MPSC approves DTE Electric Co.'s request to spend $70M on tree trimming to reduce outage risk, boost reliability

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Nov. 4, 2021

Media Contact: Matt Helms 517-284-8300
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The Michigan Public Service Commission today approved an accounting measure allowing DTE Electric Co. to provide a one-time voluntary refund of $70 million to be spent on tree trimming as part of the company's efforts to boost system reliability after a summer marked by repeated, extended power outages from severe storms across its southeast Michigan service territory (Case No. U-21128).

The Commission approved DTE Electric's request for approval of a one-time regulatory liability and accounting authority to use a portion of unexpectedly higher profits from changed electricity use patterns of its retail customers amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The utility said the money would fund an additional surge in tree trimming in response to the summer's storms, with the trimming taking place during the remainder of 2021 through 2023.

The $70 million is in addition to $283 million the Commission authorized DTE to spend on tree trimming in 2019-2021, the first three years of a seven-year surge in tree trimming. The spending approved today comes from the company's profits and will not require the company to seek recovery of expenses or otherwise increase customer rates. Any amount of the voluntary refund not spent on tree trimming would be returned to customers through bill credits.

The Commission encouraged DTE Electric to use the money to prioritize vegetation management on the worst-performing circuits the company identified in a reliability analysis report filed Oct. 1 in Case No. U-21122. The Commission directed the utility to track the incremental circuits trimmed with the refund money and include measurable data and results achieved in annual tree trimming reports that the Commission directed DTE Electric to file in Case No. U-20162.

The Commission directed DTE Electric to submit documentation of the funding by Dec. 31, 2021, and MPSC Staff to file a letter by Jan. 18, 2022, indicating that it has reviewed the company's submission and whether it complies with the requirements of the order. The Commission also directed the utility to file by March 31, 2024, whether any amount of the voluntary refund remains and proposing a method for refunding unspent funds.

MPSC sets public hearings on rules updates to better ensure reliable utility service and customer protections

The MPSC will hold hearings to take comments from the public on several proposed updates to rules and technical standards governing utility service, designed to boost electric service reliability, make power outage credits automatic and strengthen consumer protections for customers of Michigan's electric and natural gas utilities.

In Case No. U-20629, the MPSC's proposed rules would raise power outage credits from $25 to $35 with $2 per additional hour beyond acceptable thresholds, and make the credits automatic; shorten required times for utilities to restore long-duration outages; reduce the amount of time first responders must guard downed wires until they're relieved by a utility lineworker; update reliability standards to ensure Michigan's performance indicators match industry guidelines; and establish annual reporting requirements for rural electric cooperatives and all investor-owned utilities to ensure they're reporting service quality and reliability performance to the Commission.

Case No. U-20630 focuses on technical standards governing matters including new requirements for electric utility and cooperative reporting on outages; additional requirements for utility line clearing programs; updates to electric metering, metering equipment inspections and tests, and requirements for cybersecurity programs.

Case No. U-21150 addresses updated billing practices for electric and natural gas service aimed and ensuring customers service isn't shut off without proper notice and that customers aren't billed for electricity they didn't consume because of incorrect meter registration or other billing issues, and to help utility customers more easily access information about their rights to a hearing on billing disputes.

Public hearings on the proposed rules will be held beginning at 9 a.m. Dec. 9, 2021, in person at the MPSC's offices at 7109 W. Saginaw Highway in Lansing. The hearings also will be held by videoconference or phone, allowing for broader public participation.

The hearing on Case No. U-20629 will begin at 9 a.m., followed by a hearing on Case No. U-20630 at 10:30 a.m. and a hearing on Case No. U-21150 at 11 a.m.

Written comments may be submitted on any of the proposed rulesets. They must reference the pertinent case number and be received at the Commission office no later than 5 p.m. Jan. 6, 2022, by mail to Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909, or email to mpscedockets@michigan.gov. Those needing assistance may call 517-284-8090 or email mpscedockets@michigan.gov.

TWO ELIGIBLE TELECOMMUNICATIONS CARRIERS GRANTED APPROVAL TO AMEND THEIR SERVICE AREAS FOR PROVIDING BROADBAND SERVICE

The MPSC today approved two eligible telecommunications carriers' requests to amend service areas that the Commission previously approved. The amendments reflect actual U.S. Census blocks awarded to the companies in the Federal Communications Commission's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction in December 2020 to improve access to broadband; the Commission's initial approval was based on preliminary information, and the amendments are based on Census blocks formally announced by the FCC in July. The providers granted approval of the amendments are Great Lakes Energy Connections Inc. (Case No. U-20326) and Charter Fiberlink-Michigan LLC (Case No. U-20958). FCC RDOF auction winners must use money awarded in the auction to expand broadband and meet various broadband goals throughout the Census blocks.

COMMISSION GRANTS INDIANA MICHIGAN POWER EXTENSION TO FILE ITS INTEGRATED RESOURCE PLAN

(Case No. U-20591) Indiana Michigan Power Co.'s (I&M) request for an extension of its deadline to file its integrated resource plan (IRP) was approved today. The Commission's order grants I&M's motion to move the deadline from Dec. 15, 2021, to Feb. 28, 2022. I&M, which serves customers in Indiana and in southwest Michigan, noted that it operates as a single utility in both states and has, since 1995, submitted a total IRP with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. The company said it sought the extension because recent events have significantly impacted the utility's modeling assumptions, which will delay its filing with Indiana regulators. The order today also finds that I&M's biennial Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 avoided cost review is included in the filing extension.

MPSC ADOPTS FIRST UPDATE TO UTILITY RECORD RETENTION RULES IN 30 YEARS TO REFLECT MODERN METHODS OF INFORMATION STORAGE

(Case No. U-20735) The MPSC has adopted rules governing the preservation of records for electric, gas and stem utilities in Michigan after the final regulatory review period ended on Oct. 22 with no notice of objection filed before the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. The Commission first sought permission to amend the rules in December 2019 from the Michigan office of Administrative Hearings and Rules. The newly adopted rules are intended to provide for preservation of records the Commission needs to carry out its regulatory duties and had not been updated for more than 30 years. The rule changes modernized rules for record retention to reflect changing technology used to prepare and preserve records and to remove references to obsolete information storage methods.

MPSC PARTIALLY GRANTS AND PARTIALLY DENIES DTE MICHIGAN LATERAL CO. MOTION FOR REHEARING, RECONSIDERATION AND CLARIFICATION

The MPSC today denied a motion for consideration and rehearing sought by DTE Michigan Lateral Company (DMLC) on several issues related to the Commission's approval in July of the DTE Energy subsidiary's application for approval of a certificate of public convenience and necessity for conversion of unregulated wet gas gathering lines pipelines to regulated dry gas transmission lines serving customers in the Manistee, Traverse City, Alpena and Rogers City areas (Case No. U-20894). But the Commission clarified that its July order authorizes DMLC to begin construction once permits and easements are obtained, while conversion of the wet header pipeline is contingent on completion of Lambda Gathering LLC's completion of its replacement wet gas gathering system, allowing uninterrupted access to markets for the northern Michigan oil and gas companies who currently rely on the pipeline. The Commission also clarified that DMLC may file a completion report, subject to audit and review, outlining contingency costs for the project for justness and prudency. A potential subsequent hearing on that limited issue would depend on such a filing and any objections raised following audit and review.

MPSC SEEKS PUBLIC INPUT ON PRESQUE ISLE ELECTRIC & GAS REQUEST FOR WAIVER FROM CODE OF CONDUCT RULES FOR BROADBAND EFFORTS

The MPSC is seeking public comment on an application by Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op, which provides energy service in northeast Lower Michigan, seeking exemptions from Code of Conduct rules as the co-op works to provide broadband internet access to unserved and underserved rural areas of its service territory (Case No. U-21006). Presque Isle requested a waiver from Code of Conduct rules meant to prevent anticompetitive behavior, preferential treatment and other prohibited activities as Presque Isle deploys a fiber ring linking its utility substations to create a smarter power grid. The co-op, through a broadband division in its corporate structure, will lease fiber from Presque Isle to provide broadband and voice service to its members. Before acting on the request, the Commission seeks comments from interested persons. Written comments may be mailed to Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, PO Box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909 or emailed to mpscedockets@michigan.gov. All comments should reference Case No. U-21006 and be received no later than 5 p.m. Nov. 18, 2021.

MPSC APPROVES SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT ALLOWING NEW PIPELINE FOR RENEWABLE NATURAL GAS FROM WEST MICHIGAN FARM

The MPSC today approved a settlement agreement granting a certificate of public need for Brightmark Castor RNG LLC to build and operate a 1.13 mile, 3-inch natural gas pipeline from an anerobic digester at Beaver Creek Farm in Ottawa County's Polkton Township to an interconnection with a larger pipeline on the interstate system (Case No. U-21098). The new pipeline will allow Brightmark to transport renewable gas from the digester, which will process methane from the farm's dairy manure and convert it into natural gas.

To look up cases from today's meeting, access the MPSC's E-Dockets filing system.

Watch recordings of the MPSC's meetings on the MPSC's YouTube channel.

For information about the MPSC, visit www.Michigan.gov/MPSC, sign up for its monthly newsletter or other listservs, or follow the Commission on Twitter or LinkedIn.

DISCLAIMER: This document was prepared to aid the public's understanding of certain matters before the Commission and is not intended to modify, supplement, or be a substitute for the Commission's orders. The Commission's orders are the official action of the Commission.

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