Shane Miron and Shane Buschlen go about their jobs in different ways each day. But they share the same spirited mantra: providing safe, reliable electricity for the customers we serve before, during and after storms.
The two Shanes, along with hundreds of employees in the field and behind the scenes, are taking crucial steps to ensure a more reliable future for our customers. We are establishing a blueprint for success that will have a far-reaching impact for years to come. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Our 2022 reliability results are proving that we’re not only getting better at preventing outages, but also restoring customers’ power faster, thanks in large part to emergent technology and new approaches.
Investments Paying Off
“Taking a deliberate, proactive approach has made all the difference in the world in how we handle storms – it’s really paying off for us,” said Miron, a Low Voltage Distribution crew supervisor in Big Rapids. “It didn’t happen overnight. We are planning well in advance of a storm. We are staging and preparing well before a storm hits and doing preventative maintenance – like basic tree trimming. So, when that major 60 mph plus windstorm hits, our grid will withstand much more.”
The all-hands-on-deck approach and robust investments in the grid are paying off. In 2022, we had 20 percent fewer customer power outages compared to 2021.
When customers did experience an outage, the response time improved by 30 minutes, including more than 96 percent of outages being restored in less than 24 hours.
Buschlen, formerly a lineworker in charge who recently moved to a new role in the apprenticeship program, said he noticed preventive work on our lines paying off during the pandemic, especially in 2021.
“We were able to change out a large number of cross arms and switches on our poles,” he said. “That really set us up for a great year, reliability wise, in 2022. We had fewer outages and I really believe it was due to our maintenance work. It was a great year of improvement, and we know we can do more and expect 2023 to be another great year.”
As a company, we addressed issues after inspecting more than half of our Low-Voltage Distribution system and our entire High-Voltage Distribution system. We also completed over 7,100 miles of forestry trimming and maintenance around our lines, addressing the number one cause of power outages in Michigan.
Additional work on our electric system covered areas across the state included:
- Replacing 10,000 poles with sturdier material that can withstand higher winds.
- Upgrading, rebuilding and expanding nearly 100 substations.
- Adding smart technology like 32 Automatic Transfer Reclosures (ATRs) that help limit the frequency and duration of power outages.
- Strategically piloting a project to underground power lines in areas that would receive the greatest benefit for less cost.
Miron added that the company has also done a great job of putting people in the right position to prosper and to carry out our reliability mission.
“I know in my role as a supervisor, the amount of vetting when hiring somebody for a job is considerable,” said Miron. “We want to put that person in the right position to thrive and that leads to success for the company.”
Communication is Key
In addition, leadership has been quick to adjust policies to better navigate through challenges during major storms.
For instance, crew supervisors, such as Miron, communicate with dispatch during storms as a single point of contact.
“This allows our crews to concentrate on the work at hand,” Miron said. “They spend their time setting up to work on outages and spend less time trying to figure out from dispatch where they need to be.”
Buschlen said, in his new role on the joint apprentice committee, he is seeing first-hand the steady effort to get those lineworkers ready to transition safely into our reliability realm.
“We are investing in our workforce to ensure we continue to safely thrive when it comes to reliability,” he said.
Miron said whether it’s investing in new technology to decrease outages, putting workers in proper roles where they can help our company flourish or performing well thought out maintenance work – everything is being done with our customers in mind.
“And that leads directly to trust between us and the millions of customers that we serve in Michigan.”