MPS sets hearing for Tuesday on UP electric service, plan

IRON MOUNTAIN — Michigan Public Service Commission will have a public hearing Tuesday at Bay College’s West Campus to get input on a long-range plan that includes a solar project to help supply electricity in the Upper Peninsula.

Upper Michigan Energy Resource Corp.’s integrated resource plan is the subject of a hearing from 4 to 7 p.m. at Fornetti Hall, 2801 U.S. 2, Iron Mountain. According to the plan, the solar project will likely mean a slight increase in initial costs while also bringing more stability to the market.

“We look forward to hearing from Yoopers served by UMERC about the utility’s long-term energy plans,” MPSC Chairman Dan Scripps said. “This is a chance for UMERC’s customers to speak directly to the commission and have their thoughts and concerns heard.”

UMERC has more than 42,000 customers in the central and western Upper Peninsula, including Alger, Baraga, Delta, Dickinson, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, Marquette, Menominee and Ontonagon counties. Customers are billed by We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service, the two energy providers that served the area before the UMERC formed in 2017.

UMERC is a subsidiary of WEC Energy Group, the parent company of We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service, and is regulated by MPSC.

The MPSC defines an integrated resource plan — or IRP — as one developed by an electric utility to outline its future resource strategy. This includes how the utility will provide reliable, cost-effective service to its customers while addressing the risks and uncertainties inherent in the business.

UMERC generates and purchases electricity from a mix of generation technologies, including nuclear, coal, natural gas and oil, as well as renewables such as hydroelectric, biomass, wind and solar. Its two main power sources are natural gas-fueled facilities — F. D. Kuester Generating Station in Negaunee Township and A. J. Mihm Generating Station in Baraga Township.

The Kuester plant generates about 128 megawatts of power while the Mihm station generates about 55 megawatts. They opened in 2019 with the retirement of the coal-fired Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette, which had a generating capacity of 431 megawatts.

WEC Energy Group funded the entire $275 million project.

UMERC plans to add 100 megawatts of solar generation to its portfolio, adding about $26 million in incremental costs. Customers are likely to see an initial increase in their energy costs, according to the IRP.

The increase is estimated at $0.01 per kwh in the first full year the facility is in service. Based on We Energies’s 2021 rate book, that would represent about a 7% increase in the energy charge portion of a residential customer’s bill.

The IRP also points out, however, that solar generation will reduce UMERC’s reliance on volatile energy purchases and provide the benefit of additional Michigan renewable energy credits to all customers.

Scripps, along with commissioners Tremaine Phillips and Katherine Peretick, and MPSC staff will be on hand at Bay West to hear from customers of UMERC and other members of the public about the IRP. It outlines how the electric utility intends to provide reliable service over the next 20 years. MPSC staff will provide an overview of UMERC’s proposal, which includes specific requirements for reporting 5-, 10- and 15-year projections.

IRPs were established under Michigan’s 2016 energy laws and must be filed by each electric utility whose rates are regulated by the MPSC. UMERC filed its application for approval of its IRP in October and it remains pending before the commission in Case No. U-21081. The application can be viewed at https://mi-psc.force.com/sfc/servlet.shepherd/version/download/068t000000VJ9taAAD.

As a COVID-19 safety measure, Bay College requires all campus visitors to wear a face mask when indoors on college property. Public hearing attendees unable to comply with this requirement are encouraged to instead file comments in writing.

People who have mobility, visual, hearing, or other disabilities should contact the MPSC’s executive secretary at 517-284-8090 in advance of the forum to request assistance.

Comments by attendees will become part of the public record, and a transcript of the hearing will be filed in the case docket. Written and electronic comments may be submitted to commission by email at mpscedockets@michigan.gov or mailed to Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, 7109 W. Saginaw Highway, Lansing, MI, 48917.

All comments should reference Case No. U-21081.


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