MARQUETTE — Local officials concerned about future electric rate hikes in the Upper Peninsula gathered Wednesday at Northern Michigan University to find out more about the area’s energy situation.

Officials and energy experts got together to discuss U.P. energy issues, particularly impending electric rate increases due to the change in how operating costs at Marquette’s Presque Isle Power Plant are being handled. The Superior Watershed Partnership and Michigan Energy Options organized the forum to help share information with counties and municipalities.

“What we were hearing from a lot of local officials was that they needed more information on just exactly what was happening with what is commonly referred to as the energy crisis here in the Upper Peninsula, so we felt that by convening this forum, it was an opportunity for local officials to get more informed as other energy decisions are being made,” said Carl Lindquist, Executive Director of the Superior Watershed Partnership.

A senior policy advisor to Governor Rick Snyder spoke via teleconference to brief the attendees on the administration’s actions in the situation. She said they’ve been working to solve the problem in a way that allows U.P. economic development without a large rate burden and that promotes long-term growth that may allow other generation sources to access the grid.

“To do all those things, we’ve been really working with a lot of private companies to see if we can find a solution that will let us avoid the big wires build and meanwhile, also make sure that what Michigan residents are being asked to pay for this is not an inflated number that includes costs that could have been avoided or that are already paid, or that are part of the utility’s obligation to serve,” said Valerie Brader, Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Rick Snyder.

A lawyer from Lansing who has been involved in organizing a protest on Mackinac Island about the energy situation encouraged local leaders to make their voices heard with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC is the group which will ultimately decide cost allocations.