If a tree falls in the forest, there is a good chance that our Grid Modernization team will hear it.

The team of 16 employees, tasked with identifying innovative and upgraded technology to help with reliability, has a wealth of knowledge from their extensive backgrounds. They have been key to implementing our Reliability Roadmap, a blueprint to strengthen Michigan’s electric grid and improve electric reliability and resiliency.

The Grid Modernization team collects data from storms and other major events that helps prepare us for future outages. They also monitor any issues within our system through line sensors that alert them to any grid impacts caused by falling trees (yes, sometimes they are heard in the most rural of places!), limbs, etc.

And they will continue working with customers, crews, behind the scenes workers and reliability experts to find innovative ways to prevent outages in the first place, or at least shorten them. These are just some of the ways this collaborative team helps build a modern grid for the future.

Implementing emergent technology combined with enhancing equipment already in place is at the forefront of what this group does. And the federal government recently gave us $100 million, which will support future reliability programs, including  a pole sensor program that will help us identify broken poles and replace them more efficiently.

“We are positioned to do great things for our customers,” said Matt Henry, Director of Electric Grid Modernization. “This team was built for this reliability journey we are on now. We are excited and look forward to many more reliability wins that are on the horizon.”

We operate close to 100,000 miles of electric lines and serve nearly 2 million homes and businesses. Last year, we upgraded portions of our electric system across the entire Lower Peninsula.

By following this blueprint, we reduced the length of the average customer outage in 2023 during normal weather conditions to just under 3 hours, that’s a 20-minute improvement over the average for the previous five years.

Additional 2023 reliability wins include:

  • Clearing tree branches from over 7,000 miles of power lines, addressing the top cause of power outages in Michigan.
  • Replacing 5,772 poles.
  • 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.
  • Strategically burying electric lines in areas that would receive the greatest benefit for less cost.
  • Deployment of more than 2,300 line sensors throughout the state – a record for most in Company history!

We are building toward a future when: No single outage affects more than 100,000 customers, and all customers have power restored within 24 hours after an outage event.

And there’s more to come. Including a project that will help our reliability goals in 2024:  the deployment of 2,860 line sensors and 36 ATRs (Automatic Transfer Reclosers).  This will top the record for line sensors deployed in 2023. Line sensors can detect faults within our electric system and send an alert so that crews can restore power as quickly as possible.

We also use machine learning and Artificial Intelligence to detect early signs that an outage is coming to try to prevent it from occurring altogether.

“Emergent technology like ATRs, line sensors and other projects we are currently researching will play a key role in keeping the power on for our homes and businesses. But just as important, they will also help limit the impact of outages.”

We make it a priority to upgrade circuits – sections of the system that serve individual communities – that experience the most frequent outages. Circuits that were upgraded in 2020 through 2023 experienced 12% fewer incidents and 5% fewer outages.

“Our team works and lives in the communities that we serve across the state,” Henry said. “And we are proud to do our part to deliver the reliable and safe energy that all of our customers deserve.”