Consumers Energy is making use of the latest technologies to improve customer electric reliability, from new covers on equipment inside electric substations that keep animals away to modern communication devices that quickly locate outages.
"Our Promise to Michigan is delivering the energy you need whenever you need it," said Mary Palkovich, the company's vice president of energy delivery. "This continued investment in electric reliability upgrades using the best tools and technology available in our industry has already resulted in fewer and shorter power outages."
Consumers Energy spent more than $100 million to improve electric reliability in 2013. Investment in this area of nearly $400 million over the past five years has improved electric reliability, with some 100,000 fewer customer interruptions in 2013 compared to 2012, excluding major storms.
Examples of reliability projects underway or being studied include:
- Installing custom-fitted covers on equipment inside electric substations, where power voltage is stepped down and then delivered to nearby homes and businesses. These are currently being tested in the Flint area. The covers prevent animals, such as squirrels and raccoons, from coming into contact with electrical equipment and causing power outages. Consumers Energy has already taken steps around substation perimeters to keep out animals. Data shows a 50 percent reduction in animal-caused substation outages in the six-month period of January through June from 2012 to 2014.
- Using additional high-tech communications equipment to track power flow and remotely operate equipment. This equipment is being expanded beyond Consumers Energy's high-voltage power system to its low-voltage distribution system. The improvements enable system control personnel to monitor power within a substation and to remotely operate equipment. In many cases, this reduces the need to send employees out to manually operate equipment within one of Consumers Energy's 1,200 substations, reducing the duration of power outages. These improvements are being made on both new and rebuilt substations. Work is ongoing across Michigan this summer. Among the scheduled July projects are several substations in Muskegon, Jackson, Gratiot and Isabella counties. This new technology, along with power distribution automation work between the substation and customers, is expected to eventually combine with smart meter data to detect electric interruptions at a customer's home or business, further reducing the time to restore power.
"Our goal is to continually decrease the number and length of customer interruptions," Palkovich said. "Advances in technology are certainly a great help in improving electric reliability."