The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) recently released a one-year status report on its MI Power Grid initiative launched last fall in partnership with Governor Gretchen Whitmer to help guide Michigan residents and businesses through the rapid changes in the energy industry as it transitions to clean, distributed energy.
MI Power Grid is a multiyear effort to maximize the benefits of Michigan's transition from large, centrally-located electricity plants to smaller clean, distributed energy resources (DERs), such as solar, battery storage, and energy efficiency. The initiative has three areas of emphasis: customer engagement, integrating emerging technologies, and optimizing grid performance and investments.
One year in, MPSC staff and hundreds of stakeholders on seven MI Power Grid workgroups have conducted 32 stakeholder meetings. The efforts have resulted in five reports with recommendations for commission action and the commission has issued 10 orders related to MI Power Grid, with more expected by the end of 2020.
"The MPSC staff and hundreds of stakeholders have been meeting regularly, through the pandemic, to make progress on ensuring Michigan has a modernized, adaptable regulatory environment that makes the best of the clean energy transition," MPSC Chair Dan Scripps said. "I want to thank all the stakeholders involved in MI Power Grid, which is laying critical groundwork for Michigan's energy future."
MI Power Grid's first-year highlights include the following Phase I activities:
- The Interconnection Standards and Worker Safety Workgroup drafted revised interconnection standards governing how electric generation projects owned primarily by developers or customers connect to a utility's distribution system. The draft rules are under review by the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules and the Legislative Service Bureau. Once approved, the MPSC will issue an order initiating a formal comment process on the draft rules in 2021.
- The Electric Distribution Planning Workgroup developed recommendations for the next round of utility distribution plans addressing utilities' long-term strategies for distribution system investments. The commission provided several clarifications and directives regarding future distribution plans in its Aug. 20, 2020, order. The next round of electric distribution plans must be filed by Consumers Energy Co., DTE Energy Co., and Indiana Michigan Power Co. in August and September 2021.
- The Grid Security and Reliability Standards Workgroup was established to investigate and provide recommendations for updating the rules for Service Quality and Reliability Standards for Electric Distribution Systems and the Technical Standards for Electric Service. This workgroup's role also includes recommendations for improving utility cybersecurity and protection of customer data. Initial MPSC staff reports, available on the workgroup's webpage, were filed July 31, 2020, and final recommendations are due Dec. 15, 2020.
- The Demand Response Workgroup was directed to work with stakeholders to develop recommendations for improving future performance of demand response, in which utility customers reduce or shift their energy use to ease strain on the electric grid, following inadequate performance during the 2019 polar vortex energy emergency in Michigan. Staff filed its report and recommendations to the commission on July 31, 2020, and the commission is expected to issue further direction in an upcoming order this year.
- The Energy Programs and Technology Pilots Workgroup was directed to investigate and propose recommendations for best practices in utility pilot programs. Staff issued its report and recommendations on Sept. 30, 2020. The commission, in an upcoming order, is expected to offer additional direction for the staff and utilities.
While the work involved in Phase I is nearing completion, the commission also has begun work on Phase II.
The second phase of MI Power Grid's Advanced Planning Processes will focus on the Integration of Resource/Distribution/Transmission Planning activities through May 2021 and is expected, through an upcoming commission order, to develop recommendations for incorporating Governor Whitmer's MI Healthy Climate Plan's carbon-reduction goals into utility integrated resource planning requirements by the end of 2020.
In addition, the Competitive Procurement Workgroup is developing Competitive Procurement Guidelines to ensure a strong, technology-neutral market response and value for ratepayers through transparency, non-discriminatory access, certainty, and fairness in bidding processes. Stakeholder meetings are underway and will continue through the first quarter of 2021, after which staff will submit a final guidance document for the commission's consideration.
The recent staff report also submitted a number of recommendations for the commission, including issuing orders to incorporate two recently adopted Michigan Senate resolutions into MI Power Grid's workgroups. Senate Resolution 142 asks the MPSC to conduct a study on "alternative and innovative rate design options for Michigan's electric customers," while Senate Resolution 143 urges the MPSC to "study the potential opportunity to integrate customer-owned generation resources into the electric grid."
Staff also recommends the commission use a MI Power Grid workgroup to evaluate the impact of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) Order 2222, which requires regional transmission organizations to establish tariffs allowing aggregators of DERs to participate in wholesale markets. Staff also recommended that the commission consider ordering staff to submit a second status report during the third quarter of 2021 and extending the deadline for the MI Power Grid final report until 2022 to allow for adequate time for stakeholder efforts, staff review and recommendations, and commission action on MI Power Grid's remaining work areas.