September 2021

MPSC Spotlight png

Welcome to the September MPSC Spotlight. In this edition, we discuss upcoming public hearings - come have your say! - on Consumers Energy Co.'s long-range integrated resource plan (IRP) for electricity service. We also provide an update as the MPSC marks two years of implementing recommendations from its 2019 Statewide Energy Assessment, steps the MPSC is taking in response to recent power outages caused by repeated severe weather events throughout the summer, and recent Commission orders.


Public hearings on Consumers Energy's integrated resource plan

The MPSC will host two public meetings - one in person, the other by videoconference and phone - to hear what customers of Consumers Energy have to say about the utility's long-term plans for providing electricity service.

Under Michigan's energy laws, regulated electric utilities like Consumers Energy are required to file integrated resource plans, or IRPs. These plans outline the companies' long-term forecasts on how they will provide reliable, cost-effective electricity to customers over the next 20 or more years, with specific requirements for reporting 5-, 10- and 15-year projections.

The MPSC wants to hear what electricity customers have to say about Consumers Energy's IRP, which was filed in June and is pending before the Commission, with a decision expected in 2022. You can learn more about the plan by following Case No. U-21090 in the MPSC's E-Dockets system.

Public Hearing

The first hearing will be held in person on Thursday, Sept. 30, 4-7 p.m. at Saginaw Valley State University's Ott Auditorium in Gilbertson Hall, 7400 Bay Road in Saginaw.

 

Virtual Public Hearing

The second hearing will be held by videoconference and phone on Monday, Oct. 4, 6-8 p.m. Participation by videoconference is available through this Microsoft Teams hearing link.

Those wishing to participate by phone may call 248-509-0316 and enter the conference ID 634 972 57# when prompted. Individuals wishing to provide comment during the virtual hearing are encouraged to pre-register by using this registration form or by calling 1-800-292- 9555.

The company says its plan will save customers $650 million compared to its current IRP, which the MPSC approved in 2019. Consumers has proposed:

  • Closing its remaining two coal-fired generating plants by 2025;
  • Building nearly 8,000 MW of new solar generation by 2040;
  • Continuing a move toward net-zero carbon emissions;
  • Moving its generating fleet to 90% renewable sources by 2040, and
  • Purchasing four existing natural gas plants in the state to offset a portion of the proposed coal generation retirements.

Chair Dan Scripps and Commissioners Tremaine Phillips and Katherine Peretick will attend both meetings to hear directly from Consumers' customers. MPSC Staff will give a presentation providing details on the utility's proposed IRP.  

Comments by attendees will become part of the public record, and a transcript of the hearing will be filed in the case docket. Comments also may be mailed to Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909, or emailed to mpscedockets@michigan.gov. Please include the case number U-21090 in correspondence.  

People who have mobility, visual, hearing, or other disabilities are invited to contact the MPSC's Executive Secretary at 517-284-8090 in advance of the forum to request assistance.

To combat the spread of COVID-19, as of today, Saginaw Valley State requires anyone inside enclosed spaces in campus buildings with more than five people present to wear face masks, regardless of vaccination status. All attendees of the in-person hearing on Sept. 30 must wear a face mask. The MPSC will provide a limited number of masks for those who do not bring their own. Those unable to comply with the mask requirement are encouraged to participate in the virtual public hearing on Oct. 4 or to submit comments in writing. The MPSC will continue to monitor the Coronavirus data and will provide safety updates as needed prior to the hearing.

Related links:
More information on the company's previously approved IRP
Information on the IRP process
Consumers Energy's summary of its proposed IRP


MPSC marks two years of working to implement recommendations made in 2019 Statewide Energy Assessment

SEA Progress ReportIn January 2019, an explosion at a natural gas compressor station in Macomb County threatened the gas supply statewide right in the middle of a polar vortex cold snap. Natural gas customers across the state were asked to turn down their thermostats to help stabilize the natural gas system.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called on the MPSC to do a thorough review of Michigan's energy systems and their abilities to withstand challenges ranging from operational problems to extreme weather, and ways to reduce risk. The MPSC delivered a comprehensive Statewide Energy Assessment (SEA) that fall, with more than 50 recommendations and observations for strengthening Michigan's energy systems, and the MPSC has been working ever since to implement those changes, partnering with utilities, consumer advocacy groups and other stakeholders.

The MPSC recently sent Governor Whitmer a summary of the progress made on efforts to implement the SEA's recommendations, all centered on making Michigan's energy systems more secure, reliant, and resilient.

"It's one thing to produce a comprehensive snapshot of where we are and what our energy systems are facing," Scripps said. "It's another thing to take each of those 50-plus recommendations, boil them down into what needs to be done, often in consultation with the regional grid operators or with other departments in state government, and see them through. This continued focus on implementation day after day is a testament to the diligence of our Staff and the MPSC's culture of focusing on actual implementation. It's not just enough to study it; we've got to move forward and provide real results for the people that we serve." 

Related links:
Background information from the MPSC's SEA Fact Sheet
Final Statewide Energy Assessment


MPSC launches review of power outages and utilities' responses

Commission MeetingSummer 2021 was a tough one for Michiganders as severe storms repeatedly hammered the state, leading to power outages for more than a million electricity customers during one series of storms Aug. 10-12.

In response, the MPSC in August directed Michigan's regulated utilities to answer questions about their responses to the storms and to address how to best prepare for increasingly severe and frequent storms as the state's climate changes. MPSC Chair Dan Scripps said that, while the Commission has taken steps to improve utility reliability, "we have more work to do, and we have to do it faster."

During a special meeting on Aug. 25, the Commission opened Case No. U-21122, an effort to expand the data it receives from utilities about their efforts to boost reliability, support more transparency around planning, and encourage more engagement in how best to prepare and harden Michigan's electric distribution system to better withstand the state's increasingly recurrent extreme weather. The work will center customers in the discussions to ensure the efforts are informed by the impacts of outages, particularly on the most vulnerable. The order addresses recommendations Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made in a letter to the Commission on Aug. 20.

The order covers the utilities whose rates the MPSC regulates: DTE Electric Co., Consumers Energy Co.; Indiana Michigan Power Co. (I&M); Alpena Power Co.; Northern States Power Co.; Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corp., and Upper Peninsula Power Co. The companies were directed to file reports on:

  • Vegetation management and grid hardening efforts, and how those efforts contribute to reliability performance.
  • A breakdown of each company's worst-performing electric circuits including frequency of and duration of outages and repeat outages and where those circuits stand in relation to tree trimming practices, grid hardening and other system upgrades.
  • A list of the top ten ZIP codes that have the most and least frequent outages and the longest and shortest restoration times, and the top ten ZIP codes where future efforts for the most tree trimming, reliability, and resiliency improvements are planned.
  • For Consumers Energy, DTE Electric, and I&M, summaries of efforts in each utility's 5-year distribution plans to tackle outages and reliability, including, for Consumers and DTE Electric, information on metrics and financial incentives and penalties.
  • Plans or actions after the August storms addressing bill credits for customers, and a summary of restoration efforts, including costs for restoration, details of customer communication efforts, and opportunities for improvement in storm response and communication customers, including proactive communication efforts with vulnerable customers.

The Commission also directed the utilities to provide cost and benefit information about moving established electric lines underground, the maintenance cost differences between overhead and underground electric lines, and reliability and safety comparisons between the two.

Additionally, the Commission asked stakeholders to provide input on the final 5-year distribution plan filed by Consumers Energy and draft plans filed by DTE Electric and I&M. The Commission specifically seeks feedback on whether current planning and reliability improvement measures are sufficiently robust as Michigan's storms continue to be more severe and frequent; whether metrics used by utilities adequately address repeated customer outages; whether financial incentives and penalties work to address reliability goals; whether 5-year distribution plans strike the right balance between investment and customer affordability, and whether there are potential utility pilot projects to explore the undergrounding of vulnerable overhead electric line segments or circuits. The Commission also seeks input on whether the distribution plans sufficiently address issues of equity, particularly as the MPSC seeks to avoid further marginalization of vulnerable customers and communities. Written comments must reference Case No. U-20147 and be received by 5 p.m. Oct. 1, 2021.

The Commission requested comments on whether utility planning processes that rely on historical weather data to identify investments and upgrades are sufficiently robust, given the steady rise in the frequency and intensity of severe storms in Michigan and across the country. The Commission noted that the two largest storms in DTE Electric's 135-year history happened in 2017 and in the Aug. 10-12, 2021, outages. Written comments must reference Case No. U-21122 and should be received by 5 p.m. Sept. 24, 2021. Written comments may be submitted by email to mpscedockets@michigan.gov or by mail to Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, PO Box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909.

The MPSC also announced a one-day Technical Conference on Emergency Preparedness, Distribution Reliability, and Storm Response. The conference will be held in person and via videoconference on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2021, at the Commission's offices at 7109 W. Saginaw Hwy., Lansing, MI. Information on how to participate will be made available in the Case No. U-21122 docket no later than Oct. 4, 2021.  


Important decisions released at MPSC's Sept. 9 meeting

Here's a recap of several of the major orders the MSPC issued at its Sept. 9 meeting. The Commission:

  • Approved a $9.25 million rate increase for Michigan Gas Utilities Corp., the company's first rate increase request since 2015 and nearly 39% lower than the MGU initially sought. The new rates take effect Jan. 1, 2022, and will cost a typical customer who uses 10,000 cubic feet of natural gas per month about $8.24 more per month. That figure includes the impact of the expiration of corporate tax credits that were part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (Case No. U-20718).
  • Took several next steps in the MPSC's MI Power Grid effort to maximize the benefits of Michigan's transition to clean, distributed energy. The Commission adopted, with some revisions, recommendations from MPSC Staff's Competitive Procurement Report aimed at encouraging fair, transparent and nondiscriminatory processes for utilities to use in soliciting competitive bidding for new energy resources (Case No. U-20852); initiated the formal rulemaking process for updates to the Commission's Interconnection and Distributed Generation Standards, with a public hearing for 9 a.m. Oct. 20, 2021, at 7109 W. Saginaw in Lansing (Case No. U-20890), and commenced a collaborative directing utilities and electric cooperatives to begin developing utility-specific electric interconnection procedures to help guide the transition to clean, distributed energy resources (Case No. U-21117).
  • Approved a settlement agreement on an application by Lambda Gathering LLC for a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the operation of the Lambda Gathering Wet Header Pipeline. This will allow the continued gathering of wet natural gas from the Antrim Shale and Niagaran formations, a significant propane source for northern Michigan, after some of the pipelines used for that purpose were approved to be converted to dry gas service (Case No. U-21091).

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 Sept. 24, 2021 at 1:30 p.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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