gas fire

(Photo: Lauren Barthold/WWJ)

State Gives Recommendations To Avoid Repeat Of Natural Gas Debacle

Michiganders were asked to turn down their thermostats in January.

August 07, 2019 - 5:01 pm

WWJ -- The state is giving tips to Michigan energy companies in hopes of avoiding what happened back in January when Arctic temperatures settled over Michigan.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan State Police and Consumers Energy asked residents to turn their thermostats down on one of the coldest days of the year following an explosion and fire at a compressor facility in Macomb County's Ray Township that caused a shortage of natural gas across the state.

Michigan Public Service Commission Chair Sally Talberg says officials have come up with 36 recommendations of how to avoid a similar debacle in the future. The recommendations were shared with a joint State Senate and House Energy Committee on Wednesday morning.

A lot of the recommendations center around planning and looking ahead.

"We also called for integrated electricity system planning, we have the new integrated resource planning process that was set forth in the 2016 energy laws,
 Talberg told WWJ. "Separately, we’re looking at distribution planning, which is dealing with a lot of the power outages and aging equipment, poles, wires, substations and things of that nature."

Talberg says utilities have to improve their response times to interrupted service, especially during emergency situations.

The debacle in January came at a time when temperatures were dipping more than 10 degrees below zero, with wind chills making the cold even more extreme. The direction to lower thermostats across the state was put in place for more than 36 hours and was met with resistance by many Michiganders.

Other recommendations include improving response when demand is high, contingency planning if Enbridge Line 5 is shut down and developing cyber security rules.

"We have customers that cycle the air conditioning, but in January, that doesn’t help. So some of it’s just requirements and addressing that to make sure it’s serving, year-round, the needs that we have," she said.