JACKSON (AP) – New steps aim to keep the power on in Michigan by keeping squirrels, raccoons and other animals out of a utility’s substations, officials said.

Consumers Energy owns and operates more than 1,200 substations across Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It has had animal control equipment at the facilities for years, but said it now has more stringent standards in place and is stepping up efforts.

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“These standards provide consistent and proactive measures to keep animals out of our substations,” Garrick Rochow, Consumers Energy’s vice president of energy delivery, said in a statement Wednesday. “This is all about improving electric reliability.”

At substations, electric voltage is decreased for distribution to homes and businesses. They can be knocked out of service when an animal enters a substation and contacts energized equipment while also touching the ground or grounded electrical equipment.

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The standards aim to improve barriers around substations, which typically are fenced-in, and reduce the opportunity for animals to come into contact with energized equipment. Changes include mesh fencing with smaller holes, gravel around fences to discourage animals from digging underneath and aluminum bands around nearby utility poles to deter animals from climbing.

Since January 2011, the unit of Jackson-based CMS Energy Corp. says more than 30 percent of substation outages were caused by wildlife.

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