• Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

Michigan commission orders audit of DTE, consumers on power outages, downed lines

ByChad J. Johnson

Oct 5, 2022

Michigan’s Public Service Commission ordered an audit of the state’s largest utility companies in response to lengthy power outages and downed power line incidents this summer.

MPSC ordered Consumers Energy Co. and DTE Electric Co. to report to the Commission on their compliance with past regulations and orders governing utility response to outages and downed lines, and ordered MPSC staff to take steps to begin a third-party audit and review. of all equipment and operations of the distribution systems of both utilities.

The commission said the audit comes amid concerns about the lack of progress in reducing power outages and ensuring the public does not come into contact with downed power lines.

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In August, a series of severe storms knocked out power to nearly 500,000 people across the state, and it took several days for power to be restored for many residents. There were also two incidents of electrocution – in Monroe a 14-year-old girl was killed after coming into contact with downed power lines, and in Warren two boys were seriously injured by close contact.

Dozens of schools and businesses have been closed due to power cuts.

A storm in August 2021 left nearly a million Michiganders without power for several days. Michigan has the most power outages per capita in the country.

“These actions represent a new approach to the MPSC’s work to hold the state’s two largest electric utilities accountable for ongoing reliability and safety issues,” MPSC Chairman Dan Scripps said. “Over the past decade, the MPSC has issued a series of guidelines in response to widespread outages after storms. Although significant efforts are underway, the reality is that we have yet to see the improvements in reliability and safety that Michigan customers deserve. This effort to obtain an independent assessment of utility infrastructure, programs and delivery processes will inform next steps and provide a necessary pathway to an electric grid that meets its customers’ expectations.

The Commission asks Consumers and DTE Electric to explain in detail:

  • How their wire outage response audits are conducted, to verify that utilities are responding consistently and in accordance with regulatory requirements and company procedures.

  • How technologies are being used to improve the detection of downed cables, to help the Commission better understand the detection system, and what improvements can be made to improve public safety.

  • How technologies used to monitor and control the power grid, including advanced distribution management systems, advanced meters and other sensors, operate during outages, and what impacts data loss associated with outages of these sensors can have on restoration and recovery after a storm.

  • How critical facilities, ranging from hospitals to schools, are identified and prioritized for service restoration after an outage, to help the Commission consider potential improvements such as the installation of microgrids that could provide redundancy to preserve the electrical service.

  • Their efforts to engage in public awareness, education, and training of the public and first responders about the dangers of downed power lines, and improvements to those efforts in light of large-scale outages and events wires down in 2021 and 2022.

The report must be filed by November 4, 2022, according to the commission.

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