Four reasons why we need a U.P. energy plan

With the planned closure of the Presque Isle Power Plant, the UP’s energy future has been the topic of heated debate. As state representative for Michigan’s 110th House District, I want to make sure the U.P. has a voice in its energy future.

Last week, I introduced House Bill 4683. It would require the Michigan Public Service Commission to work with stakeholders in each of the state’s prosperity regions to develop an energy plan – the UP as a whole is Prosperity Region 1. Under my bill, the commission would gather public input to choose an energy plan that is likely to give ratepayers the best value over time. It wouldn’t take more than a year and would give us, the ratepayers, a road map for investing in important, costly, energy infrastructure.

A U.P. energy plan promotes U.P. energy independence: We in the Upper Peninsula are blessed to be surrounded by three glorious Great Lakes. But these natural bottlenecks present a challenge to importing energy, which is part of our problem today. That is why I believe we need to give full consideration to generating as much power as is practical right here. The U.P. should have an all-of-the-above energy profile that includes natural gas and renewables like woody biomass, geothermal and solar energy. We can put people to work at home and know the electricity we need to power our homes and businesses is being generated nearby.

A smart energy plan is key to job growth: I agree with Gov. Snyder that we need to work together as a region to lay the groundwork for a growing economy. We need affordable, reliable, abundant energy to compete for good-paying jobs. But right now, manufacturers are discouraged from locating in the UP due to high rates and a lack of availability. And at $0.24 a kilowatt hour, household ratepayers are putting money towards their energy bills that could be spent at local businesses.

We don’t know if we need a transmission line, or if we do, how big it should be: Last month, Sen. Tom Casperson introduced a bill to create a commission that could OK a transmission line that runs from Gaylord in the Lower Peninsula, across the straights of Mackinac and west, possibly to Marquette or further. With respect to my fellow U.P. colleague, I understand that transmission could be part of the picture.

But I am opposed to giving this project legislative approval before we understand the full cost. Before we commit to building more transmission, we should make sure it is the best deal for UP ratepayers – we should have a plan.

If Yoopers don’t make a plan for the U.P., special interests will: Working with the Public Service Commission to develop an energy plan takes the process out of Lansing’s back rooms and puts it firmly in the public eye. My bill would give U.P. businesses, local governments and concerned citizens input into the decision-making process – and on the same footing as the utility companies and transmission companies.

State Rep. Scott Dianda is a second-term legislator from Calumet, Michigan. He represents Michigan’s 110th House District, which includes Gogebic, Iron, Ontonagon, Houghton, Keweenaw and Baraga counties, as well as a portion of Marquette County.