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Editorial Roundup: Michigan

Detroit News. May 27, 2023.

Editorial: Move power lines underground

Michigan is consistently ranked as one of the worst states for frequency of power outages and their duration. And the forecast isn’t looking any better. The state is likely to experience more extreme weather events than in the past.

This February, Michigan saw its worst ice storm in more than 40 years, leaving more than 600,000 residents without power. DTE Energy Co. CEO Jerry Norcia says that moving grid lines underground will help fight the effects of ice storms like the one this year.

The company plans to do just that, but customers have to be prepared to pay.

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Through a five-year, $9 billion plan, DTE says it can build a grid capable of surviving worsening weather patterns. The plan includes tree-trimming, rebuilding parts of the grid, investing in automation and burying lines.

How successful the utility is at meeting the timetable depends on whether it can get rate hikes approved by the Public Service Commission, which turned down its last request. ,

In a meeting with The Detroit News Editorial board, Norcia called the recent ice storm “the most expensive storm in history,” due to its extensive damage across the state which cost DTE more than $200 million. More than 3,000 wires were brought down in DTE’s distribution system alone, leaving some of the company’s 2.3 million customers without power for more than a week.

If the system moves underground, severe outages and disruptions are significantly less likely to occur.

“I don’t know that the above-ground system can be 100% storm proof,” Norcia said. “(Through an underground network) we’ll be as storm proof as places like Florida.”

Norcia says that customers should expect a 2-3% increase on their energy bills as they make the journey underground. This would be less than the 4-6% residential hike customers saw during the pandemic.

Customers also have the option of moving underground the service lines from poles to their homes. That’s a relatively quick and inexpensive process. It can be done in an afternoon for roughly $600. Those household lines are often the last to be reconnected after an outage.

The most promising piece of the plan from the user viewpoint is the automaton of the gird, which will allow DTE to isolate and work around downed wires and blown transformers.

Right now, DTE operates with 10-15% automation, Norcia says, while Florida and several other states are nearly fully automated.

No one thinks much about the electric grid as long as it’s working. But when it goes down, it’s all they think about.

Reliability is especially critical as the nation moves to an electric vehicle fleet. A bad storm could cripple the transportation system as well as leave homes in the dark.

The $9 billion price tag is expensive. But Michigan has no choice but to keep its power infrastructure in top shape.

“It’s sort of like having great roads, bridges, and water systems,” Norcia said. “It’s the fabric of our infrastructure that will drive prosperity and economic development.”

If the rate hikes to fund the project are approved, DTE has to honor its promise of creating a more reliable electric grid.

Iron Mountain Daily News. May 22, 2023.

Editorial: Educational benefits approved for families of Guard members

A bipartisan bill signed Saturday by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will lower the cost of higher education for spouses and children of Michigan National Guard members.

House Bill 4199 expands eligibility for tuition assistance to National Guard members’ family members and increases the funding cap from $10 million to $15 million.

Whitmer was joined in Detroit on Armed Forces Day by Guard members, their families, and state lawmakers to sign the Michigan National Guard state tuition assistance program legislation.

“I am proud that we can work across the aisle to support our service members and their families, who put their lives on the line to keep us safe and stand tall for our values ​​and freedoms,” the governor said. “As Michiganders, we will have their backs.”

Since the program’s inception, over 6,000 guard members have benefited from tuition assistance and now thousands of eligible spouses and dependents will have the same opportunity to earn a tuition-free degree or professional certificate, said US Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

“Today’s announcement by Gov. Whitmer signals Michigan is serious about supporting military families who have made significant sacrifices on behalf of our state and nation,” Rogers said.

The Michigan National Guard Tuition Assistance Program provides financial assistance for service members attending any public or private college, university, vocational school, technical school, or trade school located in Michigan.

“The program offers members of the guard tuition assistance, so they can pursue higher education or skills training at a lower cost. But we know that next to every member of the Guard is a family: an invaluable support system that makes countless sacrifices,” Whitmer said.

The bill was introduced by state Rep. Jennifer Conlin, D-Ann Arbor, who said the legislation would serve multiple purposes.

“With the signing of HB 4199 into law, National Guard families in Michigan will have the flexibility to use the educational benefits that they have earned,” she said. “The law will fulfill a dual purpose: directly providing opportunities to service member spouses and dependents and tackling the challenge of recruitment and retention head-on through the offering of this incentive.”

The bill was passed by a vote of 102 to 6 in the House and 37 to 0 in the Senate.

We join in applauding the programme’s expansion.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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