Regulators list energy improvements needed after January polar vortex

Gov. Gretchen Whiter tweeted this photo of her thermostat set to 64 after a request from Consumers Energy to reduce natural gas use. (courtesy of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer)
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LANSING, Mich. (AP) (7/1/2019) - Regulators say Michigan's energy supply and delivery systems are adequate to meet demand, but improvements should be made after extreme winter weather led to electric and natural gas emergencies.

The Michigan Public Service Commission on Monday submitted an initial 247-page energy assessment to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who requested it after the Jan. 30 to 31 polar vortex.

Regulators say Michigan's diverse energy-generation resources, including access to natural gas storage, can accommodate extreme weather events.

But they recommend rule updates, better emergency-management communications and changes such as prioritizing home heating over electric generation when natural gas usage is curtailed.

In January, a fire at Consumers Energy's Ray Compressor Station in Macomb County sparked concerns about keeping natural gas flowing to millions of people during a snap of bitterly cold temperatures and at a time of record demand.

Temperatures plunged to 25-year lows that week, with one day when the high temperature failed to reach zero degrees.

Large factories, including Nexteer in Buena Vista Township and the General Motors complex in Flint, curtailed production at the request of Consumers Energy to reduce natural gas demand. Whitmer requested all Michigan residents turn their thermostats down to 64 degrees.

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