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MPSC maintains focus on improving reliability in 2023

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The MPSC kept up its focus in 2023 on addressing the reliability and resilience of the power grid as increasingly severe weather brings more frequent widespread power outages to Michigan.

The Commission’s work on shoring up the grid was at the top of the agenda during a busy year for the MPSC, which also included orders in four major rate cases and the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, as well as the Legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s approval of new clean energy laws and laws granting renewable energy siting authority to the MPSC. The Commission this year issued more than 345 orders, including approval of two utilities’ integrated resource plans.

Here’s a rundown of the major accomplishments of the MPSC during 2023, which also marked the 150th anniversary of the MPSC and its predecessor agencies.

Focus on improving reliability, resilience

The MSPC’s work on improving electric reliability included launching a first of its kind comprehensive, third-party audit of the equipment and operations of the electric distribution systems of the state’s two largest utilities, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy. A consultant was to file a preliminary summary report in the case docket today in Case No. U-21305 and a final report in late summer 2024.

The MPSC also held four technical conferences on reliability and resilience of the power grid:

  • A 4.8 kilovolt (kV) technical conference in March exploring issues involving the 4.8 kV electric system in the Detroit area, including the Detroit Public Lighting Department’s arc wire system, and opportunities, benefits, challenges, and alternatives to the 4.8 kV hardening program.
  • A two day resilience technical conference on May 22 and May 26, examining the interconnectedness of resilience and critical infrastructure, customer communications, resilience challenges, identification of data gaps and potential solutions, the future of resilience, unique challenges faced by vulnerable customers, funding opportunities, and enhanced coordination between utilities and local governments.
  • A DTE distribution grid plan technical conference on Aug. 31, providing an opportunity for interested parties to learn more about DTE Electric Co.’s 2023 distribution plan, ask questions, and provide feedback prior to the plan’s filing later in the year.
  • In addition, in Case No. U-20147, the MPSC invited public comment on the five-year electric distribution plans for DTE Electric, Consumers Energy and Indiana Michigan Power Co. (I&M). The Commission previously noted it found current distribution planning approaches insufficient to address persistent challenges to grid reliability and directed the three utilities to file updated plans.

Infrastructure cases

In one of the MPSC’s most-watched cases in recent years, the Commission in early December approved Enbridge Energy’s siting application for a proposed replacement segment of its pipelines on the lakebed of the Straits of Mackinac, which the company proposed to move into a tunnel deep below the straits. The Commission’s order determined there is a public need for the replacement section of Line 5 and the products it carries, and that protecting the ecological, natural, and cultural resources of the Great Lakes would be helped by replacing the existing dual pipelines, now exposed to the elements and risks including anchor strikes on the Straits’ lakebed. The Commission’s order capped a 3.5-year review as MPSC staff, intervenors and other participants worked through the many thorny issues involved in the case. 

The Commission approved two integrated resource plans from:

  • I&M, the utility’s first, resulting in a settlement which included commitments by the company to procure new, carbon-free resources through the Commission’s RFP process with at least 30% of the new resources coming from PPAs, to increase energy waste reduction savings, and to increase its spending on EWR programs targeting low-income customers.
  • DTE Electric, featuring retirements and conversions of existing facilities coupled with acceleration of renewable energy facility development to reduce emissions while ensuring reliable energy generation. A settlement agreement in the case also included increasing the company’s distributed generation cap, a requirement of donations to organizations assisting low-income customers with bill payment or energy efficiency needs, and the development of an outreach and engagement plan specific to overburdened communities for its next IRP.

New area code overlay, broadband expansion

On the telecommunications side of the MPSC’s work, the Commission approved the 679 overlay area code for Detroit’s iconic 313 area code. The 313 area code is projected to run out of unassigned numbers in 2026, so new customers in Detroit and some of its immediate suburbs may be given phone numbers with a 679 area code. Existing phones with 313 area codes will not have to change their area code.

Meanwhile, the MPSC continued its work to support broadband expansion in Michigan.  MPSC Telecommunications Staff participated on the Realizing Opportunity with Broadband Infrastructure Networks (ROBIN) grant program steering committee, which is responsible for $238 million in broadband projects. Staff also participated on both the Connecting Michigan Taskforce and the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office’s partnership roundtable discussions. Staff continued its focus on customer assistance and education and promotion of the federal Affordable Connectivity Program.

Changes at the MPSC

The Commission said goodbye to one Commissioner and hello to another in 2023.

Commissioner Alessandra Carreon joined the Commission with her appointment by Governor Whitmer, announced in June, as the first Asian-American to sit on the Commission. An engineer, Commissioner Carreon’s background includes working on carbon-free transportation and corporate sustainability in the auto industry. She succeeded Commissioner Tremaine Phillips, who had served on the Commission since September 2019.

Governor Whitmer also reappointed Chair Dan Scripps for a six-year term as Commissioner. Scripps has been with the Commission since February 2019.

Advocacy and involvement with regional grid operators

The Commission continued its engagement and advocacy at the federal level with agencies including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the state’s two regional transmission organizations (RTO), or grid, operators, Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and PJM. Engagement and advocacy focused on transmission planning, reforms to generator interconnection queues, and market transformation.

Chair Scripps served on the Joint Federal-State Task Force on Electric Transmission, made up of representatives from FERC and state regulators selected by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC). The taskforce worked to address the topics of physical security and grid enhancing technologies. The MPSC also was active in MISO’s long-range transmission planning process and PJM’s efforts to establish long-term regional transmission planning.

The Commission intervened in 12 cases before FERC in 2023.

Federal engagement on grants

The MPSC has played an active role in developing and supporting federal grant applications for funding that would further reliability, resilience, economic development and other projects and programs across the state. That included the Commission supporting a Consumers Energy grant application for infrastructure development that will work to mitigate power outage impacts in disadvantaged communities and a DTE Energy grant application to deploy adaptive networked microgrids to improve grid flexibility and reliability. In total, the grants awarded to the companies will result in approximately $245 million in grid investments with half of the funds coming from the federal government.

MPSC continues work on equity

The MSPC’s Low Income Energy Policy Board celebrated its one-year anniversary in April while continuing its important work of helping to guide the process of holistically assessing energy affordability and accessibility by linking energy waste reduction and energy assistance programs. The Commission also continued to identify opportunities to incorporate equity into its work. An internal equity workgroup was established to explore and coordinate on equity-related considerations, and the Commission expanded on its consideration of equity issues in its proceedings, including rate cases, and is developing an equity framework for future consideration. MPSC Staff also participated in State-mandated implicit bias training to help better identify where implicit bias can impact the agency’s work.

MPSC issues final status report on MI Power Grid, but work goes on

The MPSC’s final status report of the MI Power Grid initiative was submitted to the Commission on April 24, marking the official conclusion of the multi-year stakeholder initiative launched in 2019 and supported by Governor Whitmer and the MPSC to maximize the benefits of the transition to clean, distributed energy resources for Michigan residents and businesses. Over the course of four years, MPSC Staff hosted more than 70 stakeholder meetings across 17 workgroups, resulting in 75 separate Commission orders. While the final report was issued, work is continuing including in the Financial Incentives and Disincentives workgroup, which is developing metrics to tie utility earnings to utility performance.

Busy legislative year

The Commission in 2023 announced the first awards of the Low Carbon Energy Infrastructure Enhancement and Development grants, established by the legislature in 2022. This year, the Legislature established a new Renewable Energy Infrastructure Enhancement and Development grant. A final RFP was posted this week with deadlines set for applications and comments before an anticipated grant start date of Nov. 15, 2024.

Meanwhile, the Legislature also directed the MPSC to conduct a Nuclear Energy Feasibility Study. In March, the Commission established a workgroup to provide insight into the development of the study which is due to the Legislature by April 15, 2024. A workgroup meeting is scheduled for January, when a consultant will provide participants an overview of the draft report.

The Commission was also active in reviewing and providing input and recommendations related to the recently passed Clean Energy and Climate Action Package signed by Governor Whitmer in November. The Commission is reviewing the legislation and expects to provide information regarding implementation in the first quarter of 2024. Among other actions, the legislation establishes a 100% clean energy standard for Michigan by 2040, improves energy efficiency and energy waste reduction programs, expands the range of considerations in utility integrated resource planning cases, and authorizes the MPSC to streamline permitting of utility-scale wind, solar and energy storage developments.

Successful Mid-America Regulatory Conference in Grand Rapids

The MPSC hosted the 2023 Mid-America Regulatory Conference Aug. 6-9 in Grand Rapids. The annual conference convenes regulators and staff from Michigan and 13 other states to discuss vital issues in energy, telecommunications, water and regulation with colleagues, industry professionals and members of the public. More than 500 people attended the conference, which also showcased the City of Grand Rapids.


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