Consumers Energy asks residents continue reducing power until Friday

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Consumers Energy has asked residents to continue conserving energy until Friday morning.

The request follows a fire at a compression plant in Macomb that occurred Wednesday, which knocked out three plants. While officials were unsure about the cause of the fire, they thanked the public for its response to lowering their thermostats

"I understand that people are angry about this, I would be too," said Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe. "We plan for these extreme conditions. We had enough gas available."

What Consumers didn't plan for was the incapacitation of the Ray compressor station. At the time, the energy provider was distributing 3.3 billion cubic feet of gas throughout the state - a record for Consumers Energy. 

The company made the request for residents to lower their thermostats to 65 degrees last night, after discussing the situation with Governor Whitmer. Poppe said after the alert was sent, they saw a 10 percent reduction in use.

"It was a gamechanger for us overnight," she said.

The request to lower thermostats extended beyond just Consumers Energy customers. Explaining the system of pipes throughout the state is all connected, any reduction in usage from residents would help ease the burden on the provider.

On a typical winter day, Poppe said demand for energy averages about 2.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas. While yesterday's demand exceeded any previous peak Consumers has experienced, they were prepared for demand to grow to 3.7 billion cubic feet Thursday morning. 

"We could have handled 3.7 billion. We just couldn't overcome the failure of the equipment," said Poppe.

The compression plant, which the senior vice president of operations said essentially "moves gas from storage to the customers," had just received upgrades as part of the company's macro plan to provide the most reliable service.

Despite the upgrades, a failure at one of their 15 plants rendered unable to move gas to customers. That's when a safeguard system kicked in that closed off any gas from moving forward, and vented it into the air instead. While officials were able to restore one of the three plants at the site, the company still made the decision to ask customers to curtail usage. 

"We may never know if you took the action we requested, but we will forever be grateful that you did," said Poppe. 

In a concurrent meeting headed by Governor Whitmer, officials discussed what was to happen next at the state of emergency roundtable update.

"I know Michiganders are tough," said Whitmer. "I know that weather hardly fazes us usually, but this is an unusual time and I think these were smart decisions to make."