Apr 29, 2024 - News

Michigan has one of nation's least reliable power grids

Share of major power outages attributed to extreme weather
Data: Climate Central via U.S. Department of Energy; Note: Major power outages affect at least 50K customers or interrupt service of 300 megawatts or more; Outage events can cross state lines; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Michigan is a national outlier for its number of major power outages since 2000, a new report from nonprofit research and communications group Climate Central found.

Why it matters: Electricity outages will become more common as extreme weather events — many driven by climate change — wreak havoc on the country's aging power infrastructure.

  • Outages and lengthy restoration times can cost the economy billions of dollars.

The big picture: While the South and Southeast have experienced the most extreme weather-related power outages during the past two decades, Michigan (174) has experienced more major power outages than any state other than Texas (264).

  • 90.2% of the local outages were attributed to extreme weather, while southern states like Alabama and Georgia blame outages on extreme weather nearly 99% of the time.

The intrigue: The states with the most reported weather-related significant power outages during the 23-year time frame were Texas, Michigan, California, North Carolina and Ohio, according to the report.

  • Researchers found that long-duration outages, which most frequently affected socially and medically vulnerable populations, tended to occur in Arkansas, Louisiana and Michigan.

What they're saying: "Climate Central sees the increase in power outages as being related to the increase in extreme weather," said Jen Brady, a researcher at Climate Central and the report's main author.

Between the lines: There's pressure on lawmakers to increase accountability for utility companies like DTE and Consumers Energy after power outages and to stop taking their money despite poor performance — among the worst in the country.

  • DTE says its latest $456 million rate hike request, which would mean an increase of around $11 to customers' bills, will fund infrastructure spending to improve reliability and decrease outages.
  • The utility company wants to install devices to pinpoint where power outages occur. Those could reduce power outages by 30% and cut outage time in half, DTE says. Each pinpoint device costs $100,000 — the utility plans to install 10,000 across its grid.
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