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Work to reduce power outages, improve grid reliability is top highlight of MPSC's 2023 annual report

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Marking 150 years of regulation from the Michigan Public Service Commission and its forerunner agencies, 2023 saw the Commission continuing its focus on improving the reliability and resilience of the state’s energy grid.

The MPSC’s 2023 Annual Report released today highlights actions the Commission took after a round of ice and snow storms spanning February 22 to March 4 left more than 1 million Michiganders without electricity, some for more than a week, as crews worked to repair more than 13,000 downed wires reported just for the state’s two largest electric utilities, DTE Electric Co. and Consumers Energy Co.

The Commission held in-person town hall meetings in two hard-hit areas — Jackson and Dearborn — and another online via livestream. Frustrated customers brought concerns and complaints about outages, unreliable service, troubles with reporting outages and getting accurate information about service restoration times, and more.

The MPSC in 2023 took multiple significant steps to address the power grid’s continuing challenges, including:

  • Launching a comprehensive, third-party audit of the equipment and operations of the electric distribution systems of DTE Electric and Consumers Energy, a first-of-its-kind effort to better understand challenges facing the electric grid and identify improvements needed to reduce the number and duration of outages and the risk of public contact with downed lines. A final report is expected in Case No. U-21305 in late summer 2024.
  • Updating the Commission’s Service Quality and Reliability Standards for Electric Distribution Systems, Technical Standards for Electric Service, and the Consumer Standards and Billing Practices for Electric and Natural Gas Service, which included increased customer power outage credits.
  • Establishing new Distribution System Reliability webpages to provide more detailed reliability and outage information for customers than had been publicly available before.
  • Implementing new reliability reporting requirements in MPSC Case No. U-21122 so that utilities now must provide monthly reliability data broken down by circuit. DTE Electric and Consumers Energy also must report reliability data by zip code and census tract.
  • Hosting atechnical conference in March to tackle issues affecting the 4.8 kilovolt (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. The Commission also hosted 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.
  • Issuing directives in Case No. U-21388 following the resilience technical conference aimed at improving communication protocols between utilities and local governments during outages and extreme weather events, improving customer communication protocols and accuracy of information provided to customers during outage events, and drafting revisions to service quality rules and technical standards to include requirements for resilience of critical facilities.
  • Seeking input on a straw proposal to establish financial penalties for utilities whose customers experience repeated, lengthy power outages and incentives for improvements as part of the Commission’s MI Power Grid Financial Incentives and Disincentives workgroup (Case No. U-21400). A Staff report outlining the workgroup’s findings is expected in 2024.

The annual report, which must be filed the first Monday of March each year, also recaps accomplishments in many other important areas of the MPSC’s work.


Customer assistance

The MPSC assisted 16,795 customers who contacted the agency’s call center for help with complaints or other energy and telecommunications issues. The MPSC awarded more than $54 million in grants through the Michigan Energy Assistance Program, providing home energy assistance and self-sufficiency services to 56,948 income-eligible customers.


Energy rates

The Commission issued final orders in electric and natural gas rate cases involving Consumers Energy (Case No. U-21224 and Case No. U-21308), DTE Electric (Case No. U-21297), Upper Peninsula Power Co. (Case No. U-21286), and Michigan Gas Utilities (Case No. U-21366). The Commission approved $644.8 million in rate increases in 2023, $505.5 million less than was requested by the utilities.


Line 5

The Commission approved Enbridge Energy’s application to replace and relocate the segment of Line 5 that runs through the Straits of Mackinac into a tunnel beneath the lakebed. The Commission’s order in Case No. U-20763 found a public need for the replacement section, a need to protect the ecological, natural, and cultural resources of the Great Lakes, and that there were no feasible and prudent alternatives to the proposed replacement project pursuant to the Michigan Environmental Protection Act.


Community engagement

The MPSC moved forward with plans to expand its customer outreach and engagement efforts, with a focus on participation in community-based events where MPSC Staff can share educational materials and answer customer questions.

The Commission participated in 15 outreach events where Staff shared information resources with event attendees, answered questions, and received utility complaints.

In late 2023, the Commission added three staff members to expand customer outreach and engagement activities. Since then, the MPSC has connected with more than two dozen organizations which were previously not familiar with the Commission’s customer outreach, education, and engagement efforts, helping expand the Commission’s reach regarding available energy assistance, important safety information, and access to energy programs, among other important information of interest to customers. The MPSC will further expand its engagement efforts in 2024.


Pipeline safety

MPSC Staff conducted 1,040 inspection days on natural gas pipeline safety inspections. Staff also conducted 59 days of inspection activity at the direction of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of interstate pipeline operators. The MPSC authorized and monitored the replacement of more than 360 miles of gas distribution pipelines.


Telecommunications assistance and broadband expansion

The MPSC’s Telecommunications Division helped ensure Michiganders are aware of the federal and state Lifeline programs that provide discounts for phone and broadband service. The Universal Service Administrative Company reports that 181,387 Michigan customers are served through Lifeline.

The MPSC also worked to expand access to the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which provided monthly assistance with internet bills for 887,351 Michigan households.

Meanwhile, the Commission also approved a 679 area code overlay for the 313 area code in metro Detroit. The MPSC expects the new area code — which applies only to new phone lines, allowing existing phone customers to keep their current area code — to be implemented sometime in 2025 or 2026.


Infrastructure funding

The MPSC has been working with partners and experts to take full advantage of funding opportunities through federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act. The Commission took steps to ensure utilities are best positioned to apply for federal funding and that utility requests related to funding applications received timely reviews from the Commission. The Commission’s active role in developing and supporting federal grant applications to further reliability, resilience and economic development helped secure grid investments for DTE Energy and Consumers Energy. Decisions are expected this year on applications for additional funding opportunities, including up to $250 million for distributed solar energy in low-income communities and up to $1 billion in funding for the MachH2 Hydrogen Hub.  The Commission also awarded $50 million in grant funding to a total of 15 organizations under the Low Carbon Energy Infrastructure Enhancement and Development program. 

Electric vehicle programs

The MPSC continued its work with utility pilot programs that have continued to expand and be offered by more regulated utilities. These pilot programs include rebates for residential, commercial, and EV fast charging stations to facilitate EV adoption, and test technology innovations, rate designs and other factors that help provide insights to inform the MPSC’s decision making.

The Commission granted DTE Electric approval to transition parts of its EV pilot programs to permanent programs, including its Charging Forward program’s education and outreach and home EV charger installation. Consumers Energy, meanwhile, was granted approval to transition the residential portion of its PowerMIDrive pilot to a permanent program and to implement on-bill installment payment plans for it.

Members of the Commission are Chair Dan Scripps and Commissioners Katherine Peretick and Alessandra Carreon. The MPSC’s Staff include more than 180 people with expertise in engineering, accounting, finance, law, economics and other fields.


Read the MPSC’s 2023 Annual Report.


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