With seven major storms in nine weeks, Southeast Michigan has experienced significant power outages across our region. While DTE restoration efforts and community outreach teams have worked relentlessly through each storm, things haven't gone as they should have, and frustrations have run high. Last week City Managers from around Southeast Michigan held a joint meeting with DTE to discuss issues with service. Below is the first of what we hope to be many communications and improvements.
Today, DTE announced the first of many improvements, a $70 million surge to increase the Enhanced Tree Trimming Program. We know that fallen trees and branches are responsible for two-thirds of our power outages. Expediting this work is vital to our reliability efforts. Upon approval by the Michigan Public Service Commission, this will help combat weather-related power outages and allow us to restore service faster and enhance our circuit strength.
The plan will direct additional funds to remove trees and trim branches away from power lines. Trees are responsible for almost all of the time our customers are without power during extremely high wind events. In areas where tree trimming has been completed, communities have experienced, on average, 60% fewer outages. The $70 million is on top of the $190 million we currently spend on tree trimming every year. The investment will not impact customers' bills.
In Madison Heights, we have been investing in reestablishing our tree canopy. However, the City and residents must manage trees' responsibility and with the greater good in mind. Therefore, when DTE approaches a homeowner about tree removal, it is essential that the homeowner works with DTE to protect service for everyone. This may result in tree removal or tree trimming.
This summer, the Michigan DTE service area experienced five tornadoes and eight storms with tropical force wind gusts of 39 to 74 miles per hour. In addition, high winds and extreme moisture in the ground uprooted trees which pulled down wires and poles. For example, DTE crews replaced 450 broken poles resulting from the Aug. 11 catastrophic storm that caused more than 500,000 customers to lose power.
"We tripled our tree trimming effort and doubled our infrastructure upgrades several years ago when we began to see more severe weather patterns. But the extreme weather we experienced this summer – nine hard-hitting, severe storms in nine weeks – is something we have never experienced," said DTE President and CEO Jerry Norcia. "That’s why we made the decision to invest even more now, directing an additional $70 million into tree trimming to combat the large and recurring outages that have been so challenging for our customers. We will do what it takes to protect Michiganders from power outages caused by catastrophic storms and extreme weather patterns.”
DTE has been trimming trees to an enhanced standard since 2016. An accelerated Enhanced Tree Trimming Program was approved by the MPSC in 2019, bringing more focus and resources to reduce tree-related outages. Since 2016, DTE has trimmed nearly 20,000 miles, almost the distance around the world.