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MPSC announces technical conferences aimed at boosting reliability and resilience of Michigan's electric grid
April 13, 2023
Media contact: Matt Helms 517-284-8300
Customer Assistance: 800-292-9555
Building on its ongoing work to address widespread power outages in Michigan, the Michigan Public Service Commission today announced it will conduct several technical conferences aimed at addressing utility resilience and reliability to better understand challenges facing the state’s electric grid, as well as on residential energy storage, an emerging component of the state’s transition to clean, distributed energy.
The Commission today launched an effort to address resilience and reliability issues, beginning with two half-day technical conferences (Case No. U-21388). The goal of the conferences is to gather information on how best to improve the resilience of critical facilities, increase electric service reliability for those who experience the most frequent and longest duration outages, and provide additional support to customers who face disproportionate health and financial impacts and often have few means to recover from prolonged outages. The focus of the conferences will be on the engineering, technical, regulatory and cost barriers as well as potential solutions.
The resilience and reliability technical conferences will be held May 22 at 1 p.m. and on May 26 at 9 a.m. Additional information about how to participate in the conferences will be posted in this case docket by May 12.
The resilience and reliability technical conferences are part of the MPSC’s ongoing work to address continuing challenges to Michigan’s electric grid reliability, including the winter storms in late February and early March 2023 that resulted in power outages affecting approximately 427,000 customers of Consumers Energy Co. and 630,000 customers of DTE Electric Co., and the death of a volunteer firefighter with the Paw Paw Fire Department who came in contact with a downed wire.
The conference agenda on May 22 is expected to focus on issues and barriers, reviewing extreme weather events in recent years, the need for greater resilience, and challenges experienced during recent storms; defining grid resilience and how it is valued; understanding how electric grid challenges can affect other critical infrastructure areas, including telecommunications, water and sewer and emergency services; and exploring barriers to enhanced resilience in the regulatory, planning, financial, technological, policy and other realms.. On May 26, the agenda will focus on solutions, with topics including the status of data collection and any gaps that exist that prevent a better understanding of which areas of the state have experienced the most outages in frequency and duration; exploring which tools and technologies can the resilience of residential, business and critical facilities customers; how to empower the most vulnerable customers given historically inequitable distribution of resilience investments, availability of funding in traditional and new ways; and working with local governments to identify facilities critical to community resilience and responding to the needs of the most vulnerable customers during extreme weather events.
Meanwhile, the Commission directed MPSC Staff to convene a one-day collaborative technical conference July 25, 2023, on residential energy storage to help identify best practices and opportunities (Case No. U-21399). Information on how to participate in the conference will be filed in this case docket by July 11, 2023.
The Commission indicated that the focus should be on identifying known gaps, educational presentations, and discussions on attainable solutions for residential energy storage programs. The intent is for the technical conference to serve as a working meeting to generate consensus on topics including what residential energy storage should look like and how it should be implemented.
The Commission directed the conference to be in two parts. The first focuses on identifying remaining gaps and outstanding issues for residential storage pilots, with discussion of national best practices in storage design and benefit/cost analysis. The second part is for solutions, along with presentations from stakeholders and discussions of issues related to low-income customers, ownership and contracting issues including the role of the utility versus third-party aggregators and other business models. The conference also will address how to propose these pilots through the MPSC’s expedited pilots framework process approved in Case No. U-20898.
The technical conferences are the latest efforts by the Commission to get at the root of reliability challenges facing the electric grid and identify solutions for improvement. The Commission in March held three town hall meetings to hear directly from utility customers about their experiences with the February and March storms. The MPSC’s array of efforts have included increasing customer power outage credits, supporting efforts to speed up tree trimming, and kicking off independent, third-party audits of Consumers’ and DTE Electric’s distribution systems to identify weaknesses that could be addressed through targeted investments. The Commission also launched a new Distribution System Reliability webpage that will provide detailed, up-to-date reliability and outage information for customers than has ever been publicly available in Michigan.
In a related effort, the MPSC today published a recap of the recent town halls the Commission held in March in Jackson and Dearborn, two areas hard hit by the winter storms. The recap includes information about issues raised by utility customers who attended the town halls, information and resources available for utility customers, and a rundown of actions the MPSC is taking to address the challenges Michigan’s electric grid faces.
MPSC OKS $5 MILLION VOLUNTARY REFUND FOR DTE GAS CO.
The Commission approved a one-time voluntary refund of $5 million from DTE Gas Co. to its customers (Case No. U-21331). The refund will come in the form of reduced costs the company would seek in a future rate case related to routine capital expenses such as gas main replacement and maintenance, equipment upgrades and vehicle replacement. Today’s order finds that using the refund on these expenses is in the public interest and will not increase costs to ratepayers. Any portion of the voluntary refund not used in 2023 will be refunded to customers through a bill credit. DTE Gas must file a proposed allocation of the refund and customer bill credit by March 31, 2024.
COMMISSION PARTLY APPROVES, PARTLY DENIES CONSUMERS ENERGY’S PROPOSED VOLUNTARY CUSTOMER REFUND
The MPSC today approved a request by Consumers Energy Co. to voluntarily refund its customers $5 million of $22 million in higher than expected earnings in 2022, in the form of payment assistance to low-income and payment-challenged customers (Case No. U-21332). But the Commission denied the utility’s request to allocate the remaining $17 million to incremental electric capital spending, or in the alternative, storm restoration efforts. The Commission found that the company hadn’t sufficiently demonstrated a direct benefit to customers through using the $17 million refund to increase electric capital spending, nor adequately supported using the money to offset storm restoration costs. The Commission said it would be open to proposals that more directly benefit customers, such as tree trimming, additional assistance funding for low-income customers or a direct customer refund.
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. Follow the Commission on Facebook, 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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