Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 14, 2013

Study criticizes local power path

TRAVERSE CITY — A new report on Traverse City Light & Power’s structural efficiency challenges some utility members’ historical desire to build a power generation plant to call their own.

A comprehensive study of TCL&P crafted by consultant Hometown Connections debunks an assertion long-held by some city utility officials that building an electrical generation plant will improve reliability.

The consultants encouraged TCL&P to be partners with the Michigan Public Power Agency for both power purchases and any future generation endeavors. But the report stops short of directly advising the city not to build a plant that delivers a steady stream of power, known as a base load.

The lack of clarity on that topic left Hometown’s response open to interpretation until its representatives give a public presentation on April 1.

“They beat around the subject pretty well ... as if they didn’t want to offend anybody,” Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes said. “They surely implied that we don’t have to do local generation, and for me I think it’s come off the table.”

Tim Arends, TCL&P’s interim executive director, said the report leaves all of the utility’s options open.

“There shouldn’t be a need for local generation if you’re doing it simply for reliability concerns, but there’s also economic development, increased employment, and increased tax base,” Arends said.

A recent survey showed community support for local power generation. The Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce’s economic development arm also expressed support, Arends said.

TCL&P’s board pushed for a wood-fueled power generation plant in 2009-10, but community outcry crushed the project. The study’s suggestion that local power generation is or should be a low-priority topic wasn’t lost on some board members.

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