LANSING, Mich. — A Michigan House task force to investigate winter power outages will hold its first hearing June 9, with further sessions expected through the summer.
Rep. Helena Scott (D), chair of the House Energy, Communications and Technology Committee, said the newly formed Energy Reliability, Resilience and Accountability Task Force was created in part to hear from residents across the state who lost power in February and early March, in some cases for more than a week. While the committee held a hearing some months ago about the outages, many people were unable to attend that session in Lansing, Scott said.
The task force’s “Dependable Energy Listening Tour” will include hearings in both the Upper and Lower Peninsula to hear from as many people as possible who were affected by the outages.
Scott also said the task force will also look at how to upgrade the current transmission system by 2035, improving overall state oversight of its grid infrastructure and ensuring it takes less time to restore power after outages.
At the previous hearing, top executives of DTE Energy (NYSE: DTE) and CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS) outlined problems they encountered in trying to restore electric service. Almost 1 million customers were affected, mostly DTE and CMS customers.
Since the hearing, the state Public Service Commission has also adopted new rules tightening requirements on utilities to refund larger amounts to affected customers and setting new standards on restoring power in blackouts. (See Mich. PSC OKs Higher Outage Credits, Stricter Requirements for Restoring Power.)
The first hearing held by the bipartisan, nine-member task force will be in Lansing at the Anderson House Office Building. A schedule for other hearings has not yet been published.
A group of 14 environmental, climate change and utility activists issued a statement praising the new task force, saying Michigan has relied on coal and other polluting energy sources for too long. “We must begin creating the ‘grid of the future’ now,” the statement said.
Responding to the task force, CMS spokesperson Katie Carey said the utility has as a “top priority” to “strengthen our system in the face of intensifying storms caused by climate change. In order to do that, we file electric distribution plans with the Michigan Public Service Commission which show where we are replacing poles, wires, upgrading substations, undergrounding power lines, increased tree trimming and new technology to benefit customers by having fewer, shorter and less frequent power outages. We will work with this group on the overall goal to continue our efforts to create meaningful, positive change for the planet and for Michigan.”
DTE has also said it is increasing tree trimming and taking other measures to reduce the likelihood of blackouts and reduce the time to takes to restore power.