Michigan’s Consumers Energy to Bury 10 Miles of Power Lines in Undergrounding Pilot
March 6, 2024
Image credit: Consumers Energy, Flickr

Jackson, MI-based Consumers Energy received approval from state regulators last Friday to begin burying over 10 miles of power lines across six Michigan counties over the next year. The pilot program will not only improve the aesthetic beauty of the region but also enhance the reliability and resilience of the power infrastructure.

The pilot, approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), will cost an estimated $3.7 million and bury 10 miles of power lines in Genesee, Livingston, Allegan, Ottawa, Montcalm, and Iosco Counties. The program was incorporated into an application by Consumers Energy to raise electric rates by $92 million, translating to a $1.53 increase in the average monthly bill for typical residential customers. 100% of the costs associated with the undergrounding program will be directly funded by the rates increase, as clarified by a Consumers Energy spokesperson.

This initial pilot accounts for roughly 10% of Consumers Energy’s ultimate plan to bury over 1,000 miles of power lines over the next five years, pending approval from state regulators.

Scenic America applauds Consumers Energy and the MPSC for this proactive and innovative program that not only address our country’s crumbling power infrastructure, but also improves the scenic beauty of the state of Michigan. By opting for an underground solution, Consumers is not only considering aesthetic concerns but also mitigating potential risks associated with above-ground power lines, such as outages due to extreme weather events.

Consumers Energy will be engaging with communities directly affected by this initiative by holding outreach programs and informational sessions to keep residents informed about the project’s progress, address any concerns, and gather valuable input from local stakeholders.

Benefits of Burying Power Lines

1. Enhanced Aesthetics

Burying power lines eliminates the visual clutter associated with overhead lines, contributing to the preservation of Michigan’s natural beauty. The move is expected to enhance the scenic charm of the region, making it more appealing for residents and tourists alike.

2. Increased Reliability

Underground power lines are less susceptible to damage from severe weather conditions, such as storms and high winds. By burying the lines, Consumers Energy is taking a proactive approach to improve the reliability of the power grid, reducing the likelihood of service interruptions during adverse weather events.

3. Community Resilience

Burying power lines can enhance the overall resilience of the local communities by reducing vulnerability to power outages. This is especially crucial in times of emergencies, ensuring that residents have access to essential services and resources even during challenging circumstances.

4. Environmental Impact

The decision to bury power lines aligns with environmental sustainability goals by minimizing the impact on local ecosystems. Underground infrastructure has fewer visual and ecological disruptions, contributing to the overall well-being of the environment.