Today we announced the proposal to begin implementing our Reliability Roadmap, our ambitious plan for a smarter and stronger electric grid. The proposal, which we will file with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on Friday, includes more buried power lines, infrastructure upgrades and grid automation efforts to reduce the number and length of customer power outages all while supporting union jobs across our service territory.

Also included is a new wildfire risk mitigation plan, the first such plan by an energy provider in the Midwest, which will protect customers from increased wildfire risk if the National Weather Service issues a “red flag warning.” The plan includes prioritized tree trimming, equipment upgrades in wildfire risk areas and more effective monitoring.

“Wildfire risk in Michigan has grown in recent years, due to changing weather patterns that result in longer than usual dry periods throughout the state,” said Greg Salisbury, vice president of electric distribution engineering. “Our new plan aims to provide more reliable service to our customers while strengthening and protecting the grid against destructive wildfire risk throughout Consumers Energy’s service territory.”

The proposed plan also includes tactics to expand our goal to create a modern, stronger and more resilient power grid:

  • Burying 35 miles of additional power lines to provide better protection from common outage causes, including lightning, high winds, tornadoes, heavy snow, ice and falling tree limbs.
  • Infrastructure upgrades and proactive maintenance planning to find, fix and prevent issues to help the grid’s reliability and lower costs.

“This proposal shows our strong commitment to delivering more reliable, resilient energy for every customer,” said Chris Laird, vice president of electric operations. “We will not let up until our grid is stronger and smarter, and we’ll do it in a way that keeps costs down – preventative measures are 40 percent less expensive to fix than responding to problems. We look forward to working with the Michigan Public Service Commission and others to move ahead with our plan.”

Highlights of the Reliability Roadmap

Highlights of the Reliability Roadmap include:

Burying Power Lines

Placing power lines underground protects them from the effects of severe weather, including falling trees and can improve reliability by 90% or more.

Grid Automation

Smart meters, sensors and automation devices are optimizing power delivery and helping us monitor our system more effectively. We’re solving problems faster, often before customers notice, to improve reliability and resiliency.

Forestry

We’re clearing tree branches from over 7,000 miles of power lines each year to address the No. 1 cause of power outages in Michigan. Traditional tree trimming is still the most effective way to prevent and shorten power outages and improve system reliability.

Infrastructure Upgrades

We’re proactively inspecting power lines, replacing or rebuilding poles, upgrading infrastructure and organizing circuits more efficiently. Investing up front to find, fix and prevent issues is 40 percent less expensive than responding to failures.

Wildfire Mitigation Plan

We’re the first energy provider in the Midwest with a plan to protect customers from increased wildfire risk created by changing weather patterns. The plan includes prioritized tree trimming and equipment upgrades in wildfire areas, more effective monitoring and a warning system.

Environmental Justice

We’re committed to fair and equitable access to energy for everyone in our service area, especially those in our most vulnerable communities. That means addressing concerns for disadvantaged communities who may have more difficulty securing back-up power or alternative accommodations or replacing spoiled food and medicine during outages.

Improvements Underway

While we have big plans for future improvements, reliability work is already underway. We continue to innovate with new technology and upgrades to our electric system across the entire Lower Peninsula. That work includes:

  • Carrying out 150 major upgrades across Lower Peninsula communities.
  • Clearing tree branches from over 7,000 miles of power lines, addressing the No. 1 cause of power outages in Michigan.
  • Upgrading, rebuilding and expanding over 100 substations.
  • Added smart technology including nearly 100 Automatic Transfer Reclosers (ATRs) that help limit the number and length of power outages. An added 100 ATRs and 3,000 line sensors are planned for 2024.
  • Strategically burying electric lines in areas that would receive the greatest benefit for less cost. We have approval to bury 10 miles this year and plans for an additional 35 miles are included in this request.

These proposed investments to add technology, bury power lines and clear trees, are essential to improving reliability for customers. If the full amount is approved, an average household will see its electric bill increase by about $10 per month. We’re acutely aware of the impacts on customers’ bills, which is why we’re balancing these upgrades by trimming costs and working  more than ever to connect customers with cost-saving programs. We will continue to advocate to build a smarter and stronger power grid that serves Michigan reliably 24/7.

Related Blogs:

Reliability Roadmap: Sometimes Off-Roading is Required

It’s a bird, It’s a plane, It’s a….drone!

Next Up in the Reliability Roadmap Journey: Burying the Lines

Next Up in the Reliability Roadmap Journey: Iron Poles

Reliability Roadmap: Replacing substations to improve service in rural Northern Michigan

Hey, Consumers Energy! What’s the deal with another rate increase?