Federal order will likely cause U.P. electric bills to rise

MARQUETTE — Electric bills will probably rise for customers across the entire U.P. in the near future. That’s according to an eastern Upper Peninsula utility.

Cloverland Electric Cooperative says it’s because of a federal order to change how the operating costs of Marquette’s Presque Isle Power Plant are paid for.

Cliffs Natural Resources stopped buying power for the Empire and Tilden Mines from We Energies last year. We Energies lost 80% of its U.P. electric load when that happened, and the utility announced its intention to close the Presque Isle Power Plant.

However, regional power grid officials have said the plant must stay open to maintain the reliability of the U.P.’s power supply.

“Wisconsin Electric said, ‘we can keep it running, but you’ve got to pay us $52 million a year’,” Cloverland president and CEO Dan Dasho said. “That’s where FERC stepped in and said, ‘that money’s going to be coming from the U.P.’, and that’s what we’re really concerned about. We don’t know the bottom-line impact, but we know that the top line’s going to be $52 million.”

Wisconsin residents have paid most of the operating costs until now.

On July 29th, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered that a new formula needs to be determined within 30 days. That means the deadline is August 28th.

There’s no way to know exactly how the new formula will affect customer bills until it’s released, but Cloverland says U.P. customers will have to pay more and the company is scheduling public meetings in the areas it serves to discuss the issue.

“We’re going to have a meeting on September 30th, and that’ll be down in St. Ignace,” Dasho said. “Then we’re going to have a meeting on October 1st in Sault Ste. Marie, and then one in Manistique on October 2nd.”

Cloverland says the Michigan Public Service Commission, Governor Rick Snyder and the utilities that serve the U.P. will work together to stand up to the funding order from FERC.