Consumers Energy: Natural gas reduction request worked

JACKSON, Mich. (WOOD) — Consumers Energy says it’s “cautiously optimistic”a state alert asking people to reduce their natural gas use is working, but the utility company is urging customers continue to do so through 10 a.m. Friday.

The alert sounded on smartphones statewide around 10:30 p.m., shortly after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer put out the request. 

Thursday, Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe explained why the message went out to everyone.

“That’s because every Michigander who turned down that thermostat could make a difference to the total system. Our pipes are all connected, it’s a large system across the state, so everybody’s reduction of use made a difference across the state,” she said.

Poppe said Consumers saw a 10 percent drop in natural gas use after the alert, and no residential customers lost gas service.

“Therefore, it worked. Our call to act was effective and we are so grateful for people because of that," Poppe said.

She explained the alert went out during the late night hours because Consumers didn't see consumption drop as they had expected.

“As a result of that, we had to ask for your help. That is where you all answered the call. We are sorry we had to do that. We are disappointed that our system was unable to serve at full capacity. However, we are extraordinarily grateful," Poppe said.

A Wednesday morning fire at Consumers’ Ray Natural Gas Compressor Station combined with increased demand for natural gas during extremely cold temperatures led to a supply issue.

“In our 130 years, we’ve never experienced this kind of demand or these kind of temperatures. And we prepare for these extremes," Poppe said. "We were prepared for these extremes. However, we could not overcome the failure of our equipment as a result of the fire at our largest storage and delivery facility."

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