We admit it, we’re making a lot of changes. And on the surface, it doesn’t seem to add up.
So, we get how it can feel like we’re asking you, the customer, to use less energy while adding more demand to our system. And it’s fair to say this all seems very contradictory. We get it...it’s complicated...but we’re going to try to break it down.
The Right Equation for Michigan
Let’s start with what we’re trying to achieve: Lower energy costs for Michiganders while investing heavily in reliability, safety and renewables to exceed regulations and your expectations. Balancing the energy needs of today with those of the future is a complex formula, but it’s one we have done the math on many, many times.
This isn’t our first big transition, and it certainly won’t be our last. Through the years, we’ve made big changes (like introducing some of Michigan’s first renewables via hydros at the turn of the 20th century, running the first electric lines to agricultural communities and meeting our state’s growing electric use with large fossil fuels and even nuclear).
Use Less + Use Differently = Pay Less
Keeping energy bills as low as possible is key. After all, what good is clean and reliable energy if you can’t afford it?
HOW MUCH energy you use is the biggest contributor to bill changes. Lights on in empty rooms, inefficient appliances and A/C blasting when no one is home can all increase bills with no personal benefit.
WHEN you use energy also matters. Like all other economic rules, energy is also significantly more expensive to provide when demand is high.
The good news? We’re giving you more control of your energy bill by helping you make small changes like:
Meeting Overall Demand
Michigan’s electric demand is predictably consistent 99% of the year. This makes it easier to lay out a plan to meet the needs of our customers at the lowest price possible. But a few days out of the year, about 100 or so hours total, demand can soar. This is usually on hot summer weekdays when air conditioners are working overtime.
MISO releases an annual report outlining electric resources and predicted demand for its network ahead of the summer season. The last two years, this report has said if multiple unexpected conditions happened at once, the potential demand could get closer to the available supply than they are comfortable with. This may seem scary, but part of their role is to ensure its 190 energy providers are prepared for any scenario.
The good news: The MISO network has never run out of electric supply and the organization has a multi-level plan we all follow to prevent it from happening.
The better news: MISO builds in a good buffer to reduce risk as much as possible. So do we. This means we can provide the energy we promise to their network, which is more than what is required to serve our 1.9 million electric customers, plus a little more on top of that. Thanks to Michigan's strong regulatory model, we also can help compensate for unregulated energy companies who tend to have a smaller buffer.
However, the ‘little more’ comes from what we call ‘peaker units.’ These facilities are rarely used and reaching the end of their operation lifespan. It’s expensive to maintain sources that sit unused most of the year, and even more so to build new ones. That extra cost can be avoided if we can keep demand steady, so we are committed to making do without. This helps keep service costs lower but is a strategy that depends on energy reduction efforts from home and businesses throughout the state.
A Team Effort
That’s where our Peak Power Saver programs, mentioned above, come into play. Activating an ‘Energy Saving Event’ delivers dramatic results and clearly demonstrates that while no one can do everything, everyone can do something. You can even watch this in real-time with our electric supply dashboard. They also take the work out of using less energy when it’s most expensive so your bill stays lower.
Joining the EV Revolution
About those 1 million EVs on the road. The key is found in PowerMIDrive.
This program offers lower energy rates to charge your vehicle at night when lights are off, temperatures are cooler and industries are quieter. Demand during this time is currently so low that we can easily meet the needs of Michiganders and their new 1 million electric charging stations without any concern.
While sporadic charging during the day will still happen, most people only need to plug in once every few days or for a shorter amount of time. Those using public chargers generally only stay connected for the time it takes to boost the battery and get back on the road, further limiting impact on the grid.
The business counterpart, PowerMIFleet, will help companies switch from gas-guzzling cars and trucks that require frequent maintenance to electric vehicles that quickly pay for themselves.
We just told you large industries cause energy use to spike in the middle of the weekday. However, these new businesses actually play a key role in keeping energy costs lower and service more reliable for residential and small business customers.
Considered ‘energy intensive customers,’ the amount large commercial and industrial companies pay helps fund a sizable portion of necessary investments for all customers. Families and store owners also benefit from the service improvements without having to pay as much, and large companies receive competitive prices that allow more economical operations compared to other states.
By bringing jobs to the state, these companies also help boost our economy. It’s a win-win for Michiganders.
Adapting Our Thinking
It’s been said that change has never happened this fast before, yet it will never be this slow again. It’s true. A lot can happen in a year, month or even a day!
We check ourselves regularly when we file updated Clean Energy Plans (also called Integrated Resource Plans) with the MPSC. If changes in the world around us affect our calculations, we update accordingly. Our number one focus is doing what is right for the people of Michigan today and the generations to come.
Lower bills, more EVs, more jobs and enough electricity are all possible. It just takes everyone contributing a little bit. We want you to know you can always count on us. We want to know: Can we also count on you?