January 31, 2024

Since last fall, DTE Energy has been engaged in advancing electric reliability work on several key circuits in Livonia.

We analyzed the data and chose eight circuits that had performed lower than our standards, setting a work plan in motion to make critical improvements on all these circuits with an aim to improve electric reliability for our Livonia customers.

These focused areas serve a wide variety of customers in the city, from a circuit in and around the municipal complex, including city hall, first responders and the heating/cooling centers, to circuits that are tied to many other local business and thousands of residential customers. To date, all eight circuits have received upgrades and, in many cases, that work has been extensive.

Some system improvement work over dozens of miles on these circuits is already complete. These improvements always include a full circuit patrol by our Engineering and Operations team, along with replacement and equipment upgrades like power poles, pole top equipment, animal guards and much more, as needed. There is more to come.

We have also engaged in targeted tree trimming in most areas and will have more maintenance tree trimming to come through the rest of 2024. Trees and their branches contacting our equipment account for half of the time customers spend without power. Trimming the trees away from electric equipment will have a positive impact on improving your overall electric reliability, especially during extreme weather events.

Bookmark and watch this space for updates as the project moves ahead. We will be providing more information here (and through social media) as our frontline crews keep working to improve electric service for our customers in Livonia.

December 6, 2023

DTE Energy has identified the lowest performing electric circuits in the city of Livonia and is executing a plan to improve reliability for these customers.

With advanced work in Livonia now underway in the focus areas, we want to give you an update on the entire project with Tony, project manager and electrical engineer for DTE.

Q: Tony, can you give us a broad overview of the project scope we have now in Livonia and how it all came about?

A: We’re aware of the frequent outage issues that many of our customers have been experiencing in Livonia and the reasons leading to those outages. Some are equipment related issues and some come from tree interference, where trees have come down onto our power lines or interfered with our equipment. We also know that 50% of the time our customers spend without power is due to trees and branches damaging our equipment.

One of the things we began with is the active patrolling of our equipment. That means going along and eyeballing every bit of line, equipment and trees in our focus areas.

Some of that patrolling has already been completed and some will be happening soon. We have also begun targeted tree trimming in areas where we determined it needed to be done right away and then also upgraded equipment to help strengthen our system.

Q: What work will be happening in 2024?

A: Starting in January, we will also begin maintenance tree trimming, a comprehensive program where our crews remove all the overhang and work with property owners to see what trees we can remove. This will go on through the rest of 2024 and help with reliability. After that, these circuits will be on a regular five-year tree trim cycle to be sure that we keep the reliability we have gained for these customers.

Q: Why are you working in certain areas and not throughout Livonia?

A: Simply put, we are focusing on areas with the most frequent outages and those with outages that last the longest. We are still doing work all over the city and that includes extensive tree trimming. But we advanced work on these focus areas based on their recent performance and reliability issues for our customers.

Q: Tony, there was a time recently when our electric reliability in Livonia was pretty good. What has caused these more recent issues? Is it more extreme weather? Trees? Aging equipment?  Or is it a combination of all these things?

A: Yes, it is a combination for sure. We know that extreme weather is becoming more frequent. We had the ice storm that rolled through back in February of 2023 where we had two-thirds of an inch of ice coating our lines and bringing them down. We have not seen that in 50-plus years. Then in August, we had six tornadoes in our service territory, none of them luckily in Livonia. Then there is aging infrastructure — older equipment that was not engineered for the type of weather that Michigan now experiences. That’s why we are doing those equipment upgrades to strengthen our system and prevent power interruptions.

Q: You talked about replacing equipment. What are some of those pieces of equipment that customers might look up and see? Are some power poles also being replaced?

A: Absolutely. Our updated poles will better withstand extreme weather, including the 60 plus mph winds that used to be extraordinarily rare, but are now much more frequent. But it’s not just the poles. We are replacing crossarms as well. You may look up now and see a lot of wooden crossarms at the top of a power pole, but when we are done with this work you will see stronger fiberglass crossarms. It is important for these crossarms to be strong because the insulators, conductors and electrical equipment connected to the power lines are attached to crossarms.

Q: Why fiberglass?

A: Fiberglass crossarms are the new standard and they last a lot longer. They are stronger than wood and can withstand the higher winds and ice better. We are also replacing the insulators that basically hold up the wire on top of the pole.

Q: What about animals getting on or into our equipment?

A: That can always be a problem. We’re also installing new animal guards to prevent that from happening as well. None of this is a guarantee that an animal won’t find its way into our equipment, but the guards provide an improved level of prevention that leads to better reliability.

Q: Are smart grid devices part of the equation in Livonia?

A: Yes. We are evaluating and installing new smart grid technology that can help keep power on for more customers while we make repairs following an outage. These devices also identify the location of the damage so our crews can get to work faster making repairs.

Q: Will you be working in the winter or does the work start in the spring?

A: We work throughout the year. The work may take a little bit longer to do just because if it’s extremely cold, our crews cannot work outside for long extended amounts of time to ensure their safety. But we work no matter what temperature it is.

Q: This project is on an ambitious timeline. Patrolling all focus areas from top to bottom with problems identified, commencing work on the equipment, spot tree trim, then the maintenance cycle and completing that this coming calendar year. Is it a big challenge for our front-line crews, engineers and the whole team?

A: Sure. But we know it is important to our customers and us as well. We are fully prepared to do whatever we need to do to expedite this work and make sure that we are providing more reliable power to our customers.

Q: From your standpoint and your role, how will you measure success at the end of the work cycle here for this project in Livonia?

A: Fewer outages, and when they do happen, outages that do not last as long. We review these metrics on a weekly basis. We will be doing the work and tracking the results — that’s how we judge our success on this project. Keeping the lights on more consistently for our neighbors and customers in Livonia.

We thank you and your neighbors for your patience in this process. Improving the overall reliability of your DTE electrical service is our prime goal here. We will be updating you on our Livonia work with this running blog over the next 13 months, so please bookmark this page and visit often.