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Coal plant denial nixes $77/month rate hike, invites cleaner, cheaper options

May 21, 2010
Michigan residents and businesses will be spared astronomical rate increases after the denial of a permit today for the Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative’s proposed new 600 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Rogers City.

The Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) applauded the decision, announced today by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE). The DNRE denied the permit on the grounds that Wolverine had not demonstrated a need for the plant, nor fulfilled its legal obligation to consider other alternatives.

A finding from the state Public Service Commission staff estimates the new plant would have increased electric rates 59.7 percent. That would cost the average residential customer an additional $77 per month.

“It’s the 21st Century and we have plenty of less expensive and less polluting alternatives than another coal-burning electric plant,” said MEC Energy Program Director David Gard. “It is heartening that the state has committed, in this instance, to examining a broader range of energy options that better serve citizens and protect ratepayers.”

Such dramatic rate hikes would mirror the situation in another part of Michigan, where new coal plants have resulted in sticker shock for ratepayers. Electricity co-op customers in the western Upper Peninsula are being hit with a 33 percent increase in electric rates due to $2.3 billion spent on a new coal-fired power plant constructed by WE Energies.

“In the U.P., and across the nation, ratepayers are discovering that coal is no bargain,” said James Clift, MEC policy director. "Today’s decision opens the door to cleaner and less costly energy options that help put Michigan’s manufacturing base back to work.”

Michigan residents and businesses spent $1.36 billion in 2008 to buy imported coal. That money would be better spent on Michigan manufacturers and companies that build wind turbine components, solar panels and energy-efficient products and systems, according to Clift.

Gard said that better, more cost effective alternatives to new coal plants “include greater energy savings through efficiency and more renewable electricity generated right here in the Great Lakes State.”

Earlier this year, a dozen environmental groups including MEC filed comments with the state’s Public Service Commission regarding the Wolverine proposal. The groups raised issues regarding the adequacy of the analysis conducted by Wolverine, including its failure to maximize savings its customers could realize through energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

Wolverine is owned by and supplies wholesale electric power to six members: Cherryland Electric Cooperative in Grawn, Michigan; Great Lakes Energy in Boyne City, Michigan; HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative in Portland, Michigan; Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op in Onaway, Michigan; and Spartan Renewable Energy and Wolverine Power Marketing Cooperative in Cadillac.
Hugh McDiarmid: 248-660-4300
RELATED TOPICS: clean energy
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