DETROIT (Michigan News Source) – After Michigan endured some very challenging winter storms in February, DTE Energy and other energy providers have faced backlash after some customers were without power for extended periods of time.
More than 620,000 customers across Michigan were without power for several days, before a subsequent storm left more than 200,000 Michiganders without power. The company’s CEO and President Jerry Norcia took time to answer some questions regarding the company’s past struggles and future plans with the Detroit News. Some of the issues that resulted in customers struggling without power came from power grid complications.
According to Norcia, the company is experiencing a “pretty historic investment period” as well as transformation in several areas of the business.
“First, it’s really building a grid of the future and a grid that can handle weather patterns that have been worsening for 10 years, but I would say in the last handful of years it’s become even more severe,” he said, “And I can talk a little more about that as we start talking about the grid. So that’s fundamental transformation.”
A large component of the development of the grid includes “grid hardening” which mainly means new equipment according to Norcia.
“Basically, some of the fundamental rebuild of the system that we think is going to last for another 50 to 70 years,” he said, “But that was the second thing that we did in a fundamental way as we look forward. And by the way, that $5.5 billion, roughly, that we put into the grid over the last five years, would have been almost double what we did in the prior five years before that. And now as we look forward to the next five years, we’re looking to invest about $9 billion into the grid.”
Norcia was asked about whether the recent $5 billion investments in the grid over the past five years had any impact.
“It had significant impact,” he said according to the Detroit News, “If you think about what happened in February, half an inch to three quarters of an inch of ice were on the trees and wires. At the end of that ice storm, about 84% of our customers still had power, so a good portion of the grid held up extremely well and had basically flawless operation through that storm.”
He also responded to questions regarding when the grid would be fully storm proof.
“I don’t know if the above ground system can be 100% storm proof, but what I will tell you is that we will be best in class in a five-to-seven-year time period as we automate the system, continue fundamental investments, get replacements for other equipment and rebuild the old system,” he said, “When EVs become dominant, which we believe will start happening later this decade and the early end of the next decade, we will have a good portion of our old system replaced and can take the pounding from the weather as well as take on the demand that EV systems will bring.”
With the future looking to be more and more populated with EVs, DTE is striving to adjust to meet that need, which includes increasing the number of charging stations from the approximately 50,000 presently on the grid.
With the many present and upcoming updates, Norcia was asked when he expected the next rate increases.
“We are in the process right now, and I would say we’ve got a commission and an administration that’s been very supportive of us making these investments,” he said. We’d like to settle with the intervenors and we’re working really hard towards that goal. I think its fundamental that Michigan have a high quality, flawless grid and the move to more modern technologies to produce power.”
Eventually, transforming Michigan’s 10-12% automated grid to a fully automated one.