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October 2021

MPSC Spotlight png

Welcome to the October edition of the MPSC Spotlight. This month, you can read about our 2-year update on progress in the MPSC's MI Power Grid initiative, our annual report on the Status of Distributed Generation in Michigan, Chair Dan Scripps' testimony on power outages and reliability issues before the House Energy Committee, and highlights of orders from the Commission's most recent meetings.

MI Power Grid marks 2 years of progress on effort to guide clean energy transition

MI Power Grid Logo - 2 year anniversary

The MPSC noted the 2-year mark for its MI Power Grid effort to guide Michigan's residential and business electricity customers through the state's fast-paced transition to clean, distributed sources of energy. 

The MPSC, in partnership with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, launched MI Power Grid in 2019. Since then, MPSC Staff and more than 350 stakeholders have held 57 stakeholder meetings and issued five reports, and the Commission issued 17 orders in 10 dockets related to MI Power Grid. Participants include consumer advocates and representatives from utilities, other state agencies, local governments, state lawmakers, universities, environmental groups, business customers, and national laboratories. 

The efforts of the MI Power Grid initiative have been underscored this year as Michiganders dealt with multiple instances of widespread power outages from severe storms that continue to grow in frequency and intensity.

"MI Power Grid is even more important as Michigan grapples with issues of reliability, affordability and impact on low-income and marginalized communities, now and into the future," Chair Dan Scripps said. "We are grateful to stakeholders for sticking with this effort throughout the pandemic. They understand, as we do, that a stronger, more resilient grid powered by cleaner sources of energy requires a tremendous amount of foresight and commitment to getting it right." 

Among the highlights of MI Power Grid's Phase II: 

  • The Integration of Resource/Distribution/Transmission Planning Workgroup issued its Staff report with recommendations to help shape planning efforts. The report focused on resilience, forecasting, transmission planning, value of generation diversity, emissions, and environmental justice recommendations, as well as alignment of distribution/resource/transmission planning. Staff will work with stakeholders to finalize updates to Michigan Integrated Resource Planning Parameters and Integrated Resource Plan filing requirements in 2022. 
  • The Competitive Procurement Workgroup issued a Competitive Procurement Report with draft guidelines; the Commission later sought formal feedback on the report. The Commission in September 2021 issued an order adopting amended guidelines and directing Staff to survey stakeholders within five years to assess whether the guidance is working and whether updates are necessary. 
  • The New Technologies and Business Models Workgroup is focused on creating a shared understanding of different technologies and their potential applications, including microgrids, electric vehicles, energy storage, and distributed energy generation, with the goal to identify barriers and potential solutions. The workgroup filed a draft report in September that was distributed to stakeholders for comment. The final report is to be filed by Dec. 1, 2021.
  • The Distributed Energy Resources Rate Design Workgroup is exploring how customer-owned generation and energy storage are changing the way energy customers use the grid, cost allocation and possible customer charges, and proposing rate design options, with guidance from Michigan Senate Resolution 142 of 2020. The workgroup commissioned the Regulatory Assistance Project for assistance, and a draft study was presented to stakeholders in September. After stakeholder feedback is considered, a final study will be presented to the Michigan Legislature on Nov. 1, 2021.
  • The Customer Education and Participation Workgroup has brought together stakeholders to examine issues around customer data access; data privacy, sharing and customer consent; opportunities and barriers to customer engagement in MPSC-related activities; and equitable outreach and access to utility programs and offerings. The Commission directed Staff to consider how the MPSC's response to the COVID-19 pandemic; the MPSC's 2021-2025 strategic plan; the agency's diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts; and outreach to Michigan's Tribal communities can inform the workgroup's recommendations. Staff will make a draft report available for stakeholder comment and issue a final report by Feb. 25, 2022. 

MI Power Grid's remaining focus areas will include financial incentives and disincentives for utility performance, distribution system data access, updating the Michigan Integrated Resource Planning Parameters and IRP filing requirements, time-based pricing, and voluntary green pricing.


Related links:  
Watch the MPSC Staff presentation on MI Power Grid's first 2 years (starts at the 5:50 minute marker)  

MPSC Chair Scripps testifies on reliability issues before House Energy Committee

Chair Dan Scripps before the Michigan House Energy Committee

While the MPSC has pushed Michigan utilities to be more aggressive about trimming trees to prevent power outages, more work needs to be done, and more quickly, MPSC Chair Dan Scripps told lawmakers during a Michigan House Energy Committee oversight hearing Oct. 13

Chair Scripps noted that the Commission has taken steps in recent years to address reliability. The steps include the creation of programs to allow utilities to remove dead trees outside utility rights of way after they were found to be a significant cause of outages during 2013 ice storms that caused more than 600,000 customers to lose power over the holidays, and approving stepped-up tree trimming after spring windstorms in 2017 left more than a million Michiganders without power. 

There is ample evidence that tree trimming is effective, Scripps said, noting that DTE Energy circuits that were trimmed in a recent surge had 75% fewer tree-caused outages than circuits that weren't part of the surge. And the outages on the trimmed circuits were 60% shorter, in part because of better access to poles and rights of way.  

More needs to be done, Scripps said, especially as climate change increases the frequency and intensity of extreme storms in Michigan. Scripps noted that the Commission in August launched an inquest into power outages and electric reliability issues. The Commission is seeking additional information from utilities, including vegetation management and grid hardening practices, which circuits perform worst in storms, ZIP codes with the most- and least-frequent outages and restoration times, and a new look at the costs and benefits of moving established electric lines underground. These and other data will help inform next steps in how Michigan's electric utilities can best prepare for extreme weather in a time of dramatically changing climate. 

As part of its efforts to address reliability issues, the MPSC established a Technical Conference on Emergency Preparedness, Distribution Reliability, and Storm Response in Case No. U-21122, bringing together stakeholders to explore the scale and degree of necessary improvements and ideas on how to achieve the improvements, with a focus on efforts that address environmental justice, equity and cost to customers. The first of two technical conference sessions was on Oct. 22, and the second will be Nov. 5. 

The Washington Post reported on how severe weather is battering state power grids across the country and the challenges to hardening the grids, including significant costs involved. Commissioner Tremaine Phillips was interviewed for the story, which quotes him.


Related links:  

Documents: View Chair Scripps' presentation to the House Energy Committee 

Follow the MPSC's inquest into outages electric reliability issues in Case No. U-21122 

Important decisions released at the MPSC's Sept. 24 and Oct. 13 meetings

Here's a recap of some of the major orders the MSPC issued at its Sept. 24 and Oct. 13 meetings. 

Sept. 24  

  • The Commission approved DTE Electric Co.'s reconciliation of its 2019 calendar year power supply cost recovery (PSCR) expenses and revenues, but the Commission disallowed costs for an inventory correction for a product the company had not surveyed since 2009 (Case No. U-20222). The Commission's order approved a net under-recovery of $145,023, which will be the company's 2020 PSCR beginning balance. The Commission approved DTE Electric's recovery of costs associated with deliveries of natural gas transported via the NEXUS Gas Transmission LLC Pipeline, but Commissioners directed the company to provide a more robust record to justify the reasonableness of its NEXUS transportation expenses or evidence of the steps DTE Electric took to renegotiate the transportation agreement as part of its obligation to monitor and respond to market conditions and make good faith efforts to manage existing contracts, including renegotiating them if need be. Absent such evidence, future transportation costs may be disallowed.  

Oct. 13  

  • The Commission approved Consumers Energy Co.'s power supply cost recovery (PSCR) expenses and revenues for calendar year 2019, setting an over-recovery balance of $18,196,314 as the company's PSCR beginning balance for 2020 (Case No. U-20220). The Commission approved $14.3 million in cost recovery for biomass merchant plants Cadillac Renewable Energy LLC; Genesee Power Station LP; Grayling Generating Station LP; Hillman Power Co. LLC; TES Filer City Station LLP, and National Energy of McBain Inc., as well as $1,923,236 in uncapped environmental costs for TES Filer City, while rejecting Consumers' request to be reimbursed for approximately $150,000 related to replacement energy costs connected with three unplanned outages at the company's Karn generating plants and the Ludington pumped hydroelectric facility. 

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 Nov. 4, 2021 at 1 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.