Michigan PSC allows Consumers Energy to seek more than $120M in federal infrastructure funding

Published on June 26, 2023 by Chris Galford

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Responding to two cases from Consumers Energy, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) last week authorized the utility to use regulatory accounting methods for federal grant proposals that require matching funds.

This greenlights Consumers’ plans to pursue more than $120 million in funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) of 2021, as part of its infrastructure updates. Among many other things, that law set aside $550 billion in funding for projects such as electric generation, grid reliability, clean energy transmission and operation, electric vehicle infrastructure, energy efficiency and cybersecurity.

In the first case, Consumers sought to be able to utilize a regulatory asset or liability for its Empowering Michigan Communities Through Distributed Energy Resource Optimization project, which would see the company turn to a uniform distributed energy resource optimization platform. That platform represents a large-scale demand response and DER management/dispatch system to provide a smarter, more flexible grid. Consumers wants a more than $20.6 million federal grant for it, and if approved in full, the company would need to match that amount in funding.

In a separate case, Consumers applied for similar accounting authority to use a regulatory asset or liability for its Sectionalization & Circuit Improvements to Mitigate Outage Impacts for Disadvantaged Communities project. The effort would upgrade old infrastructure and add system redundancy to reduce outage impacts from storms, particularly in disadvantaged areas. Consumers seeks $100 million in federal funding for the project and would likely spend more than that in matching funds.

While the MPSC’s decision will allow Consumers to move forward on its applications, it stopped short of granting any sweeping authority, instead opting to judge the appropriateness of each instance of matching fund requests on a case by case basis, driven by the specific costs of proposed projects.