Ice storms. Destructive winds. Tornadoes. Oh my! It’s no secret Michiganders have been impacted by more frequent severe weather which is also challenging energy grids nationwide.
While we can’t control the weather, we recognize it is up to us to step up our game to keep the lights on for our friends and neighbors across the state who count on us to power their day.
“Job #1 for us is to keep the lights on regardless of the weather,” said Tonya Berry, Senior Vice President of Transformation & Engineering.
“Consistent with our commitment to improve service reliability, Consumers Energy has established new grid performance expectations that better reflect the reality of what Mother Nature is sending our way,” Berry continued. “We are sharing these customer service commitments for the first time, reinforcing our ‘Count on Us’ promise to the nearly 2 million electric customers we have the privilege of serving.”
Our goal is simple: fewer, shorter and less frequent power outages for our nearly 2 million electric customers throughout the Lower Peninsula. In fact, we are envisioning a future when:
- No single outage affects more than 100,000 customers.
- All customers have power restored within 24 hours after an outage event.
So, how will we get there?
Enter our Reliability Roadmap.
We updated our blueprint to strengthen Michigan’s electric grid and improve electric reliability and resiliency. Our plan to improve reliability performance focuses primarily on:
Infrastructure upgrades: We’re making investments to replace or rebuild poles, better understand how to bury power lines in a cost-effective way and organize circuits more efficiently to ensure fewer customers are impacted by outages.
Forestry management: Traditional tree trimming is still the most effective way to prevent and shorten power outages and improve system reliability. Our plan significantly increases spending to keep distribution lines clear.
Grid modernization: Smart meters, sensors and automation devices are working together to help us monitor our system more effectively, optimize power delivery and solve problems faster, often before customers notice.
Equity and Environmental Justice: We will continue to weigh how different communities experience reliability and resiliency, as well as future implications for grid access when it comes to EVs and other technologies.
Customers will experience many benefits including:
Resiliency: Michiganders are experiencing more frequent and severe storms thanks, in part, to climate change. We’re designing tougher, harder grid built to face whatever Mother Nature throws our way. Our poles, for example, will soon sustain winds over 100 miles per hour without ice.
Reliability: Keeping the lights on is job one. We know how frustrating and expensive power outages are for our customers, and we’re investing the resources to meet Michigan’s peak electricity needs on the hottest summer day.
Affordability: We’re determined to provide maximum energy value for every customer dollar. That means carefully considering every investment in our system to ensure it produces effective, efficient results for all customers.
Safety and security: Nothing is more important than protecting our customers, our co-workers and the communities we serve. From properly training lineworkers to guarding downed wires and employing the latest cybersecurity tactics, we’re committed to working safely.
Sustainability: We define sustainability as practices that help our communities thrive without putting future generations at risk. We’re building Michigan’s grid to last and reducing energy waste to protect the planet.
Modernizing the electric distribution system will also support the goals of our Clean Energy Plan which will eliminate coal and help us achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040.
We don’t yet know how long it will take to reach these goals, but we do know reliability upgrades are already paying off for customers. In 2022, we completed more than 2,000 electric projects which resulted in improved performance, reducing the number of outages by 20%. The time it takes to reach our goals will depend on several factors, including continued investment to fortify the grid, technological advances and support from regulators and key stakeholders. We’ll continue to communicate clearly about our progress along the way.
It’s important to remember that regulators will consider the critical infrastructure investments outlined in the plan over the course of many years. The Michigan Public Service Commission will review and weigh the rate impact of our plans.
“Our commitment is strong,” said Greg Salisbury, vice president of electric distribution engineering. “We will not stop until our grid is more resilient and reliable. We look forward to working with the Michigan Public Service Commission and others to make this happen.”