U.P. has a more reliable energy future

LANSING — We were excited recently to celebrate a significant anniversary at the Michigan Public Service Commission. It wasn’t to mark the founding of the MPSC; for more than a century, we’ve been ensuring safe, reliable energy and telecommunications services at reasonable rates for all Michiganders.

What we did celebrate was the one-year anniversary of the launch of Michigan’s landmark energy laws. This significant legislation means rates that are affordable, electricity supplies that are dependable, and an environment that is protected for residents in the Upper Peninsula and across this great state of ours.

Public Acts 341 and 342 created a roadmap for a “no regrets” energy future. Gov. Rick Snyder said, on the day the laws went into effect on April 20, 2017, that Michiganders will see “cleaner, smarter energy options that will improve their daily lives and ensure a reliable energy supply for decades to come.”

That’s a message Commissioners Norm Saari and Rachael Eubanks and I are excited to bring to the U.P. Energy Summit on May 23 at Northern Michigan University. The laws call for a commitment to renewable energy, comprehensive and transparent long-term energy planning, a focus on infrastructure, cutting energy waste, and utility accountability.

So, what does this mean for U.P. ratepayers?

For residents, it’s more money in your pockets through energy waste reduction efforts. (Did you know that every $1 spent on cutting energy waste results in over $4 in savings?) Residents will also be assured power will be available when they need it since all energy providers must prove they have enough resources to serve their customers over the long-term. We’re also developing a framework for on-bill financing, which will allow residents to make energy-saving improvements and pay off the cost in installments on utility bills.

For residents and businesses, MPSC regulated utilities such as the Upper Peninsula Power Co. and Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corp., must offer programs that allow homeowners and companies to source renewable energy for their power needs. The Commission requires utilities to also offer energy waste reduction programs, which means the home, store or business down the street can cut their energy costs and free up money that can be saved or reinvested in workers and to grow the business.

In short, the new laws put in place tools to help all customers take command of their energy future and adapt quickly to the changing world around us.

The MPSC last year issued more 70 orders covering 18 legislative tasks called for in the legislation. We held more than 60 stakeholder meetings and three public forums (including one in Marquette attended by Commissioner Saari). More than 40 organizations participated in the integrated resource planning process.

There’s still more work to do in enacting the laws, as well as addressing the U.P.’s energy issues. For instance, in October we approved a UMERC proposal to build natural gas-fueled electric generation facilities in Negaunee and Baraga townships to replace the Presque Isle Power Plant.

I grow more confident every day about Michigan’s energy future. Our path forward should ease concerns for all Michiganders, especially those in the U.P. The state’s new laws will have a big impact now and in years to come for Michigan’s ratepayers.

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By Sally Talberg is chairwoman of the Michigan Public Service Commission

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