DTE stays profitable while shutting off power for thousands

dark room with person in blankets sitting on bed by candlelight

In this powerful March 2022 article produced for ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network in partnership with Outlier Media, Sarah Alvarez revealed how DTE disconnected power for residents hundreds of thousands of times during the pandemic.

“During the early stages of the pandemic, Michigan’s largest power company leaned in to a chance to show its charitable side, helping buy laptops for Detroit’s public school children and publicizing that it would not disconnect the gas and electric service of people who could not pay their bills. DTE Energy said it was on “high alert to help those customers whose lives are being disrupted.”

But the relief from the threat of a shut-off ended quickly for DTE’s customers, who pay some of the highest electricity rates in the country. DTE’s moratorium on disconnections lasted just over three months.

An analysis by ProPublica and Outlier Media shows the extent to which one of the nation’s poorest cities and other communities across Southeast Michigan have been impacted by electric service disconnections since the COVID-19 pandemic began. DTE disconnected customers 80,600 times in 2020 and more than doubled that number in 2021. Its 178,200 disconnections for nonpayment last year were its highest annual total since 2016.”

Read the full article at ProPublica.