Why don’t we put the power lines underground? That’s a question more Michiganders are asking these days after the summer we’ve had that has seen so many extreme weather events that have knocked out the power for tens of thousands of residents for extended periods of time. For years, most utilities have shunned the idea of burying power lines, saying it was too costly and noting that burying power lines comes with its own set of problems for customers. But at least one of Michigan’s major utility executives is saying that it’s time for utilities to rethink that stance.
Listen: Consumers Energy CEO and President Garrick Rochow on why his company is serious about putting its power grid underground.
Garrick Rochow is the president and CEO of Consumers Energy. “We are investing about $5.4 billion over the next five years to improve reliability for customers,” says Rochow. He explains that while Consumers isn’t trying to put its entire grid underground, some areas being buried would make a big difference in overall grid stability. “We need to ensure the reliability … some of the challenges we run into … imagine someone is doing yard work in your home, they might dig too deep and hit the line, also it takes longer to locate a fault when there is one,” says Rochow of the drawbacks of an underground grid.
“With climate change we are seeing more severe weather patterns all over the country,” he says. “There’s an effort across this industry that started a few years ago but there’s more work to be done.”