Fix the Damn Grid
Michigan’s poor energy reliability is the crisis few are talking about
Michigan has some of the worst energy reliability in America.
While the evidence of Michigan’s poor roads is underneath our feet, everywhere we drive, spotty energy reliability can feel like it’s someone else’s problem.
Until it isn’t. Until the power outage is on your block, on the coldest or hottest day of the year, with no timeline for restoration.
According to the Citizens Utility Board of Michigan, Michigan’s energy reliability is poor, regardless of weather.
Per the board’s 2021 Utility Performance Report, Michigan ranks fourth in the nation for average number of minutes of power outage per year per customer after a major weather event. And we’re sixth in average minutes per power outage per customer without a major event. The report uses 2019 data.
Michigan ranks third-worst in restoration time after major weather events, and third-worst when there’s an outage without major weather events.
Not only is Michigan not prepared for a world where one-third of new vehicles are EVs, it’s ill-prepared to deliver reliable electricity now, today, under current conditions.
One part of the solution, increased tree-trimming, is simple. But it’s not easy, and it doesn’t produce any revenue.
The premature shift from reliable energy sources to renewables is another part of the problem, said Jason Hayes, the Mackinac Center’s director of environmental policy.
“Tree trimming is part of it, but also, we're starting to spend more on renewables, and we’re closing the big reliable plants,” Hayes told CapCon. “Both utilities, Consumers and DTE, have closed several big reliable plants in the last five to seven years. So that’s beginning to have an impact on reliability as well.”
Regardless of the weather, Michigan has an unreliable grid. Our power goes out at higher rates than it does in other places, and it stays out longer. Michigan ranked 11th in the cost of residential energy.
Your utility bills probably went up recently. Are you getting what you’ve paid for?
In Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s first term, she failed to Fix the Damn Roads. She’ll try again next year, and this time won’t have to negotiate with a Republican Legislature.
The promise Whitmer hasn’t made, but needs to, is to Fix the Damn Grid. Keep trimming trees and stop undermining reliable sources of energy. Treat Line 5 as essential. Treat renewables as an addition, not a replacement, until they are ready for prime time.
In the meantime, Hayes advises, be prepared for when the lights go out.
“Have an alternative heating source,” Hayes said. “Invest in a generator.”
James David Dickson is managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.