Update on Distribution Grid Modernization Work at the Michigan PSC

Update on Distribution Grid Modernization Work at the Michigan PSC


The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) is nearing the end of its process to update its approach to distribution grid planning ahead of the next deadline in June of 2021 for utilities to file their plans on how they will maintain and upgrade the grid. Michigan EIBC has been heavily involved in these efforts since the passage of Michigan’s revised energy laws in 2016. In many rounds of comments, we have advocated for changes that would enhance grid modernization, taking advantage of distributed energy, energy storage, demand response, energy efficiency, and data availability. For example, we’ve advocated that non-wires alternatives should be on equal footing with infrastructure spending when determining how to upgrade the grid and that hosting capacity data should be publicly available to help communities, developers, and customers assess potential projects (See this blog post from last year for more details).

The MPSC staff recently released a report summarizing input from various stakeholders, setting up the commissioners to begin determining what to require in the 2021 distribution grid plans. In comments filed on the staff’s report, Michigan EIBC and Advanced Energy Economy urged the commissioners to take strong actions that will require utilities to give distributed energy a seat at the table in grid planning.

These include:

-Make hosting capacity analysis a standard feature of utility distribution grid plans. Hosting capacity refers to the amount of power capacity each node of the grid can support. Making information about hosting capacity across the grid publicly available would give renewable project developers, communities, and customers more information about the grid in advance of making project decisions or investments. Instead of mere pilot programs that would lead to geographically-limited information, require utilities to move toward full implementation of hosting capacity in a phased manner.

-Require utilities to make distributed energy a core component of their grid upgrade plans. Doing so would include sophisticated analysis of how the growth of rooftop solar and other forms of distributed energy are affecting utility load profiles on a granular level across the grid. Ultimately, the utility should have enough information to determine where grid infrastructure projects are not needed because distributed energy has eased the strain on the grid.

-Increase transparency in the distribution system planning process, for example by providing distribution system information to customers, regulators, and third parties.

-Require utilities to utilize a customer-centric distribution planning process that uses dynamic load forecasting of distributed energy resources and competitive bidding to source grid solutions at the lowest cost.

The next round of distribution grid plans from Consumers Energy and DTE are due June 30, 2021.