Published: Fri, February 01, 2019
Business | By Eloise Houston

Consumers Energy asks customers to lower thermostats after utility explosion

Consumers Energy asks customers to lower thermostats after utility explosion

As consumers cranked up heaters to escape the bitter cold, gas demand in the lower 48 USA states jumped to a preliminary record high of 145.1 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) on Wednesday, according to financial data provider Refinitiv.

Ford and Fiat Chrysler plants have also heeded the utility's call.

"We don't know when we're going to be able to return to normal operations", said Consumers spokesman Roger Morgenstern.

Midwestern states are experiencing natural gas shortages amid subzero temperatures, including in MI, where GM shuttered more than a dozen plants and told thousands of employees to work from home.

General Motors is temporarily halting operations at 11 MI assembly plants and its Warren Tech Center campus after Consumers Energy urgently asked users to conserve their natural gas, reports Reuters.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a public statement later Wednesday evening urging everyone in MI to turn down their thermostats to 65 degrees until midday on Friday, when temperatures are expected to warm up.

Following an explosion at a utility facility in Michigan Wednesday night, Consumers Energy issued an emergency plea to customers to lower their thermostats to reduce gas demand.

GM halted work at four assembly plants and nine supporting facilities Wednesday night after utility Consumers Energy asked customers to help conserve natural gas, Automotive News (AN) reported.

Employees working in office environments affected by the natural gas issue such as the Global Technical Center in Warren, Pontiac Engineering Center and CCA-Grand Blanc should continue to work from home Friday.

Editor's note: Both DTE Energy and Consumers Energy are corporate sponsors of Michigan Radio. Use your programmable thermostat to set your heat at 65 degrees when you are home and 62 degrees when you are away for less than 5 hours.

"In our 130 years, we've never experienced this kind of demand or these kinds of temperatures", Poppe said.

The Michigan Public Service Commission said all state-owned facilities in the Lower Peninsula lowered their thermostats to reduce the burden on the natural gas supply.

The economic impact of the shutdowns is likely to be small. Workers will get paid even though their buildings were closed.

Temperatures in the state early Thursday fell to their lowest levels of the week, with readings around negative 12 degrees (negative 24 degrees Celsius) in the Detroit area and at bitterly cold levels statewide. Consumers Energy is activating natural gas peaking storage fields in Northville and St. Clair to help deliver natural gas to our customers.

The fire hit a Consumers Energy natural gas compressor station north of Detroit on Wednesday as record-cold temperatures swept over the region. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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