HomeTop StoriesRecent power outages fueling push for municipal utility in Ann Arbor

Recent power outages fueling push for municipal utility in Ann Arbor

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) – Some Metro Detroit residents are still without power following a powerful storm that swept through the region last week.  

Power outages can cost residents hundreds to thousands of dollars of food loss and can also have a deep impact on small businesses. 

Jules Holliday is a small business owner who has experienced several power outages while living in the Ann Arbor area.  

“I run my own business, ‘Fleur Plant Shop,’ she said. “I couldn’t post anything last week during the power outage, so I lost out on days and days’ worth of sales. I restock every Thursday, which I couldn’t upload. So, I basically lost a week’s worth of wages because of the power outage.” 

Greg Woodring is the president of Ann Arbor for Public Power. The grassroots organization is pushing for a municipal utility to replace DTE. 

“When we first started Ann Arbor for Public Power, a lot of us were originally brought to it from a climate angle,” said Woodring. “We were looking at the A2Zero plan, and we were seeing that DTE was actually, at that time, the third dirtiest major utility in the country and had no real plans to reach the carbon neutrality goals that the city set or any other realistic goals.  

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“So, that’s what kind of got us motivated, but as we went along, we realized that the reliability issue is also a major driving force behind why municipalization is so important.” 

“DTE does have some blame in this,” said Ypsilanti resident Denene Siegel. “They stopped trimming trees. I don’t know what they’ve been doing to maintain the lines and the poles, but I haven’t seen them around a lot.” 

For its part, DTE officials have said extreme weather is on the rise and is imposing unprecedented stress on teams in the field. 

Woodring said public utilities tend to be more reliable, and his group aims to power the city with 100% renewable energy. 

“Ann Arbor would have two different options,’ he said. “For one, we could get as much power as we could possibly generate. Currently, we’re capped on the amount of rooftop solar that we’re allowed to have as a community. A public power utility would be able to remove those caps. We’d also be able to build out any power generation we wanted. The city would be enabled to build solar arrays or wind arrays, but they’d also have access to the regional grid.”  

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Holliday said she has lived in five cities across two states and has never experienced so many power outages as she has in Washtenaw County. 

“We’ve experienced 5 or 6 power outages this year alone, and it’s anywhere from 4-6 days without power, which means we’re losing all the food in our refrigerator and freezer, we’re going out to eat because we can’t cook for ourselves,” she said. “My husband has to have a CPAP to sleep with, and he could literally die without it. It is a complete halt to your life for an entire week every month or two.” 

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