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How Michigan's power grid differs from Texas

Why our artic cold and heavy snow does not result in loss of electricity.

MICHIGAN, USA — Arctic air dug deep into the Central and Southern United States this past week, and Texas was hit particularly hard. 

Supply and demand for electricity fell out of balance, leaving officials with the tough choice to shut down power for several days in order to prevent a system failure, that could have left residents with lights out for weeks.

But why is it that cold air, similar to what we see for month-long stretches, debilitating for Texas' power grid? Can that happen to us here in Michigan? 

We turned to the Chair of the Michigan Public Service Commission, Dan Scripps, to find out what we do to prevent this. 

"Our electric providers have invested in the equivalent of a cold-weather package. From wind turbines and natural gas plants alike, to make sure that they are available and operable even when temperatures get cold," stated Scripps. "Our approach with a little more planning and a little more certainty costs a little more but it also makes sure that those resources are typically available."

Under state law here in Michigan, electric suppliers are required to show four years into the future that they have the resources available to reach customers' needs.  Which is very different from a “just in time” energy market like the one Texas runs on.  

Thus, the combination of our older coal plants, nuclear plants, a growing amount of natural gas, and wind/solar options may be more costly for Michiganders but is overall the way in which we assure the lights stay on no matter the conditions. 

With four seasons of weather, our systems have been built to withstand a lot. Although, with extreme weather events occurring more and more often, states are seeing rare events like this more often than before. 

This is just another way our evolving climate is impacting the country. 

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