Building a resilient electric grid isn’t much different than building a solid Super Bowl contender.

As the Lions advance and their fans have visions of hanging a Super Bowl banner at Ford Field, the Consumers Energy team also has a challenge goal – shorter and less frequent power outages.

On the gridiron it all starts with three phases where a team must excel: offense, defense and special teams. Each of the three needs to function at a high level with a successful game plan so the team gets the win each week. This is the focus of a champion. It’s no different when it comes to our reliability team.

“The foundation of each phase is fielding a team that’s moving toward the same goal of performing on game day,” said Matt Henry, Director of Electric Grid Modernization. “In our industry, game day is coming together for major outages, usually caused by destructive storms that are becoming more common every year.”

Consumers Energy Offense

Think of evolving technology as our offense, since it’s a major driver in being proactive to keep the lights on for homes and businesses. A large part of our offense are ATRs and line sensors that detect when there are issues with our lines.

Our drones and helicopters also help by identifying issues quickly so that our lineworkers and other boots on the ground workers can restore power in a safe, efficient manner.

Consumers Energy Defense

And when it comes to our defense – that’s where our dedicated responders come in. They pick up the pieces after a devastating storm hits like the most recent ones, and the  August storm and last February’s ice storm.

Replacing poles and lines are at the top of the list of things left in the storm’s wake.  Tree trimming efforts can be considered both offense and defense since they help storms, but also prevent outages from happening in the first place.

Fallen trees or broken limbs are the leading cause of outages in Michigan. That’s why we are investing more than $500 million over the next five years to make sure our customers have reliable service by keeping our distribution lines clear.

Consumers Energy Special Teams

Our special teams are the behind-the-scenes workers like dispatchers, storm planners, wire guards and many others – like drone operators, a helicopter crew and those who use our amphibious machine, who help navigate our crews through challenging conditions.

Our underground lineworkers will also play a pivotal role in a new chapter in our company’s history.

The aim of a new underground program is to understand the best and most cost-effective way to bury lines. It will study real-world improvements that result from burying power lines, and how those improvements compare with other approaches to improving electric service for nearly 2 million Michigan homes and businesses.

These approaches will be reflected in our Reliability Roadmap, a blueprint of how we will deliver our reliability future.

We envision a future when:

  • No single outage affects more than 100,000 customers.
  • All customers have power restored within 24 hours after an outage event.

“We know this isn’t going to happen overnight,” Henry said. “But we are building momentum for a successful reliability future by creating innovative ways to make sure our customers’ power doesn’t go out in the first place. But if it does, we will have measures in place for the shortest outages possible.”

As we await our next “game day,” fans anxiously cheer on the Lions to cap an already thrilling season. And if they do get to a Super Bowl and capture the coveted Lombardi Trophy, it will be because of a singular focus that required communication, preparation and precision execution for all aspects of the team.

“That’s really no different in what it will take for us to be a championship team when it comes to reliability,” Henry said. “It’s within our control to do this, and we need to for all of our customers.”