Are We Ready?April 12, 2022
By Karen Dybis
Power outages, electric vehicles, climate change: Michigan’s power grid faces major challenges as state officials and companies look to answer the question residents most want to know: Are we ready?
Time may be the biggest test for DTE, ITC Holdings and Consumers Energy, officials said, considering how important energy is to the state’s growth and how much needs to happen in a tight window.
“We’re up against the clock,” said Linda Apsey, president and chief executive officer of ITC Holdings. “It takes seven to ten years to plan and build the necessary transmission to help meet our renewable energy goals and ensure continued reliability. At a time when extreme weather events are more frequent and our state’s generation portfolio is transitioning away from traditional resources to renewable energy, we simply have no time to waste in expanding our transmission system.”
MODERNIZING THE GRID AND ADDING RESILIENCY
DTE, ITC and Consumers agree: The projects they collectively have will create key infrastructure advancements. For example, ITC is working with officials to determine future demand when it comes to electric vehicle (EV) charging and electrification of residential, commercial, and industrial processes, Apsey said.
Safety also matters. To help monitor, analyze and protect the grid, ITC created a proprietary state-of-the-art fiber communications network allowing it to analyze grid security, create a reliable flow of power and provide information for a more “dynamic and intelligent grid,” Apsey said.
At DTE, “we are putting our customers first when we plan for a modernized grid,” said Sharon Pfeuffer, DTE’s vice president of distribution engineering.
“In the short term, we are focusing on work that can give us greater reliability and resiliency in the face of the unusual storm patterns we saw last summer. Our Tree Trim, Pole Top Maintenance and Customer Excellence programs are examples that are supporting all of our customers,” Pfeuffer said.
For the long term, Pfeuffer said DTE created a distribution grid plan, which it filed with the Michigan Service Commission last fall. It is a 10- to 15-year vision that includes adding another 700 megawatts of distribution capacity to the grid, and investing in additional grid hardware, software, and analytics that will support customers’ energy choices.
ELIMINATING COAL FASTER THAN PLANNED
Consumers Energy President and chief executive officer Garrick J. Rochow said his company seeks to be a leader in addressing climate change and designing “a cutting-edge electric distribution system.”
“Actions matter, which is why we recently announced to eliminate coal as a fuel source for electricity by 2025 – 15 years faster than originally planned,” Rochow said. “This will also help us achieve 60% emissions reductions by 2025 – faster than President Biden’s goal – and on the path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. The plan will make the company one of the first in the nation to go coal-free.”
Having a more modern power grid will also help Consumers deliver more reliable electricity, Rochow said. One way it will do this is through automation loops.
“They greatly reduce the duration of customer outages by detecting nearby outages and then automatically reconfigure the electric grid to restore power to customers within seconds, without the need to dispatch crews,” Rochow said. “In 2021, this technology has avoided over 24 million customer outage minutes and prevented more than 27,000 outages.”
POWERING 1 MILLION EVS BY 2030
Consumers also wants to power Michigan’s EV transformation, Rochow said, with the goal “to power 1 million EVs in the communities we serve by 2030.”
“EVs are good for people, the planet and Michigan’s prosperity,” Rochow said. “EVs are becoming more affordable, and they cost less to run than cars with internal combustion engines. They’re powered by a cleaner energy grid. And they will help Michigan’s automakers lead their industry for the next century.”•
Karen Dybis a freelance writer in Metro Detroit.