia commons

A new report says three Michigan companies spent more on lobbying than they did in corporate income taxes between 2008 and 2010.

Those companies include Michigan’s two biggest utilities, DTE and Consumers Energy. It also includes Ann Arbor-based freight hauler Con-way.

Households and businesses in one section of Detroit lost power for a few hours Wednesday morning.

That’s because DTE Energy was performing what it calls “routine maintenance” on some underground power lines.

Mid-morning, generators were still humming at Holbrook Auto Repair in  Highland Park. Manager Jeff Worthy bought them this week, when he found out DTE planned the temporary power outage.

user wheat_in_your_hair / Flickr

12:16 p.m.

As it turns out, the planned power outage in parts of Detroit and Highland Park were over by the time the post was put up below. The Associated Press reports:

A planned power outage has wrapped up earlier than expected in part of Detroit and Highland Park after crews worked to repair some underground lines.

DTE Energy Co. said Wednesday's outage affected about 3,500 customers in Detroit and the Detroit enclave.

Officials said the power was shut down to the area as planned about 6 a.m. EST. The power was back on before 11 a.m, more than three hours earlier than expected.

11:35 a.m.

Around 3,500 DTE Energy customers in Detroit and the Highland Park area have had their power cut while the utility company performs "routine maintenance."

Some question whether the timing of the routine maintenance was wise given the cold temperatures.

Fox News in Detroit reports the maintenance was originally scheduled for this past fall:

DTE Energy told FOX 2 the routine maintenance was originally slated for late September or early October, but together with city officials and community leaders, they decided January fourth would be better. That way schools aren't impacted.

A video posted by the Detroit Free Press shows at least two customers in the area are taking the outage in stride.

The Free Press reports that three activity centers have been opened as warming centers in the area:

...the City of Detroit has designated three recreation centers as warming centers.

The warming centers are Northwest Activities Center, 18100 Meyers Road; Butzel Family Center, 7737 Kercheval, and Farwell Community Center, 2711 E. Outer Drive.

The power is expected to be turned back on at 2 p.m. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek is following this story as well.

Wind power could feature prominently in Michigan energy production if voters amend the state constitution to include a new renewable energy standard.
cwwycoff1 / flickr

Consumers Energy will take a big leap toward meeting the state’s renewable energy mandate next year.

State law requires utilities to get ten percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

Consumers Energy spokesman Dan Bishop says the utility will build 56 wind turbines in Mason County.  The project is called Lake Wind Energy Park.

"When Lake Winds begins producing electrons late next year in 2012, we will move from 5 percent to 8 percent, heading us towards the 10 percent requirement of Michigan’s law," says Bishop.

DTE's St. Clair Power Plant in East China, Michigan.
user cgord / wikimedia commons

A new report from the group Environment Michigan says 115 inland lakes and rivers in the state have advisories for mercury pollution. Eating contaminated fish is the main way people are exposed to mercury.

Jessica Surma is with Environment Michigan. She says children are especially at risk for adverse health effects from mercury exposure.

“These can include lowered IQs, developmental disabilities and problems with motor control.”

The Environmental Protection Agency says electric utilities are by far the largest manmade sources of mercury emissions in the U.S. The EPA is planning to regulate mercury from power plants – for the first time ever.

John Austerberry is with DTE Energy.

“We agree with the goal of those regulations, but we are concerned that the federal rules will not provide sufficient time for the utilities to plan and install control systems.”

He says the company doesn’t know yet how much any new mercury control systems might cost or how much of that cost they might pass on to customers.

Many people are worried about a long, cold winter ahead for low-income people who could face utility shutoffs.

That’s particularly true in Detroit, where dozens of people protested about the issue in front of DTE Energy headquarters.

The protesters want DTE to end utility shutoffs in the winter months, and create a rate structure that better accommodates the elderly, disabled, and poor.

DTE Energy says about 12,000 customers were still without power on Tuesday, after Saturday’s strong storms.  Many were clustered in southeast Oakland County, especially in the Detroit suburbs of Ferndale and Oak Park.

The utility had restored power to about 90%  of its customers who saw it knocked out during the weekend storms.

staff / media.ford.com

Detroit Edison is taking the next step toward an electric car future. The electricity provider will power some of its own fleet using electricity.

Some of Detroit Edison's service calls will now be made by technicians driving Ford Transit Connect electric vans.

The van's range is about 80 miles - that's enough for an average day's worth of calls, says Detroit Edison President Steven Kurmas.

 Kurmas says more of the vans may be added to the fleet later.

NRC

DTE Energy plans to submit an application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that would allow the company to operate the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant through 2045.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The utility’s license to operate Fermi 2 expires in 2025 and the application, if approved, would allow DTE Energy to operate it for an addition 20 years.

Fermi 2 began commercial operation in 1988. The renewal is in addition to the utility’s request to the NRC for a new nuclear power facility located at the Fermi site. DTE filed that application in 2008, but the licenses has not been issued yet.

Christoper Sessums / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Utilities say they're working to complete power restoration after severe thunderstorms hit southern Michigan earlier in the week.

About 9,000 homes and businesses were without power around midday Wednesday. Thunderstorms on Monday blacked out about 218,000 customers.

CMS Energy Corp. says about 5,700 of its 136,000 customers affected Monday still were blacked out late Wednesday morning. DTE Energy Co. says that about 3,000 of its 82,000 affected customers remained blacked out around midday Wednesday.

The storms were linked to two deaths in Michigan.

The Detroit Free Press reports high winds also blew bricks from the David Whitney Building in Detroit onto part of Grand Circus Park, damaging a People Mover station. Service by the elevated train system was limited Monday and Tuesday, and was being shut down Wednesday for repairs.

A new report from the Michigan Environmental Council says Michigan’s oldest coal-burning power plants are costing state residents $1.5 billion dollars in health care costs each year. 

The report focuses on the state’s nine oldest coal-burning power plants.  It highlights particle pollution.  This type of pollution comes from power plants and factories as well as car and trucks.

James Clift is the policy director for the MEC.

“If you think of smog, kind of the black cloudy stuff, the really tiny particles, they lodge deep in your lungs and those are the ones they’re seeing causing the most impacts.”

He says these tiny particles are linked to a variety of heart and lung problems, including asthma.

He says on average, a family of four spends more than 500 dollars a year on health care expenses that can be attributed to the particle pollution from the power plants.

DTE Energy owns four of the power plants targeted in the report. 

John Austerberry is a spokesperson with DTE.

“All Detroit Edison power plants meet or exceed federal standards for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.  And it’s those constituents that can contribute to the formation of fine particles under certain atmospheric conditions.”

The report calls on DTE and Consumers Energy to gradually phase out the oldest coal-burning power plants.

Consumers Energy is expanding a very popular solar energy program in Michigan. The program allows people with solar panels on their homes or businesses to sell some of the power they generate to the power company. 

State regulators are directing the utility giant to expand the program.

Consumers Energy will double the amount of power it will pay people for. All utility providers in Michigan are investing in more renewable energy. State law requires them to get at least 10% of their power from renewable sources by 2015.

nrc.gov

FRENCHTOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant operated safely last year.

The Monroe Evening News reported Monday that a letter from a branch chief for the commission's reactor projects division says no inspections beyond ones that are routine and previously planned are scheduled for this year at the facility in southeastern Michigan's Monroe County.

The letter was to plant operator DTE Energy Co.

Each year, the federal regulatory agency reviews its inspections at plants during the calendar year and issues an assessment letter. The NRC says the plant met all operational standards in 2010 and is working to address some employee issues from recent years.

The 1,200-megawatt Fermi 2 plant began operating in 1988.

Michigan’s thumb region will soon be dotted with new wind farms.  DTE Energy says the project will cost about $225 million.

The 50 wind turbines to be built in Huron and Sanilac counties should generate enough energy to power about 100,000 homes.

DTE's Scott Simons says while two West Michigan lawmakers recently opposed building  wind farms in the Great Lakes, the Thumb plan has Lansing’s stamp of approval.

"I would think the legislature is behind these kinds of projects, and we're going full steam ahead toward meeting the renewable energy goals that have been set by the Legislature," Simons says.

 DTE customers will pay for the wind farms with a small surcharge on their monthly bills.

(Flickr Simon Strandgaard)

The nuclear accidents in Japan have raised questions about the future of about 20 planned new nuclear power plants in the U.S, including one in Michigan. 

DTE’s proposed Fermi 3 nuclear power plant has the potential of helping Michigan meet its future energy needs, as well as its construction generating billions of dollars for the state’s economy. But like 19 other proposed nuclear projects, its future appears murky in the wake of the Japanese nuclear crisis. 

A DTE spokesman says it’s “way too early” to speculate on how the events in Japan may affect the utility’s application for Fermi 3. 

Joseph Sindoni is with the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry lobbying group.   Sindoni says  “Until we understand clearly what’s occurred at Fukashima (Daiichi) nuclear power plants and any consequences, it’s difficult to speculate about the long-term impact.”  

Plans for new nuclear power plants all but dried up after the 1979 Three Mile Island accident and it was only recently that interest in developing alternative energy sources renewed interest in nuclear power.

Thousands of DTE Energy customers came to Detroit’s Cobo Hall looking for help today (Monday). The utility hosted its third “customer assistance day” there.

DTE Vice President Joyce Hayes Giles says the event is a “one-stop shop” to match customers with government and non-profit utility assistance programs.

Hayes Giles says the high turnout isn’t surprising. 

“It speaks to the need in our community. But it also speaks to the fact that we’re going to help a number of customers and we’re really pleased to be able to do that.”

 

Hayes Giles says DTE also raised more than a million dollars for its own customer assistance program. That money will be refunded to qualified DTE customers as credits on their monthly bill.

DTE energy in Detroit
Ian Freimuth / flickr user

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) issued a report today on DTE's role in the fires that swept through Detroit during a windstorm on September 7th, 2010. The report found no wrongdoing on DTE's part.

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