UMERC offers right power generation solution for UP

Two years ago, Gov. Rick Snyder issued a call to action to solve the Upper Peninsula’s energy crisis.

Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corporation (UMERC) answered that call and developed a long-term, reliable, affordable and clean energy solution that is now in the final stages of an extensive review by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC).

UMERC’s solution was only made possible through the hard work and commitment of Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette, Executive Director of the Michigan Agency for Energy Valerie Brader, Cliffs Natural Resources and other U.P. stakeholders.

Thanks to their leadership, UMERC now plans to build 180 megawatts of new natural gas generation, which allows for the retirement of a large coal-fueled power plant — the Presque Isle Power Plant — no later than 2020. The project is good for our customers, good for businesses and good for the future of electric reliability throughout the U.P.

The solution will deliver customer savings of nearly $600 million over the next 30 years and contribute to a cleaner environment.

If approved by the MPSC, UMERC will start constructing natural gas generating stations at two separate locations — one in Baraga Township and the other in Negaunee Township — as early as this fall. Both communities, as well as the staff of the MPSC and the attorney general, support the project.

UMERC developed the proposed sites to be near existing transmission and natural gas infrastructure, which helps minimize the need for additional costs. By locating a portion of the generation in these locations, significant and costly transmission projects will be avoided.

A Chicago-based developer opposing the project recently commissioned and published an analysis stating that UMERC’s proposal would overcharge our customers.

Their study is neither independent nor correct. The study, which was never even reviewed by MPSC staff, was paid for by the developer in order to push only their ideas after the public hearing process was completed — including a “project” that would not meet Cliffs Natural Resources and other customers’ needs.

It’s unfortunate this developer chose not to submit this study during the public review process established by our state regulators. Instead, they waited until the record in the proceeding was closed.

In addition, they did not offer any project cost information or viable alternatives to UMERC or the MPSC during the regulatory process.

The challenge of providing reliable, affordable electrical service in the U.P. is well-known. We believe our proposal is the best and most cost-effective solution to meet our customers’ future energy needs.

We look forward to an MPSC decision that will help us build a clean and reliable energy future for the U.P.

J. Patrick Keyes is the president of Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corporation.