Electricity powers our lives, so customers expect reliable electric service rain, shine or ice. However, Mother Nature is known to pack a punch even we can’t avoid, so when outages do occur our team works around the clock until power is restored.
So, what causes outages and what are we doing to improve our reliability for the 1.9 million Michiganders who depend on energy? A lot!
We own and maintain more than 96,000 miles of electric lines – enough to circle the globe along the equator nearly four times! Luckily, advancements in technology have made it easier than ever to find and fix problems.
Since 2020, our engineers, line crews and everyone in between increased our efforts to meet your expectations. After evaluating all 60,000 miles of low-voltage distribution electric lines – the primary source of outages – and using years of data, we prioritized work to fix the circuits with the most significant outage history first. And it’s working — the circuits we upgraded through 2022 saw an average outage frequency reduction of more than 70%!
One of the greatest things about Michigan is the variety of seasons and abundance of nature. However, these things we all love also lead to strong winds, ice and animal contact events that can lead to unplanned outages. In fact, fallen trees and branches from extreme weather accounts for 33% of outages system wide. Even after a storm passes and power is restored, weakened limbs can fall on a calm, blue sky day weeks or months later.
In addition, sometimes equipment fails and it may take a few hours for us to repair or replace the troublesome technology. Or we may need to perform maintenance or upgrades that requires us to turn off power for a short time. In these cases, we try to give customers a heads up in advance and schedule the work when it could cause the least disruption to customers.
To help combat outages caused by trees, we are clearing tree limbs from about 7,000 miles of electric lines each year. In the process, we do our best to balance the need to provide reliable service with the health and appearance of the trees.
We are also upgrading and modernizing our power grid to give it the ability to “self-heal.” Have you ever had your power go out and then come back on again a few seconds later? That’s usually this technology, Automatic Transfer Reclosers, at work. With a smart power grid, we can limit duration and frequency of outages.
We’re also proactively making upgrades all year round, such as adding barriers to protect critters, replacing older poles with sturdier material and expanding substations to meet increased demands for growing communities.
Most customers, about 99%, have power more than 99% of the time. Most losses of power to homes and businesses are considered momentary, meaning they last fewer than five minutes.
For those that exceed five minutes, the duration often depends on the reason behind the outage, the safety of our lineworkers and extent of any damage. With storms that take out more than 100,000 customers, it can be hard to know how bad it is until our crews can physically evaluate the scene.
These factors also can impact the estimated time of restoration – especially early in the storm. Our team does our best to ensure accuracy, but the unpredictability of storms can quickly shift plans as we respond.
No, cell phones are powered via battery and therefore are unaffected by power outages. However, you will be unable to recharge your device during an outage and should conserve the battery. The ability to make calls depends on the cell towers and if they were affected by the outage.
If you have a communicating meter, or smart meter, we may know your power is out before you do. Combined with the sensor technology on our system, we can see exactly where and when most outages are happening at any given time.
The easiest way to report an outage is to use our online Report your Outage tool. You can also call us at 800-477-5050 to report your power outage. When you call you can choose to use our automated system or speak to a Customer Service Representative. Please be prepared to provide the specific address or location of the outage so our crews can get there as quickly as possible.
Many of our notifications are triggered by restoration of the larger circuit that serves you. If the area around you gets power back and you don’t, or if you are notified your power is restored and it’s not, let us know. There may be a secondary cause creating an outage for fewer customers on the same circuit.
If you see a downed wire, please call 9-1-1 and then call us at 800-477-5050. Stay safe: never approach a downed wire, including anything it touches like water, trees, fences or vehicles – you should always assume any power line is live and dangerous.
When bad weather is predicted, make sure you are ready. Charge phones, make sure you have water and food that doesn’t need to be cooked, grab flashlights and verify you have gas in your vehicle and generator, if you have one.
While we’re talking about generators and safety, make sure you read the manual before using it and never run it inside, near doors or windows or next to an air intake. A generator should be as far away from the home as possible. If you begin to feel flu-like symptoms or sleepy, you could be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be deadly and impossible to notice without a CO detector. Immediately turn off your generator and exit the building and call 9-1-1.
Visit our blog to learn more about the ongoing efforts to improve the reliability and resiliency of our electric system.