Public forum explains how UPPCO serves its customers

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette An UPPCO employee demonstrates how electricity can be transferred even without contact to the wire.

HANCOCK — The Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO) is holding a series of public forums in an open-house format this month.

In 2017 UPPCO returned to its status as an independent U.P.-based utility company, the roots of which began in 1884. The forums serve to reach out to customers and plan for their future needs.

This latest informational gathering took place Thursday at Finlandia University’s Jutila Center. The second forum in a series of four, two more are scheduled in Ishpeming and Munising later this month.

The forum was well-attended and allowed UPPCO customers to speak with employees and learn more about the details of the company and how things run.

Displays included light bulb consumption comparison, company history, energy generation facilities, a breakdown of what energy bills pay for and a model set safety demonstration.

Highlights included projected 6 percent rate reductions for residential customers, 15 percent for commercial and 24 for industrial. UPPCO also reported adding 52 new jobs and an increase in hydro energy production in the past few years caused by large rainfalls.

One display included a bill breakdown, showing customers what their bills pay for.

“A lot of people don’t understand what they’re paying for when they’re paying their monthly bill, so we try to break it down so that they can better understand the individual components,” said Brett French, vice president of business development and communications.

It might come as a surprise to some, but little of the bill pays for the energy itself. The cost of delivering the energy is where the vast majority of the costs are. This includes polls, wires, transformers, substations, employees and vehicles.

“You’re not simply paying for the energy. A lot more goes into keeping the lights on than just producing the electric,” French explained.