I’m always tickled when we receive notes like the one posted by Andrew on our Facebook page Dec. 24: “I would like to thank Midwest Energy for all the tree trimming they have done in the past few months. I fully expected our power to go out last night in the wind, but it never even flashed! Thanks again …”

We weren’t completely spared from outages with the Christmas Eve storms, or in the days after Christmas when an ice storm with strong wind gusts broke poles and took down trees and power lines across our entire southern Michigan service area. However, our overall outage numbers and duration were minimal compared to surrounding utilities. It’s not a coincidence, but rather a positive outcome of a strategic investment of time and money.

More and more members are connecting the dots between our line clearance efforts and power outages. We were a leader in Michigan, implementing an aggressive stance and approach more than a decade ago. Many of our counterparts around the state are just now beginning to implement similar measures as a result of state and federal mandates to reduce outages. We realized many years ago that our system was a mess from years of inattention to our rights of way, and implemented a multi-year plan to reclaim that space and improve reliability for our members. It was the right thing to do, and the difference is telling – both in our reports, but more importantly in your comments and observations.

An aggressive line clearance program isn’t inexpensive, but we view it as an investment in our membership. Many of the efforts that we’ve undertaken in recent years, from line clearance to systemwide roll-out of advanced metering infrastructure to implementation of a fiber-based communications system across our distribution grid, all are investments in our system and our membership. Technology is advancing at rapid-fire pace, and today’s electric utility needs to be prepared or its members and customers will lose out on opportunities for home automation and other solutions that will create efficiencies and conveniences never previously imagined.

At Team Midwest we have our eyes on the horizon, and are taking steps today to build the utility of the future. Under the leadership of your board of directors, we’ve designed a strategic plan and roadmap that will allow you to take advantage of technology as it is introduced. What that all looks like remains to be seen, but we’re ready.

Today we’re investing in space to grow this vision. We’re investing in staff to implement the plan. We’re investing in technology to drive the solutions. Ultimately, we’re investing in you as a member-owner of this utility – the utility of the future!