March 2021

 

MPSC Spotlight png

This is the MPSC Spotlight - a monthly newsletter from the Michigan Public Service Commission.

In this edition we highlight several recently issued MPSC reports, examine some of the ways in which the MPSC works to ensure energy security during emergencies, and consider the findings of a regional study of the impacts on the transmission grid of the growing prominence of renewable energy sources.


MPSC Reports

On Feb. 16, the MPSC issued two yearly reports to the Michigan Legislature: the Implementation of PA 295 2019 Utility Energy Waste Reduction Programs and the Implementation and Cost-Effectiveness of the P.A. 295 Renewable Energy Standard.

The Energy Waste Reduction (EWR) report finds that, in 2019, EWR programs in Michigan saved nearly 1.5 million megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity and more than 5 million cubic feet of natural gas. These programs cost utilities roughly 40% less per MWh than building new generation facilities, and every dollar spent on EWR programs can return a savings of $3.30 to customers. EWR programs are particularly important for matters of energy equity, as they reduce the energy burden, improve health outcomes, and strengthen the economic security of low-income customers and communities. To develop and explore initiatives to maximize these benefits, the MPSC regularly convenes an EWR Low Income Workgroup, which includes state agencies, utilities, and additional stakeholders. More information is available on the MPSC's Low Income Workgroup page.

The Renewable Energy Standard report provides an overview of the current and upcoming utility-scale renewable energy capacity in the state. Public Act 342 of 2016 set a renewable energy standard for providers at 12.5% in 2019-20 and 15% by the end of 2021. All electricity providers subject to the standards have met the requirements to date and are on track to meet the goal of 35% renewable energy and energy waste reduction combined by 2025. Eight wind and solar projects slated for 2021 and 2022 are expected to bring nearly 1,100 MW of new renewable generation into Michigan's energy mix.

Download 2020 MPSC Annual Report On March 1, the MPSC 2020 Annual Report was submitted. Each year, the annual report details the activities of the MPSC over the prior year. In 2020, the MPSC adapted to a new way of operating, shifting all hearings and meetings to a virtual format while much of the Staff worked remotely. Despite these atypical challenges, the MPSC continued to handle utility rate requests, conduct natural gas inspections and investigations, authorize replacement of gas infrastructure, work with utilities to ensure protections for at-risk customers, and perform a host of other energy- and telecommunications-related work to serve Michiganders. Specific highlights from 2020 can be read in our accompanying press release.


Energy Security and Emergency Preparedness

The recent electricity outages and natural gas delivery issues that occurred in Texas and other parts of the South during extreme weather conditions have prompted questions related to energy emergency preparedness in Michigan. Energy emergencies can arise from a variety of reasons, including severe weather, natural disasters, infrastructure failures, commodity market volatility, or national security events. The MPSC works both internally and with utilities and other agencies on energy emergency preparedness activities to ensure that utilities can respond effectively to an energy emergency and recover quickly from sustained damage. Analysts, accountants, engineers, attorneys, and economists from across the MPSC extensively evaluate and analyze utility rate cases to ensure expenditures and investments are not only reasonable and prudent but help improve the reliability and resilience of Michigan's natural gas and electric generation, storage, and distribution systems. Our Gas Operations Staff oversee the safety and reliability of natural gas transmission and distribution systems through a comprehensive set of safety and technical standards and associated compliance inspection and enforcement activities. Energy Security Staff maintain the state's Energy Assurance Plan and the Michigan Petroleum Shortage Disruption Plan and actively engage with the propane industry to monitor supply and pricing issues.

While not an exhaustive list, MPSC Staff also engage in the following measures:

  • Continuously monitor and gather data relating to energy supply, demand, infrastructure, and utility operations to maintain situational awareness.
  • Participate in exercises and drills related to energy supply disruptions or critical infrastructure protections with utilities, other energy providers, and other state and federal agencies, with the goal of participating in at least one significant event scenario each year.
  • Investigate significant service/supply disruptions that may negatively impact public health and safety, and coordinate efforts to reduce the impact on critical facilities, services, and populations.
  • Employ mitigation strategies such as adding redundant infrastructure, hardening facilities, and conducting emergency response planning and exercises that serve to reduce risks associated with many types of infrastructure failures.
  • Review distribution system plans outlining longer-term strategies to ensure reliability and resilience.
  • Review 4-year forward capacity demonstration plans and long-term integrated resource plans filed by utilities to ensure sufficient resources are planned to meet customer needs.
  • Work with natural gas utilities on long term plans for distribution infrastructure, as well as expanding demand response capabilities to improve emergency mitigation strategies.
  • Annually review electric and natural gas utilities' cybersecurity plans.
  • Closely monitor the retail price of propane and heating oil throughout winter to alert on market volatility and identify potential supply constraints.

MPSC Responsibilities

MPSC energy emergency responsibilities table

Energy emergency preparedness requires continuous monitoring to provide situational awareness, as well as the development of contingency and energy emergency plans. During emergency situations, emergency plans are executed, and communication and coordination are key to restoring normal operating conditions. Following emergencies, after-action reviews are conducted to identify learnings and opportunities for improvement going forward. The MPSC works tirelessly to ensure that Michigan utilities are prepared to respond to emergency conditions.


MISO's RIIA

MISO logo MISO, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, is the entity that functions as market operator and administers a large majority of the electric transmission grid in Michigan. MISO recently completed a four-year effort to compile its Renewable Integration Impact Assessment (RIIA). The RIIA identifies key insights for maintaining resource adequacy as increasing amounts of renewable energy are brought online. A conclusion of the assessment is that advanced levels of renewable penetration - of at least 50% - can be achieved but will require coordination and "transformational change" in the consideration of markets, resource planning, and reliability issues. MISO anticipates 30% renewables in its fuel mix by 2026. The full assessment is available on MISO's website.

The planning necessary to accommodate the increased prevalence of renewable energy sources is something which the MPSC proactively seeks to engage with stakeholders. The ongoing MI Power Grid initiative features several workgroups focused on advanced planning processes which address many of the issues implicated by the changing electric generation mix. The RIIA provides evidence to support the importance of such efforts and will serve as a valuable reference as we continue to navigate the energy transition in Michigan.


Have a utility complaint, or need help with your utility service? We're here to help. Submit your complaint or inquiry online or call 800-292-9555.


Tune in to our next regularly scheduled virtual Commission Meeting on March 19, 2021, at 10:30 a.m.


The mission of the Michigan Public Service Commission is to serve the public by ensuring safe, reliable, and accessible energy and telecommunications services at reasonable rates.


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