DETROIT – DTE Energy, Michigan’s largest utility provider, is knowingly underreporting the number of power outages on its widely used dashboard, according to a recent interview with a company executive.
Speaking to Eli Newman of Detroit’s NPR station WDET after this past winter season, the utility’s director of digital experience said the numbers were inconsistent between the company’s outage dashboard, or “cover page”, and the recently published outage map.
The dashboard only counts counters that have exited. The map counts those same meters and adds other factors, such as phone calls and field reports, which DTE told Local 4/ClickOnDetroit is in many cases accurate, though higher than the confirmed count. of counters.
“Basically though, it’s assumed that there are meters not logging into the system because the cause of the failure is preventing the logging from happening,” Newman said in the recorded interview Friday. “Perhaps it is more accurate to say that there are at least as many breakdowns?”
“We won’t recover 100% of the meters, so you’re right,” said Jackie Robinson, director of digital experience at DTE Energy. “In this homepage, it may be a little low and the map is too large, right?”
But utility analysts say the numbers are more than a little low. On Sunday morning, DTE reported that just over 62,000 customers were without power. However, the widely used utility monitoring service Poweroutage.us showed more than 143,000.
Robinson attempted to explain the discrepancies.
“For example, when someone looks at the map, and they look at their postcode, and they say there are maybe 10,000 outages, that’s usually a guess?” says Newman.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a guess,” Robinson said. “That’s a real educated guess. It’s a prediction.”
“The information system that powers the map pulls information from customer calls, field reports and customer electric meters and feeds it into an algorithm to predict an outage zone,” the spokeswoman for the agency said on Sunday. DTE, Cindy Hecht. “We show planned outages on the map. For example, if several of your neighbors call for an outage and some of the electrical meters on the circuit report that they are down, the outage management system may estimate that the entire circuit may be down.
“In many cases this is correct, but when we get a very large number of outage events, the algorithm may overestimate outages in a specific geographic area. We realize this can be confusing and we strive solve the discrepancy by further calibrating the system.Cut center data (i.e. total number of outgoing customers) is taken directly from the meters and is the most accurate count of the total number of customers without electricity. “
The two analysts, like Poweroutage.us and the Michigan Civil Service Commission, which oversees DTE, told the utility that the numbers for its systems do not match. In Michigan, outages must be reported, but there are no requirements as to how this must be done.
The revelation and explanation of under-reporting comes as there has been scrutiny on DTE’s reliability during two winter storm systems in the past 10 days. The blackouts left hundreds of thousands of people without power, in some cases for more than a week.
State lawmakers have called for hearings on how to make public service more reliable, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office discussed those hearings, according to a spokesperson.
There have also been calls for more information at the Congress level, with both Representatives Elissa Slotkin and Rashida Tlaib calling for responses on Twitter.
READ: Michigan lawmaker’s bill would require DTE, consumers to pay customers for every hour of power outage
“Paying some of the highest tariffs in the country (and) still having this kind of instability puts lives at risk,” Tlaib wrote, later advocating making the utility a government-controlled enterprise. “It’s time to change who controls these critical services.”
Slotkin said just before the second storm she requested a briefing on power issues going back further than the most recent storms.
“Next week I’m due for a briefing on Michigan’s power issues, and now we’ll have two major storms to discuss, along with the long-standing issues behind them,” Slotkin said.
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