What It Takes to Keep Your Power On
The goal is simple – fewer, shorter power outages across the state for our 1.9 million electric customers. In 2021, our statewide average system reliability was 99.95% across more than 90,000 miles and 1,200 substations.
Since there are a variety of power outage causes, we will never be completely without them. Just like anything else you use to power your life (like your home, car, or appliances), with the passage of time, maintenance and upgrades are required. So, we will always need to take planned outages for maintenance and repairs.
Then there will always be things we cannot control, like nature, that create unplanned outages. We are working to mitigate the impact of trees, wildlife, and weather to reduce the number of outages and time it takes to restore power. Since the inter-connected electric grid is bigger than Michigan, weather (extreme temperatures, high winds, and storms) in recent years is having a big impact. For example, during the last four-years, our state has seen wind-speed averages twice as high as any similar period in the last 20 years.
As the largest energy provider in Michigan, we are preparing for growth – serving more customers and more electronic devices. How many more electric powered gadgets do you own today than 10 or 20 years ago? Technology growth affects how customers use energy. Powering modern technology means preparing to provide more energy, increasing our capacity to avoid outages and overloads. Not only are we preparing for everyone to need more power, we are also preparing to serve more customers to support growth in Michigan’s communities and economic development – including the automotive industry.
As electric vehicles become more affordable and incentivized for residents and businesses, we are prepared to support this transition by strategically installing charging stations and joining Michiganders by transitioning our fleet. By 2030, our fleet light duty vehicle purchases will be 100% electric, along with 30% of our entire fleet. We are on the road by 2030 to power 1 million electric vehicles – including supporting school buses now.
With all that in mind, our goal is not only to serve today, but to create a more stable system for decades to come. We recently filed a 5-year plan, the Reliability Roadmap, with the Michigan Public Service Commission that represents our blueprint to strengthen Michigan’s electric grid with new long-term goals. To provide maximum energy value for every customer dollar, we carefully consider every investment in our system to ensure it produces effective, efficient results for all customers. Our plan invests nearly $9 billion in Michigan to support the goal of ensuring no customer ever goes more than 24 hours without power. We will also be working towards no single outage affecting more than 100,000 customers. With continued investment, technological advances and support from regulators and key stakeholders, our plan can dramatically transform how we serve our customers.
We are already strategically investing in outage prevention systems to provide reliable, clean and affordable electricity through infrastructure upgrades, smart grid technology and more. Many new technologies to modernize the power grid enable automatic restoration or avoidance of outages, which we call “self-healing.” This self-healing distribution system with remote technology will act as our eyes and ears on the grid. With thousands of points across thousands of miles of electrical lines, we can detect problems quickly and pinpoint which areas have outages. Then, when possible, energy is rerouted to efficiently restore your service until repairs can be made. In 2023, our smart technology investments positively contributed to shorter and fewer power outages with more than 280,000 outage hours avoided. While prioritizing areas most in need of attention, proactive electric service projects reduced outages for more than 1 million customers in 2022. To modernize the electric distribution system and minimize interruptions more effectively, we are installing equipment that will help us monitor, isolate and automatically respond such as:
Infrastructure upgrades and investments are happening on more than just smart technology tools, and sometimes you may not see the work that is positively impacting the reliability of the services you use. For example, our Grand Rapids area reliability work helps power new 5G cell phone towers for mobile phone and internet service to the entire state. As upgrading equipment is a continuous process and industry standards evolve with time, we are committing more resources to proactive maintenance to keep the electric grid working properly. When we perform repairs and build to expand to new areas, we are installing more durable industry materials. We follow existing equipment routes where possible, allowing us to upgrade other equipment at the same time. In some instances, we may move structures to a more favorable location to reduce community and environmental impacts, improve safety and to reduce customer costs. Since moving to new, more resilient equipment increases reliability, several hundred state-wide projects are already scheduled or underway. These projects in our ever-expanding system made up of high-voltage distribution (HVD) and low-voltage distribution (LVD) components
We put years of thoughtful work into the transition of energy equipment and sources. With future use studies, we work closely with key stakeholders to retire equipment responsibly, repurpose where we can, and restore Michigan to protect the environment. We care for our communities and are committed to leaving it better than we found it.
Just like having a variety of food sources to provide enough energy to your body, we have a variety of electric generation sources. Our incremental and flexible transition to renewables is being done in phases to ensure our electric generation can meet our customers’ needs without overbuilding. Studies show the cost of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar have dropped significantly over the last decade – which supports affordability. Additionally, we purchase power from several in-state sources and participate in a multi-state, integrated energy market to help stabilize the electric grid. We competitively bid new electric generation supply to ensure the best value for our customers. With the peak demand day (hottest day of year) as our daily service goal, we are using software solutions to integrate, manage and coordinate electricity generated, including:
Ultimately, the transition to resilient renewable energy is also in support of a healthier planet for Michiganders.
Another part of our reliability is our people, who are Michiganders too, and we do more than just keep the energy flowing. While considering care for the environment, our people ensure that access to energy is fair and equitable for everyone. This includes extra sensitivity to vulnerable communities that may have greater difficulty during power interruptions due to fewer alternative resources.
We have hundreds of hometowns and it is likely that someone you know proudly works as part of our collaborative team to keep the lights on. Our team is always working as quickly and safely as possible to minimize impacts to electric service and natural gas, including working on planned outages overnight. We are proud of the dedication found in all our employees as they work diligently behind the scenes, in advance where we can, and responding with a moment’s notice at all hours to weather impacts.
We are grateful to the team members and their loved ones for the hours or even days in potentially hazardous situations. We are grateful for the collaboration that keeps everyone safe and informed. We are grateful for the outages we never see.
We are grateful for you and the around-the-clock community effort to manage energy responsibly through:
The proof is in the numbers that show all our combined efforts and continued investments in the grid are paying off. Planned outages for maintenance and upgrades when demand is low prevent longer, unplanned outages in the future. Our results prove that we are not only getting better at preventing outages, but also restoring power faster:
And we are not just focused on our portion of Michigan’s electric grid, as one of the nation’s largest natural gas distribution companies, we are also investing millions towards more resilient materials and upgrades to our natural gas infrastructure. These natural gas reliability investments also support Michigan’s growth and contain opportunities to aid in affordability to our customers. For example, on average, we are paying 60% less for natural gas than a decade ago. Since you are only charged the amount we pay for the supply of natural gas, this means you are paying less too.
The time it takes to reach our goals will depend on several factors, including continued investment to strengthen the grid, technological advances and support from key stakeholders. Regulators will consider the critical infrastructure investments outlined in our plans incrementally over the course of many years. We appreciate your patience and support. We will continue to keep you informed about our progress along the way via direct mail, email and online.
With our standards for reliability changing for the better, our number one focus remains the same – doing what is right for our neighbors today and the generations to come. As Michigan’s largest energy provider of natural gas and/or electricity to 6.8 million of the state’s 10 million residents, in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties, there will always be areas to improve. We have been providing service and adapting to changes in the world for over 130 years, creating an electric grid that is built to last. Whether we are in the air, traveling the land above or underground, or on the water, know that you can count on us – the people of Consumers Energy.