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Michigan thinks it has solution to potential electricity shortage

Cobb power plant in Muskegon, which shut down in April 2016
Tracy Samilton
Michigan Radio
Cobb power plant in Muskegon, which shut down in April 2016

Michigan and its Midwest electric grid operator, MISO, believe they've come up with a solution to a potential shortage of electricity that could happen as early as 2018.

That's the year yet another power plant in the grid will shut down (this time in Indiana); Michigan's Consumers Energy shut down six smaller power plants in April. 

The shutdowns mean there might not be enough electricity generation capacity during times of peak demand.

The proposal could also help keep Michigan's alternative electricity providers in business, says Valerie Brader, Director of the Michigan Agency on Energy.

MISO will ask the federal government for permission to require regulated utilities like DTE and Consumers Energy to tell alternative suppliers how much they will charge them for electricity three years in advance, rather than the current one year.

"They [alternative providers] would have that time to figure out if they can beat that price," says Brader, "or whether they will be paying the price quoted by [the utilities.]"

But, if alternative suppliers decide to find a different source than DTE or Consumers, it would have to be from an actual power plant or wind farm, instead of just buying it in the electricity auction.

"That means no one will be spending money as part of their rates to make the problem acutely painful," says Brader. "They will be spending money to solve the problem."

The state Legislature is working on new energy legislation now. Brader says it is hoped the proposal will help lawmakers craft the bills by "providing clarity."

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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