(WXYZ) — Officials with the Michigan Public Service Commission announced today they have begun a process that will lead to an examination of a large portion of the state's electrical grid.
The announcement came as part of a press release stating the MPSC is ordering Consumers Energy and DTE Electric to report on their compliance with regulations and commission orders about both utilities' responses to past outages and downed lines.
The order to both Consumers and DTE requires that they audit their compliance with directives issued by the MPSC in the wake of severe storms over the last few years that left hundreds of thousands of people in the dark for long periods of time. These storms include the August 29 storm of this year, as well as the August 2021 storm that left approximately 1 million people in the dark, some for more than a week.
Both Consumers and DTE must report their compliance with each MSP directive, as well as on issued dealing with downed wires. They must explain in detail:
- How their downed wire response audits are performed, to verify that the utilities are responding in a consistent manner that complies with regulatory requirements and company procedures.
- How technologies are being used to improve detection of downed wires, to help the Commission better understand the detection system and what improvements can be made to improve public safety.
- How technologies used to monitor and control the power grid, including advanced distribution management systems, advanced metering and other sensors, perform during outages, and what impacts outage-related loss of data from these sensors may have on restoration and storm recovery.
- How critical facilities, ranging from hospitals to schools, are identified and prioritized for restoration of service after an outage, to help the Commission examine potential improvements such as installation of microgrids that could provide redundancy to preserve electric service.
- Their efforts to engage in public outreach, education and training of the public and first responders on the dangers of downed power lines, and on improvements to these efforts given the large-scale outage and downed-wire events in 2021 and 2022.
However, today's order also directs MPSC staff to begin the process of hiring a consultant to perform an independent third-party audit and review of both Consumers and DTE Electric's entire electric distribution system, including all equipment and operations. The focus of the review will be on reducing the number and duration of outages and identifying improvements needed to increase safety, particularly concerning the risk of contact with downed power lines by the public.
“These actions represent a new approach to the MPSC’s work to hold the state’s two largest electric utilities to account for persistent reliability and safety challenges,” MPSC Chair Dan Scripps said in a news release. “Over the past decade the MPSC has issued a series of directives in response to wide-spread outages after storms. While there are important efforts underway, the reality is that we still haven’t seen the improvements in reliability and safety that Michigan customers deserve. This effort to get an independent assessment of the utilities’ distribution infrastructure, programs, and processes will inform next steps and provide a necessary path forward to a power grid that meets the expectations of its customers.”
DTE Energy released the following statement:
We share the concern of the Michigan Public Service Commission and look forward to providing a full accounting of storm damage, safety precautions and recovery efforts. We will also detail our long-term plans to address DTE Energy’s needed infrastructure improvements to help improve reliability and reduce and prevent electric service outages in the future.
Consumers Energy sent the following statement:
“Safety is our top priority at Consumers Energy, not just for our coworkers but for everyone in our state. We appreciate the MPSC’s interest in ensuring that energy providers are taking steps to protect and inform people before, during and after severe storms, and improve electric system reliability and resilience. We look forward to working with the MPSC and focusing on the well-being of the people we serve.”