U.P. residents, legislators gather for energy summit

People from around the U.P. gathered at NMU Tuesday for the U.P. Energy Summit.

The big topic of discussion was the Presque Isle Power Plant, and what’s being done to keep U.P. residents from footing a majority of the plant’s bill.

The day’s first two speakers were the chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission and Governor Snyder’s Senior Policy Advisor. Chairman John Quackenbush took a look at how it all began, when the Wisconsin Public Service Commission filed a complaint with the FERC. The MPSC responded with two complaints of its own, which brings us to the present.

“The FERC has issued orders in a couple of the proceedings, but they’ve agreed to rehearings and, of course, a lot of the pending matters they haven’t decided yet,” Quackenbush said. “We’re hopeful to get some clarification of the decisions of the federal government, which unfortunately is getting to decide issues that should be decided by Michiganders.”

He also discussed long-term solutions to replace the PIPP once it is retired, including renewable energy sources to help alleviate some of the burden.

Senior Policy Advisor Valerie Brader discussed the potential for energy costs to increase on Dec. 1st and the efforts from the MPSC and other parties to delay that.

She said, “We’re really hoping that both of those delays go through because we think that in that period of time, with committed partnerships from lots of people, we could get a solution on the table that would be the right answer for the U.P. It will take a lot of work, but we are positive about the ability to make that happen in a very short time frame, and we hope that the regulators give us time to do that.”

She went on to talk about the governor’s approach to energy production, and his belief about approaching the topic with three pillars: affordability, reliability and protection of the environment. Any decision, she said, should take all three into account.

The summit continued with individual presentations from representatives of We Energies, American Transmission Co., as well as Senator Mike Nofs, Chair of the Michigan Senate Energy & Technology Committee.

Legislators Energy

Several U.P. legislators also attended the summit. While they didn’t present they did discuss what they are doing to resolve this issue.

State Representative Ed McBroom said he and State Senator Tom Casperson had recently met with their respective counterparts in Wisconsin. They discussed what the states could do together to avert such a drastic cost increase for U.P. residents.

“The amount of Wisconsin residents adversely affected at this point is so small the level of how much constituency they make up for these members is still to be determined,” Rep. McBroom said. “Ultimately, we are appealing to them on a basis of overall fairness and the long-time security, both economic and energy-wise, for the whole region.”

One of the other major topics discussed at the summit was creating a better energy connection with the Lower Peninsula.

State Representative John Kivela echoed the sentiment, saying it’s crucial to rapidly find “a Michigan solution.”

“I think it’s also critical to, at this point of basic crisis, take advantage and get that vital connection to the Lower Peninsula that we lack,” Kivela said. “We’ve lacked it for many years; we’re dependent on another state for our energy, to a degree, and that needs to stop. We have the golden opportunity to connect the peninsulas and have an all-Michigan strategy moving forward.”

Both representatives, as well as many others, agreed that a short-term solution needs to be found in a callable energy solution, such as coal, but that renewable energy sources and natural gasses should play a role in Michigan’s long-term energy needs.