Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Wednesday

December 18, 2013

End of power plant project could protect local electric rates

TRAVERSE CITY — A coalition of Michigan electric utilities that includes Cherryland Electric Cooperative and Great Lakes Energy is pulling the plug on construction of a coal-fired power plant.

The result could be big savings for local electric cooperative customers.

Cadillac-based Wolverine Power Cooperative announced Tuesday it will abandoned efforts to build its “Clean Energy Venture” plant in a limestone quarry three miles from Rogers City. The cooperative spent more than $20 million on the proposed plant since plans to build it were announced in 2006.

Nancy Tanner, a spokeswoman for Wolverine, said permit deadlines and investments in other energy sources led to the decision to end the Rogers City project.

“The Clean Energy Venture was an option for us but it was not at the forefront of what we worked on,” Tanner said.

Wolverine supplies electric power to seven member-owned electric cooperatives in Michigan, including Cherryland Electric and Great Lakes Energy. The latter operates in Antrim County and parts of Kalkaska and Grand Traverse counties.

Opponents of the Rogers City plant have long argued the plant was unnecessary and might damage the environment.

Jim Dulzo, the senior energy policy specialist for Traverse City-based Michigan Land Use Institute, said building the plant also would have raised the rates of local electric cooperative customers. He cited a Michigan Public Service Commission report from 2010 that estimated construction of the 600-megawatt plant would lead to a monthly utility bill increase of nearly $77 for the “average customer.”

“I think they just had their rates protected,” Dulzo said of cooperative customers after the project was scrapped.

Cherryland Electric Cooperative General Manger Tony Anderson declined comment on what the end of the coal-fired plant means for Cherryland members. He deferred comment to Wolverine officials.

Great Lakes Energy officials could not be reached for comment.

Tanner said Wolverine is committed to providing “reliable power” and “competitive prices.”

“That will continue to be our goal,” she said.

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