Michigan commission orders audit of DTE, Consumers Energy power outage, safety compliance

(CBS DETROIT) – The Michigan Public Service Commission on Wednesday ordered an audit of DTE Energy and Consumers Energy in response to the public’s frustration with widespread and extended power outages.

According to a press release, MPSC ordered the companies to report their compliance with regulations and commission orders about their responses to outages and downed power lines following severe storms. 

The report must be filed by Nov. 4.

Most recently, a storm and high winds on Aug. 29 resulted in nearly 500,000 residents being without power.

Both companies are directed to report their compliance with previous MSPC orders initiated after severe storms in August 2021 that left nearly a million without power. 

The commission directs the companies to explain in detail:  

  • How their downed wire response audits are performed, to verify that the utilities are responding in a consistent manner that complies with regulatory requirements and company procedures.
  • How technologies are being used to improve detection of downed wires, to help the Commission better understand the detection system and what improvements can be made to improve public safety.
  • How technologies used to monitor and control the power grid, including advanced distribution management systems, advanced metering and other sensors, perform during outages, and what impacts outage-related loss of data from these sensors may have on restoration and storm recovery.
  • How critical facilities, ranging from hospitals to schools, are identified and prioritized for restoration of service after an outage, to help the Commission examine potential improvements such as installation of microgrids that could provide redundancy to preserve electric service.
  • Their efforts to engage in public outreach, education and training of the public and first responders on the dangers of downed power lines, and on improvements to these efforts given the large-scale outage and downed-wire events in 2021 and 2022.

“These actions represent a new approach to the MPSC’s work to hold the state’s two largest electric utilities to account for persistent reliability and safety challenges,” MPSC Chair Dan Scripps said in a statement. 

MSPC is also directing its staff to hire a consultant to complete a third-party audit and review of the companies’ electric distribution system, such as equipment and operations with the focus of reducing power outages.

“Over the past decade the MPSC has issued a series of directives in response to wide-spread outages after storms,” Scripps said. “While there are important efforts underway, the reality is that we still haven’t seen the improvements in reliability and safety that Michigan customers deserve. This effort to get an independent assessment of the utilities’ distribution infrastructure, programs, and processes will inform next steps and provide a necessary path forward to a power grid that meets the expectations of its customers.”

Officials say the audit will be funded by the utilities, pursuant to state law.

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