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Maximum Generation Warning Underscores Need for Energy Policy

This summer has been a scorcher here and across the country. Just a few weeks ago, high temperatures in Michigan nearly reached triple digits.  Households and businesses across the region were using abnormally high amounts of energy to keep cool and safe in the face of extreme heat and humidity.  The entire Midwest’s electric grid reached peak capacity. 

MISO, the independent system operator in charge of ensuring reliable energy throughout the Midwest, issued a maximum generation warning.  

What Does It Mean?

Maximum generation emergency days occur when every power plant available in MISO is running at full capacity.  If demand continues to climb, but supply is not available, MISO has to take additional measures, like interrupting customers, to keep the electric grid functioning.  Without their efforts to mitigate impacts, widespread brownouts, blackouts, and other power issues become more than theoretical.

Such peak demand periods are why reserve margins in our electric generating capacity are absolutely essential.  They are there to keep the lights, heat, and air conditioning on when extreme temperatures occur, or when demand spikes for other reasons.

What’s the Larger Problem?

One maximum generation warning is concerning, but not out of the ordinary. The problem is, we are beginning to experience maximum generation warnings with greater frequency.  In fact, we have had two maximum generation declarations this year alone. Our reserve margins are shrinking as we continue to contend with a growing list of capacity issues.

As we’ve been discussing for several months now, Michigan will retire 30 percent of its total energy generation, and Michigan’s Lower Peninsula will have an energy capacity shortfall as soon as this year. MISO predicts that, by 2025, we may face forced power interruptions due to lowered reserve margins. 

Michigan’s local energy providers are prepared to meet their customers’ energy needs. Unfortunately, out-of-state energy providers are not currently required to ensure they have adequate capacity for their Michigan customers.

It’s Time for Lansing to Act

Michigan’s electric reliability is only as strong as its weakest link.  When some energy providers aren’t properly planning for the demands of their customers, it affects the entire grid.

All energy providers should be required to ensure they have enough generation capacity to meet their customers’ demand in order to maintain reliability for all Michigan households and businesses.  And if all providers aren’t beginning to replace the generating capacity we are losing here in Michigan, we could wind up with power shortfalls and major reliability issues. 

These maximum generation warnings serve as a reminder of the urgency of new energy legislation and the importance of our legislators choosing Michigan over out-of-state interests.  Michigan needs to act now to ensure the state always has a reliable energy future.