Future uncertain for power plant

Marquette’s Presque Isle Power Plan may have no choice but to close.

The company that owns it has some decisions to make after the plant’s largest customer decided to buy electricity elsewhere.

Cliffs Natural Resources announced Thursday that it will buy its power for the Empire and Tilden mines from Integrys Energy Services, starting September 1.

Eighty percent of the electricity produced at the Presque Isle Power Plant goes to the mines.

“If you were in a normal business, and you lost a significant customer load, even though it may or not have been particularly profitable, you would look at ‘Well, what capacity do I still need?’,” We Energies CEO and Chairman Gale Klappa said.

“One of the things we have to re-examine is the future of the Presque Isle Power Plant.  It’s all very early days, and we will work our way through this.”

We energies will discuss its options for the plant with the Michigan Public Service Commission.

Cliffs says the change in suppliers will save millions of dollars each year.

“What specifically motivated them (Cliffs) at this stage of the game we don’t really know for certain,” Klappa said.  “One of the dynamics certainly that we expected was that the Empire Mine, based on their public announcement, is going to close for good at the end of 2014.”

Cliffs officials have said Empire’s impending closure was not a factor in the switch.  About 170 people work at the Presque Isle Power Plant.