The web Browser you are currently using is unsupported, and some features of this site may not work as intended. Please update to a modern browser such as Chrome, Firefox or Edge to experience all features Michigan.gov has to offer.
2022 Year in Review: MPSC keeps focus on energy reliability, capacity and customer protections and assistance
December 22, 2022
Media contact: Matt Helms 517-284-8300
Customer Assistance: 800-292-9555
Ongoing work to improve reliability among Michigan’s electric utilities was the top issue during a busy 2022 at the Michigan Public Service Commission.
In March, the Commission took several steps toward better understanding utility reliability, outages, and storm responses, including development of a new template for utilities to report reliability metrics, outage and restoration data, and tree trimming data. The Commission also directed the development of a new public webpage focused on giving the public access to information on distribution system reliability, outages and storm response. The webpage is expected to go live in early 2023. This work built on the MPSC’s inquest launched in 2021 after severe storms left more than a million Michiganders without power, some for more than a week.
Underscoring the increasing incidence of severe storms in Michigan due to a changing climate, storms in August 2022 lead to nearly half a million electricity customers losing power. A 14-year-old girl was killed in Monroe and two boys were critically injured in Warren after coming into contact with power lines downed in the storm.
In September, the Commission found utilities’ current distribution planning approaches insufficient to address reliability issues, Michigan’s distribution system reliability inadequate and plans for improvement deficient. The Commission took steps to better collect and make available to the public data regarding grid performance not related to major storm events, directed Staff and utilities to work to make data on reliability impacts compatible with the MiEJscreen: Environmental Justice Screening Tool to help address environmental justice and equity concerns, and directed utilities to provide information on the benefits and tradeoffs of different solutions for improving reliability, such as moving overhead lines underground.
Then in October, the MPSC ordered Michigan’s two largest utilities, Consumers Energy Co. and DTE Electric Co., to report to the Commission on their compliance with regulations and past Commission orders governing utilities’ response to outages and downed lines. The Commission also directed MPSC Staff to take actions to begin a third-party audit and review of all equipment and operations of the two utilities’ distribution systems to identify areas of both poor and superior performance, so improvements can be focused where they would be most beneficial.
Here are the other top issues the MPSC addressed in 2022.
Ensuring adequate resources
The Commission took several steps to address concerns about resource adequacy.
In April, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s 2022-2023 Planning Resource Auction found that all zones within the MISO footprint met their local clearing requirement, but local resource zones 1-7 cleared at CONE (Cost of New Entry), which for 2022-2023 is set at $236.66 per megawatt-day. MPSC Staff, in its capacity demonstration report to the Commission, expressed concerns about tightening capacity and slimming reserve margins.
In response, the Commission requested comments from load serving entities and stakeholders on how to address capacity shortfalls and options to bring additional capacity resources to the market. The Commission sought comments regarding the ban on demand response aggregation, the participation of batteries in the wholesale and retail markets, and the implementation of forward capacity obligations in excess of that required by MISO.
In June, the Commission approved a settlement agreement in Consumers Energy’s Integrated Resource Plan Case. The settlement agreement included the closure of JH Campbell in 2025, postponing the retirement of DE Karn to 2031, approving the purchase of the Covert Generating Station in 2023, and approving the addition of approximately 8,000 MW of solar generation by 2040.
This month, the Commission partially lifted its 2010 prohibition on demand response aggregation resources participating in regional wholesale power markets to help bolster energy capacity. The Commission lifted the prohibition for retail commercial and industrial customers as well as aggregators of these customers with a minimum enrolled load of 1 MW. A ban on retail residential customers, aggregators of retail residential customers, and small commercial and industrial customers remains in effect.
MI Power Grid progress
The MPSC’s continued its work on MI Power Grid, a multi-year effort to maximize the benefits of Michigan’s transition to clean, distributed energy. Among other moves, the Commission:
- Rescinded legacy net metering rules and adopted new Interconnection and Distributed Generation Standards and Electric Interconnection and Net Metering Standards.
- Launched the Distribution System Data Access workgroup that will collaborate with stakeholders and utilities on a grid integration study for the expansion of distributed generation and electric vehicles as requested in Michigan Senate Resolution 143 of 2020.
- Addressed a Staff report from the New Technologies and Business Models workgroup in U-20898. The workgroup was established to address preparing for opportunities and challenges associated with commercialization of new technologies and business models such as electric vehicles, energy storage, microgrids, space and water heating using electric heat pumps, and other technologies still under development, at customer and utility scale.
- Addressed a Staff report of the Customer Education and Participation workgroup in U-20959 including the adoption of several customer data access and privacy recommendations and recommendations related to the Commission’s customer outreach and engagement efforts.
Other energy opportunities
The MPSC worked on a number of fronts to address a changing energy landscape:
- The Commission directed regulated utilities to file comments demonstrating how they intend to take advantage of $550 billion in federal funding available through the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. MPSC Staff have also worked with other state departments to identify and apply for potential funding opportunities.
- Public Acts 53 and 166 of 2022 require the MPSC to develop a low-carbon energy infrastructure enhancement and development grant program for businesses, nonprofit organizations, and local units of government for the purposes of planning, developing, designing, acquiring, or constructing low carbon energy facilities, which may include natural gas facilities, combined heat and power facilities, renewable natural gas facilities, and electrification programs. The Commission solicited feedback on a draft request for proposals and released the RFP in September. Proposals are due in January 2023 and the Commission expects to make grant award selections in late spring.
- The Commission issued a final study on the potential of renewable natural gas in Michigan, as directed by the Legislature in Public Act 87 of 2021.
The Commission issued a total of 513 orders in 2022. These included approval of settlement agreements on the integrated resource plans, or IRPs, of Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corp. and Consumers Energy Co. IRPs are electric utilities’ long-term forecasts for ensuring reliable service over the next 20 years and are required for regulated utilities under Michigan’s 2016 energy laws. The Commission also issued orders in general rate cases from Northern States Power Co. of Wisconsin (gas), DTE Electric Co., Northern States Power (electric) and Consumers Energy (gas).
The Commission’s Compliance and Investigations section and telecommunications call center are at the forefront of protecting and assisting customers. In 2022, the energy call center team has processed more than 6,700 complaint cases while the telecom call center fielded more than 2,400. Investigation of these complaints ensure that energy and telecommunications providers adhere to Commission rules and consumer protection requirements.
The Commission’s investigation into complaints about the marketing and business practices of alternative gas supplier Realgy LLC resulted in the Commission commencing a license revocation action against the company citing a lack of confidence that identified issues had been resolved and concerns over ongoing violations of a settlement agreement. A decision on the licensing action is expected in 2023.
Helping vulnerable customers
Rising energy prices have put pressure on household budgets. The Commission extended the work of its Energy Affordability and Accessibility Collaborative through 2023 and directed the EAAC to coordinate efforts with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s task forces to develop cohesive policies across state agencies and to broaden the participation of historically marginalized communities. The Commission also established the Low-Income Energy Policy Board to coordinate the work of the EAAC and the EWR-Low Income Workgroup. In November 2022, the board hosted a Low-Income Energy Policy Summit designed to create strategies related to the key policy pillars of Affordability and Customer Protections, Customer Centered Engagement and Coordination, and Energy Waste Reduction and Weatherization. The board plans sessions in January 2023 to report on the strategies developed at the summit and provide an opportunity for broad public feedback.
The Commission also launched a new, comprehensive assistance webpage — www.michigan.gov/mpsc/gethelp — that’s a one stop shop for customers in need of help. The site has information on energy and telecommunications assistance as well as resources for organizations that serve low-income clients.
Expanded customer education and outreach
The MPSC broadened its customer education and outreach activities in 2022, including hosting five energy assistance fairs and listening sessions from Marquette in the Upper Peninsula to Melvindale in metro Detroit. The Commission also held one of its regular Commission meetings in Detroit, and held six public hearings on utility integrated resource places, IRP planning parameters, and on DTE Electric’s rate case, the first time in recent memory the Commission has held a public hearing on a rate case.
The Commission also launched a new Facebook page, a Utility Program Portal to help customers learn about energy and assistance programs and offerings from utilities, and made it easier for the public to comment on cases before the Commission through a “submit comment” button in the MPSC’s E-Dockets system.
A telecommunications era ends
The Intrastate Switched Toll Access Restructuring Mechanism (ARM), first set up in 2010, was a fund designed to provide temporary assistance to rural incumbent local exchange phone service carriers to soften the revenue loss associated with reforms to the intrastate access rates mandated by the legislature in Public Act 182 of 2009. ARM funds were distributed monthly to eligible providers, and the final disbursements to 38 eligible providers were made this year, marking the end of the ARM.
During its dozen years of operation, the ARM collected about $162 million from a monthly average of 240 contributing providers, and of that amount, $157 million was disbursed to eligible providers, with the remainder used for administration of the fund.
With the fund’s expiration, the Commission reorganized work within the Telecommunications Division to account for the end of responsibilities associated with the ARM.
Boosting broadband expansion, access
The MPSC’s Telecommunications Division Staff, working with the newly created Michigan High-Speed Internet Office, assisted in efforts to expand broadband internet access and adoption across Michigan, including participating with the Connecting Michigan Taskforce. Staff also will be part of the Realizing Opportunity with Broadband Infrastructure Networks (ROBIN) grant program steering committee, a program that will make $238.7 million available through grants for the expansion of internet infrastructure in unserved locations in Michigan.
The MPSC has also continued its outreach efforts to make eligible Michiganders aware of the Federal Communications Commissions’ Affordable Connectivity Program that provides assistance to eligible households struggling to pay for internet service.
In addition, the MPSC has actively promoted efforts to ensure the accuracy of a national broadband map unveiled in November by the FCC to guide where billions in federal funding for broadband expansion will be spent. Members of the public are encouraged to visit https://broadbandmap.fcc.gov/home and verify whether the map accurately reflects broadband service availability at their address or location.
MPSC reorganizes amid industry changes
The MPSC announced a series of organizational changes in December meant to ensure the Commission’s effectiveness amid significant changes in the energy and telecommunications industries.
Among other changes, the Commission:
- Established a new Distribution Planning Section focused on improving reliability and distribution planning
- Created a new Interconnection and Distributed Energy Resources Section to focus on interconnection rules and procedures and the operations of distributed energy resources
- Established a new Resource Adequacy and Forecasting Section, which will continue to focus on capacity demonstrations and demand response planning while also pulling disparate forecasting responsibilities from throughout the Commission into one section
- Created a new Data Access, Privacy, and Information Technology Section, which will lead Commission efforts on customer data accessibility and privacy and will continue to review IT and smart grid spending in rate cases
- Merged energy choice, licensing, and utility code of conduct compliance functions
- Created a standalone Gas Safety and Operations Division
- And consolidated Telecommunications Division responsibilities.
# # #