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U.P. slammed with huge electric rate hike for new coal plants, is Rogers City next?

Jul 10, 2009
Lansing – Steep electricity rate hikes could be the cost of Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative’s failure to maximize savings through energy efficiency, contends a coalition of environmental groups in a filing on the co-op’s proposal for a new 600 MW coal-fired power plant in Rogers City.

One-dozen environmental groups filed comments with the state’s Public Service Commission Thursday on the proposal by Wolverine to build the plant. The groups raised issues regarding the adequacy of the analysis conducted by Wolverine, including its failure to maximize savings its customers could realize through energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

“Electricity co-op customers in the Western Upper Peninsula learned recently that they will be hit with a 33 percent increase in electric rates due to $2.3 billion in new coal fired generating units constructed by WE Energies,” said James Clift, policy director with the Michigan Environmental Council. “We are asking state regulators to take steps to head off such a drastic increase in the Rogers City area.”

Wolverine’s analysis of feasible alternatives is inadequate, the groups contend in the filing.

“The Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative is playing games with its customers,” said Anne Woiwode, State Director of Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter. “It is projecting costs below what other utilities are experiencing, but once approved the customers will be on the hook for the true costs that could see their bill rise by 33 percent or more.”

The rising costs of coal and uncertainty regarding carbon regulation make construction of a power plant today a risky venture. Investments in energy efficiency reduce demand at a fraction of the cost of producing the unneeded power. And efficiency eliminates the need to purchase costly coal from out-of-state sources. The environmental coalition argues that these investments both reduce costs for co-op customers and help to address the problem of power plant pollution and climate-altering gases.

Signing onto the comments were the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, Citizens Exploring Clean Energy, Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, Lone Tree Council, Midland CARES, Michigan Energy Alternatives Project, Ecology Center, Clean Water Action, Michigan Land Use Institute, Michigan Environmental Council, and the Sierra Club – Michigan Chapter. Wolverine Power Cooperative is a generation and transmission electric cooperative headquartered in Cadillac, Michigan.

Wolverine is owned by and supplies wholesale electric power to six members: Cherryland Electric Cooperative in Grawn, Michigan; Great Lakes Energy in Boyne City, Michigan; HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative in Portland, Michigan; Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op in Onaway, Michigan; and Spartan Renewable Energy and Wolverine Power Marketing Cooperative in Cadillac, Michigan.

Comments can be viewed at:
http://efile.mpsc.state.mi.us/efile viewcase.php?casenum=16000 
James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council: 517-256-0553
Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter: 517-482-2372
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