Consumer's Energy

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Heavy snow is blanketing parts of Michigan that just recovered from an ice storm two weeks ago.

Hundreds of thousands of utility customers spent days, in some cases nearly two weeks, without electricity.

“At this point we’re monitoring, and ready to respond, depending on what weather may come,” says Dan Bishop, a Consumers Energy spokesman.

Statewide, utility officials are closely watching to see if weather conditions may threaten to undo the repair work done over the past few weeks.

Consumer's Energy

About 150 thousand Michigan utility customers have spent another cold day waiting for their electricity to be restored.    

Sunday’s ice storm left almost a half million Michigan homes and businesses without electricity. 

As of midday, approximately 125,000 Consumer’s Energy customers were still without electricity.  About 20,000 DTE Energy customers and 7,000 Lansing Board of Water & Light customers were still in the dark as well.

Debra Dodd is a Consumer’s Energy spokeswoman.  She says linemen are doing the best job they can in very cold conditions.

Consumer's Energy

About 250,000 Michigan homes and businesses remain without power after a weekend ice storm that blacked out at least 482,000 homes and businesses and may have caused a Delta jetliner with 180 people on board to slide off a taxiway at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

The wintry blast hit Saturday night. The utilities say it will be days before most power is restored because of the difficulty of working around ice-broken lines.

DTE Energy says 56,000 of its affected 150,000 customers were off line.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It will be Saturday at least before electricity is restored to all the Michigan homes and businesses that lost power in Sunday’s ice storm.

The storm knocked out power to almost a half million Michiganders.  About 300,000 are still waiting for their electricity to be turned back on. 

Brian Wheeler is a Consumers Energy spokesman.  He says about a third of the nearly 200,000 Consumers Energy customers without electricity are in Flint and Genesee County

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

UPDATE 8:06pm

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) - Winter has arrived in Michigan with an icy blast, sending freezing rain across a wide section of the Lower Peninsula, knocking out electrical service to at least 382,000 homes and businesses and causing multiple crashes around the state.

The state's largest utilities say it will be days before most of those blacked out get their power back because of the difficulty of working around ice-broken lines.

DTE

Consumers Energy and DTE linemen return to work today hoping to restore electricity to hundreds of thousands of Michigan utility customers left in the dark by Sunday’s windstorm.

At last report, DTE says it still has about 150,000 customers waiting to have their electricity turned back on.   Consumers Energy has more than 170,000 of its customers waiting for their power to be restored.

Last night was not a good time to be without electricity. Temperatures around the state dipped below the freezing mark.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

After days of worry, demolition crews successfully brought down part of one downtown Jackson landmark without damaging another.

Demolition crews have spent months gutting the old Consumers Energy headquarters in Jackson.

But Thursday, part of the building started leaning precariously toward a century and a half old church next door.  First Congregational Church and other nearby buildings were evacuated as a precaution.

 

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Wolf hunting licenses may be delayed

Michigan wolf hunting licenses are expected to go on sale Saturday. But Ed Golder, Michigan's Department of Natural Resources public information officer, says that date may not work out because of high demand. When the wolf hunting licenses do go on sale, the state will sell up to twelve-hundred of them. The hunt is limited to six counties in the Upper Peninsula. Only 43 wolves will be allowed to be killed.

Energy assistance will help low-income families

State regulators have approved a 99-cent monthly fee to help low-income Michigan residents pay their energy bills and avoid losing electricity, natural gas, or propane. The charge applies to all customers, starting in September, unless a utility opts out of the program. The Michigan Public Service Commission says only a few so far have declined to participate.

According to the Associated Press, if a utility opts out of the program, it can't cut off power between November and April 15th. Michigan's largest utilities, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, plan to participate.

MI State Police cracking down on human trafficking

Michigan State Police say 10 teenage girls forced into prostitution have been rescued as part of a national crackdown. Detroit Sergeant Ed Price says the girls were removed from motels and other locations last week in Wayne, Genesee, Oakland and Macomb counties. According to the Associated Press, eighteen suspected pimps were arrested, although only one in Flint has been charged so far. The investigation is ongoing.

THETFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Consumers Energy is taking steps toward its planned 700-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in Michigan's Genesee County.

The Jackson-based utility filed Friday for approval of a certificate of necessity with the Michigan Public Service Commission. The filing is allowed under the state's energy reform law.

Chief Executive Officer John Russell says the filing establishes the plant "is in the best long-term interests of Michigan."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Consumers Energy meter readers may soon start making their rounds with a police escort.

The Jackson-based utility announced it is implementing a new aggressive dog policy.

Spokesman Roger Morgenstern says last year more than a dozen Consumers meter readers were attacked or threatened by dogs.

“The fact is this is the customer’s home. The customers have a right to have pets,” says Morgenstern, “So we’re hoping this would strike a right compromise.”

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Democrats announce budget priorities

State House Democrats announced a new set of priorities for the state budget yesterday.

“The Democrats’ plan calls for $1.5 billion in new spending on education, tax cuts for middle-class residents and seniors, and small business investments. They say they would pay for that partly by eliminating government waste and cutting corporate tax breaks,” Jake Neher reports.

Consultants recommend changes to Detroit city departments

A restructuring firm hired by the city of Detroit has presented two proposals to re-shape city departments to a city-state advisory board.

“One proposal would downsize the City Council, and make its members part-time. The other suggests ways to consolidate the Police Department,” Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek reports.

Safety violations at fault for natural gas explosion in Royal Oak

In a letter to state regulators, Consumers Energy said utility workers failed to follow company protocols in the lead-up to a deadly natural gas explosion in Royal Oak earlier this year.

“The utility says workers didn't follow procedures as they replaced a gas main near the house, and then left the area after smelling gas,” reports Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

U.S. Senator Carl Levin announced his retirement

Saying he wants to focus on his last two years in the Senate without the distraction of a campaign, Sen. Carl Levin announced he would not seek re-election in 2014.

The Washington Post wrote "don't let his rumpled suits or avuncular glasses fool you..."

Levin is ready for a fight.

The former civil-rights lawyer is famous for his deep policy knowledge - he spends more than 20 hours getting ready for hearings so he'll "know when the B.S. is flying," and he nailed George W. Bush administration officials with his precise questioning.
As Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Levin has spearheaded some key proposals on national security. He fought tirelessly to end the Iraq war, which he opposed from the start.

Flint tries to collect unpaid taxes

Flint is trying to cut into a $19 million budget deficit. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports the city hopes to collect on past taxes:

To chip away at part of that, city officials plan to pressure people who haven’t paid their city income taxes for a while. The city estimates that it’s owed between $300,000 and $400,000 in unpaid income taxes for just 2010.

Consumers Energy halts drilling practice after explosion

The Associated Press reports Consumers Energy says it has halted projects throughout Michigan that involve the same drilling method used before a deadly Detroit-area house explosion. Consumers Energy says employees and contractors are conducting a review of projects involving boring. Fifty-eight-year-old Daniel Malczynski died in the Royal Oak blast last month.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In Michigan, we get more than half of our electricity from coal.  All of that coal is imported from other states.

In a couple weeks, you’ll get a chance to weigh in on how we’ll use energy in the future.

When Governor Rick Snyder gave his Special Message on Energy and the Environment last fall, he said he wanted to hold forums around the state to talk about energy.

Michigan utilities sent hundreds of linemen to the East Coast last week to help restore electricity to areas hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.

Now Consumers Energy is sending two dozen workers to help restore natural gas service to parts of Long Island, New York.

Roger Morgenstern is a Consumers Energy spokesman.    He says restoring natural gas service presents a very different challenge than getting the lights back on after a storm.

Michigan utilities are making their own preparations for Hurricane Sandy.

The storm is expected to strike the East Coast later today, but the hurricane's outer bands are being felt as far west as Michigan.

“Well, right now we’re monitoring the storm….and seeing how it might impact our southeast Michigan service area,” says Scott Simon, a DE Energy spokesman.

DTE has already freed up about a hundred contract linemen to help restore electric power in the Mid-Atlantic States that are expected to take the brunt of Hurricane Sandy.

A pipeline that supplies much of Michigan's natural gas could be shut down ... and converted to carry crude oil. That's sparked a number of concerns from business and government.

Natural gas is plentiful and cheap right now.

That's why a Texas company filed a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission -- or FERC --  in July to shut down 770 miles of transmission lines across several states. It would either abandon them ... or eventually use the pipes to carry crude oil.

And that could affect how much a lot of people in Michigan will pay to heat their homes and businesses.

The pipeline owned by Trunkline Gas Company crosses into Branch County from Indiana. That's where Consumers Energy connects to it ... and distributes the natural gas to 45 counties in the Lower Peninsula.

Dan Bishop is a Consumers Energy spokesman. He says Consumers depends on Trunkline for 60 percent of the gas it supplies to 1.7 million customers in Michigan.

Michigan will get $90,000 from the US Department of Transportation to help prevent damage to underground pipelines. The federal agency announced the grant today. It's granting $1.5 million total to 22 states. The money will support advertising efforts for MISS DIG.

"The number one cause of pipeline damage is people excavating on their own property without knowing what’s underground," said Judy Palnau, a Michigan Public Service Commission spokeswoman. The MPSC applied for the grant.

The state's biggest electricity provider says customers who don't want a smart meter will have to pay extra for the privilege.

Smart meters use radio signals to allow two-way communication between a customer's residence and the utility.

The meters let utilities know immediately who has lost power, among other things.  The company will also be able to remotely shut off power and turn it back on. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

How hot was it today?

Hot enough for Consumers Energy to smash its all-time record for electricity demand.

DETROIT (AP) - Utility workers are battling high temperatures as they work to restore electricity to tens of thousands of Michigan homes and businesses without power following thunderstorms this week.

DTE Energy said early Saturday about 45,000 of its customers were without power, mostly in Oakland and Wayne counties. Consumers Energy reported about 23,700 of its customers without power.

Most of those without electricity lost service after storms late Wednesday and Thursday. DTE says most of its customers should have power back by Saturday night.

user Coolcaesar / wikimedia commons

Nearly 150,000 Michiganders are sweating through today without electricity.

Severe storms earlier this week knocked out power to more than 400,000 Michigan utility customers.

Spokesmen for DTE and Consumers Energy say it may be late Saturday or early Sunday before all the electricity is restored.

Dan Bishop is a spokesman for Consumers Energy. He says utility crews expect to make a lot of progress today, despite having to work in temperatures around 100 degrees.

“The heat is obviously the story of the day,” says Bishop. “The most important concern for us is to make sure our crews are well hydrated and working safely.”

Consumers Energy is getting some extra help from linemen from Missouri and Indiana.

charlesandhudson.com

Electric utilities in Michigan are expecting to see a big spike in demand today, as temperatures are expected to climb to 100 degrees in parts of Michigan.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The city of Jackson’s economy is getting a big boost.

An India-based IT company announced today it will expand its operation in the mid-Michigan city.

HCL Technologies LLC is a global IT services company with 90 thousand employees.    The training and development hub its opening in Jackson will create several hundred jobs during the next few years.

Rajeev Sawhney is a vice president with HCL.   He says the training center should employ 300 people within the next two years.

"And possibly 500 people given that most of our Midwest clients have shown a lot of interest in wanting to avail of the facilities that will come out of this center in Jackson," says Sawhney.

HCL is partnering with Jackson-based Consumer Energy, which will allow the utility’s employees to receive advanced technology training. 

The hundreds of new jobs will be welcome in Jackson, which like many Michigan cities has seen a long decline in job opportunities.

 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Court of Appeals has rejected an effort by Jackson-based Consumers Energy to reverse a state order that it repay $85 million to its customers.     

Consumers Energy’s customers are not getting any new money back from the utility.   Consumers already repaid the $85 Million a year ago.  

But the legal fight over the state’s order has continued since then.  

Consumers Energy / lakewindsenergypark.com

Consumers Energy is wrapping up the initial phase of its first wind farm. Construction of the 100 mega-watt farm began last fall. Consumers plans to have the wind farm operating by the end of this year.

The project is known as the Lake Winds Energy Park. Since construction began last fall, workers have built about half of the large bases for 58 utility sized wind turbines.

wikimedia commons

A new report says three Michigan companies spent more on lobbying than they did in corporate income taxes between 2008 and 2010.

Those companies include Michigan’s two biggest utilities, DTE and Consumers Energy. It also includes Ann Arbor-based freight hauler Con-way.

Wind power could feature prominently in Michigan energy production if voters amend the state constitution to include a new renewable energy standard.
cwwycoff1 / flickr

Consumers Energy will take a big leap toward meeting the state’s renewable energy mandate next year.

State law requires utilities to get ten percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

Consumers Energy spokesman Dan Bishop says the utility will build 56 wind turbines in Mason County.  The project is called Lake Wind Energy Park.

"When Lake Winds begins producing electrons late next year in 2012, we will move from 5 percent to 8 percent, heading us towards the 10 percent requirement of Michigan’s law," says Bishop.

Photo courtesy of Consumers Energy's flickr page

Consumers Energy has canceled its plans to build a coal plant near Bay City. The $2 billion plant would have created 1,800 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs.

Jeff Holyfield, a spokesman for Consumers Energy, says there two main reasons for the cancelation:

  1. Customer demand is down "about 5 or 6 percent. Holyfield says they "don’t expect that demand to reach pre-recession marks until sometime late in 2012."
  2. Natural gas prices are cheap, which Holyfield says makes a "new coal-fired power plant less economically attractive."

Holyfield says Consumers Energy invested about $25 million in the now scrapped coal plan.

The utility will also suspend operations at seven of its smaller coal-fired units across the state by 2015, and focus on two new wind farms it’s developing: one in west Michigan's Mason County, the other in Tuscola County in the thumb.

Consumers continues its $1.6 billion investment at its five largest coal-fired units to meet environmental regulations, which Holyfield says will create about 2,000 jobs in the state.

user midnightcomm / Flickr

A state program that used to provide heating assistance to 95,000 low-income Michigan residents remains in limbo, but a temporary solution may be worked out this week to help more people stay warm.

Rep. Ken Horn says he's hoping a Wednesday meeting between state officials and Detroit Edison and Consumers Energy staff will lead to a fix until another way to fund the program can be found. He'd like to see the two utilities agree to turn on indigent customers' heat and keep it on through winter, then roll the unpaid bills into their next rate increase.

Michigan law forbids utility companies from shutting off heat between November 1 and March 30 to customers aged 65 and older. But others could face being disconnected if they can't pay their bills.

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