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

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) is ordering DTE Energy and Consumers Energy to report their power outage and safety compliance as the commission begins the process of auditing the companies.

Wednesday's order comes after late August storms that knocked power out for hundreds of thousands of people for days. The storms also resulted in a 14-year-old girl's death when she came in contact with a downed power line. Two boys were hurt by downed wires in Warren, as well.

"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. "Over the past decade the MPSC has issued a series of directives in response to wide-spread outages after storms. 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."

MPSC staff will hire a consultant to perform an independent third-party audit and review of Consumers and DTE's electric distribution system, including all equipment and operation. The goal is to reduce the number and length of power outages, while improving safety.

According to the commission, the order comes a year after a case that resulted in more aggressive tree trimming and vegetation management.

The commission is directing Consumers and DTE 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.