Michigan lawmakers to investigate massive power outage

8:50 AM, Jan 21, 2014   |    comments
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(AP photo)

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - Michigan lawmakers are investigating widespread power outages caused by a recent ice storm.

They say half a million people were affected during those state-wide outages over the Christmas holiday. Many were without electricity for more than a week.

According to Consumers Energy spokesman Roger Morgenstern, it was one of the largest power outages in Consumers Energy's 126-year history, and the largest outage during Christmas week.

"It was devastating across the state of Michigan," he says.

State Rep. Aric Nesbitt, the chairman of the Michigan House Energy and Technology Committee, has invited Consumers, DTE Energy and the Lansing Board of Water and Light to testify about procedures during the storm.  That includes response time and the effectiveness of communication with customers.

Morgenstern says Consumers was well prepared before the storm hit. They had more than 4,000 people working in the call center and field. That includes workers from 13 different states and Washington D.C. Still, he says he welcomes the inquiry and hopes to explore where there may be room for improvement.

"This storm was unique because of the amount of ice. Ice is the most damaging type of storm we can have on our system. We when we get more than half an inch of ice on our lines it tends to cause problems. We had areas in Southwest Michigan that had as much as 3/4 of an inch of ice and that really caused us a lot of problems and it is wide," he says.

Morgenstern says there is not much energy companies can do about that problem. The higer voltage from thicker lines, If the company ever went to those, would cause customers bills to skyrocket.

Today's hearing starts at 9 a.m. in the House Office Building in Lansing. The Michigan Public Service Commission has also launched an investigation. Morgenstern says Consumers Energy will submit a detailed report in relation to that February 7th.


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