Michigan energy assessment released

Commission to accept comments until Aug. 9

MARQUETTE — Michigan residents, businesses and other organizations concerned with the adequacy of electric, natural gas and propane delivery systems across the state have until Aug. 9 to submit comments to the Michigan Public Service Commission.

The MPSC has submitted preliminary results of its Statewide Energy Assessment to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who requested the study as the result of an extremely cold winter that was compounded by a fire at a Consumers Energy Co. natural gas compressor station in Macomb County on Jan. 30.

According to an SEA fact sheet, the extreme weather — with temperatures dropping below minus-25 degrees — and energy emergency events during Jan. 30-31 “challenged the natural gas and electric systems in Michigan,” causing unplanned electric outages and “historically high” natural gas demand, which was compounded by the failure of critical natural gas infrastructure.

The net result of the two emergencies led Michigan’s largest utilities to request “conservation measures,” and a statewide appeal, including a text message alert from the Michigan State Police, to conserve natural gas.

“This winter, Michigan faced some extreme weather conditions, especially during the polar vortex,” Whitmer said in the MPSC release. “Moving forward, this report will help to inform our next steps in assuring all Michiganders have reliable access to energy when they need it at home, at school and at work.”

The report found the state’s energy supply and delivery systems are “adequate to meet customer needs” but also contains dozens of recommendations to add resiliency to Michigan’s energy systems.

The recommendations include examining options to expand electrical between the upper and lower peninsulas and with neighboring states; work with stakeholders to understand the value of having a supply of diverse resources to make more informed decisions related to power plant development; enact rules for cybersecurity and incident reporting for natural gas utilities; develop a formal contingency plan for the continued supply and delivery of propane or other energy alternatives in the event of supply disruptions, including a temporary or permanent shutdown of Line 5; and continue to solicit market information from propane suppliers and create an annual retail propane survey to both monitor market trends and gain insight.

“Michigan is not immune to experiencing climate extremes,” the report states in part. “As a state with more than 75 percent of the residential population reliant upon natural gas for home heating and 24 percent of in-state electric generation fueled by natural gas, the potential impact of energy emergencies is significant.”

Comments on the initial report can be emailed to mpscedockets@michigan.gov or mailed to Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909; all communications should reference Case No. U-20464.

More information on the assessment is available on the MPSC search page at mi-psc.force.com/s/ referencing Case No. U-20464.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242, or lbowers@miningjournal.net.

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