by Bruce Walker
In letter a letter collectively addressed to the state’s electricity providers, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for increased credits for residents who have endured power outages this summer.
“More than 750,000 Michiganders lost power over the last few weeks, with some outages lasting up to a week on some of the hottest days of the year,” the governor said in a statement. “Outages like these lead to fridges full of spoiled food, interfere with life-saving medical equipment, disrupt the workday, and exacerbate the dangers of unmitigated hot weather. We need tangible, immediate action from Michigan’s three largest utility companies to ensure the production and delivery of affordable, reliable energy to every family, community, and small business.”
Whitmer urged the CEOs and Chief Operating Officers of Michigan’s utility companies to:
- Automatically credit those customers who experienced outages who are eligible under the [Michigan Public Service Commission’s] service quality rules, and expand the amount of credits paid, either through higher credit amounts and/or reducing the outage duration needed to qualify for a credit.
- Announce additional investments and redirect existing resources to improve reliability through tree trimming and grid hardening. These investments should be financed in a manner that does not add to the consumers’ burden.
“As an energy provider, we know keeping the lights on is job one for Consumers Energy,” Katie Carey, director of Consumers Energy external relations, said in a statement. “To work to prevent outages, we’ve already more than doubled our investment in grid hardening reliability and increased our forestry investment by more than 60 percent since 2018.”
Carey added Consumers Energy had planned already to increase grid reliability, including implementing a $5.4 billion plan to reduce the duration and number of power outages.
“We are proud to partner with the Governor and Michigan Public Service Commission on improving reliability, in an affordable way, when historic weather events hit our state,” she said.
In a second letter addressed to Michigan Public Service Commission Chair Dan Scripps, the governor “strongly encouraged” the commission take the following actions:
- Prevent recovery of outage credit costs and other relief efforts in upcoming utility rate cases;
- Expedite the promulgation of updated technical standards for electricity service and utility service rules as much as possible;
- Consider requiring utilities to increase emergency preparedness planning around extreme weather, to add reporting requirements that add transparency around their efforts to improve system reliability, and to carefully review the recently filed utility distribution plans to gauge whether proposed actions and investments are sufficient; and
- Convene a technical conference on emergency preparedness, planning, and storm response.
Earlier this week, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel called on the state’s utility companies to “voluntarily adopt automatic outage credits and create a fund to assist customers displaced because of these increasing frequent and powerful storms.”
Currently, to obtain an outage credit, a customer needs to file with their utility.
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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square
Photo “Governor Whitmer” by Office of the Governor, State of Michigan. CC BY-SA 3.0. Background Photo “Consumers Energy Truck” by Consumers Energy.