electricity

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The cost of electricity could jump dramatically next month in the Upper Peninsula.

Residents there might have to start paying to keep a coal plant open that isn't entirely needed anymore. The increase will be a harsh blow to a region that struggles economically.

Brimley is a little town at the end of the road on Lake Superior’s south shore. There’s a bar, a casino and a couple motels. Brimley State Park draws campers here in the summer and into Ron Holden’s IGA grocery store.

"Basically the six weeks of summer pay for the rest of the year’s bills, " he says. On the wall of the IGA are deer heads, a black bear rug, and a flag that says, ‘American by choice, Yooper by da grace of God.’

But being a Yooper might cost more starting December 1. Holden expects his store’s electric bill will be $700 a month higher and he has no idea where he’ll get that money.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The average Lansing Board of Water & Light electric and water customer can expect to see their bills increase, if proposed rate hikes go through.

The utility board will decide next week whether to approve the changes. 

“I don’t imagine any customers are looking forward to rate increase,” admits J. Peter Lark, BWL’s General Manager, “but I think it’s essential.”

Work being done on Orchard Lake Rd where a power pole fell.
DTE Energy

Three days after severe thunderstorms knocked out service to 462,000 customers, utility companies are reporting that tens of thousands of Michigan homes and businesses are still without power. More from the Associated Press: 

Detroit-based DTE Energy Co. says 89,000 of its customers were without power late Monday morning, down from 375,000 hit by Friday's storms. Some schools that lost power were closed Monday. DTE says full restoration probably will take until Tuesday or Wednesday. Wayne County has 53,000 outages and Oakland County has 19,000. Crews from Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York and Tennessee are helping. Jackson-based CMS Energy Corp.'s Consumers Energy unit says about 580 customers were without power Monday morning, down from more than 87,000 affected.

DTE said the storms were among "the most damaging in the companies' history."  

Wind gusts of more than 75 miles per hour caused more than 2,000 downed power lines across DTE’s Southeast Michigan service area. 

Strong storms battered parts of  Michigan Friday.  

On the southeast side of the state, 385,000 DTE Energy customers lost electric service last night; about 365,000 customers remain without power.  

Wind gusts of more than 75 miles per hour caused more than 2,000 downed power lines across DTE’s service area. The utility is bringing in crews from Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania to repair the damage.

Consumers Energy says about 55,000 of their customers are waiting for power restoration. Spokeswoman Debra Dodd says Kalamazoo was particularly hard hit.

Chrystal Weesner / Pinterest

A piece of Jackson’s art history, which narrowly avoided the wrecking ball, may soon have new life.

The 28' x 9' glass mural depicting the history of electric power hung in Consumers Energy’s old Jackson headquarters for more than four decades.   

Preservationists were able to save it from the wrecking ball that brought the building down last year. The mural was disassembled and has been in storage ever since.

The plan now is to reconstruct the glass mural, replace its internal lighting system, and build a new outdoor display to house the mural.

The mural would be placed on the grounds of a new city park being built on the site of the old Consumers Energy headquarters.

“We hope to be able to have the new mural in place by….this time next year,” says Grant Bauman, whose part of the team working on the project.

He says the glass mural will add to the mix of public art in downtown Jackson.

This month, the project received a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Organizers still need to raise about $200,000 for the glass mural project.

A Consumers Energy spokesman says the company has contributed to the preservation of the mural in the past, but has not committed to donating to the current project.

Back during the Great Depression, some radicals were strongly against helping starving people at all. They believed that when only their condition was so bad and so hopeless and they couldn’t stand it anymore, they would finally revolt and bring about a new society.

That never happened, of course, in part because the New Deal kept people alive and gave them hope in the future. For a long time, I thought the idea that you could get people to do the right thing only by making them suffer terribly was heartless.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Consumers Energy is suspending plans to start building a $700 million power plant in Genesee County.

The utility announced today it will instead buy an existing Jackson County power plant for $155 million.

“You know, frankly, we can look out our windows at our headquarters at Consumers Energy, look east, and see the steam when that plant is operating, which is quite often,” says Dan Bishop, a Consumers spokesman.

The Jackson County power plant has been generating electricity for a decade. As a merchant power plant, it sold electricity on the wholesale market.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan could deregulate the electricity market, allowing people to choose where they buy electricity.

In downtown Frankenmuth there are two very popular restaurants: the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn and right across the street, Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth. Both are famous for their chicken dinners. And the owners are cousins -- both of them are Zehnders.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It will be Saturday at least before electricity is restored to all the Michigan homes and businesses that lost power in Sunday’s ice storm.

The storm knocked out power to almost a half million Michiganders.  About 300,000 are still waiting for their electricity to be turned back on. 

Brian Wheeler is a Consumers Energy spokesman.  He says about a third of the nearly 200,000 Consumers Energy customers without electricity are in Flint and Genesee County

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Gratiot County Wind Farm has 133 wind turbines scattered over more than 30,000 acres. It's the largest wind farm in Michigan. Each 1.6 megawatt wind turbine can generate enough power for 350 homes.

And this is what it sounds like when you stand directly beneath a wind turbine that stretches more than 450 feet into the sky with the wind blowing between 10 to 15 mph.

(Listen below - You can hear the turbine slow down - I think it's neat, but I'm a nerd.)

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State officials have submitted the latest in a series of reports that Gov. Rick Snyder says will help Michigan make decisions about future energy policies.

The "Additional Areas" report deals with reliability of electricity, rates and prices, and natural gas infrastructure. Among the material is a section on the role of states versus the role of regional transmission operators or independent system operators for reliability.

Another section covers the linkage between natural gas prices and electricity prices.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Public Service Commission has submitted a report on renewable energy to Governor Snyder. That report indicates renewable energy is getting cheaper and more varied, ranging from wind and solar to biomass and ground source heat pumps.

But the surprising point in the report was this statement:

“...it is theoretically technically feasible for Michigan to meet increased Renewable Portfolio Standards of as much as 30% from resources located in the state.”

Bruce Power / Ontario Power Generation

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin of Michigan are asking Secretary of State John Kerry to intervene in a Canadian plan to store nuclear waste underground near Lake Huron.

Ontario Power Generation proposes a radioactive waste disposal facility at the Bruce nuclear power site in the city of Kincardine. If approved, it would house more than 200,000 cubic feet of waste about a mile from the lake.

In a letter Monday to Kerry, the Democratic senators say they're concerned how storing so much radioactive material that close to the lake would affect the environment and industries such as fishing and tourism.

They ask Kerry to urge the Canadian government to reconsider its plans.

The company says the underground rock formations would keep the waste safe for thousands of years.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - More wind and solar energy users in Michigan are getting billing credit for excess power they generate.

State regulators issued a report last week showing utility customers with their own windmills and solar panels onsite increased the net metering program's production size by 55% from 2011 to 2012.

There also were more than 300 additional residential or business customers taking part in the program last year than the year before.

THETFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Consumers Energy is taking steps toward its planned 700-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in Michigan's Genesee County.

The Jackson-based utility filed Friday for approval of a certificate of necessity with the Michigan Public Service Commission. The filing is allowed under the state's energy reform law.

Chief Executive Officer John Russell says the filing establishes the plant "is in the best long-term interests of Michigan."

Holland BPW

Michigan has a new commercial scale power plant; the first new power plant in Michigan in 25 years.

Coal is still the dominant fuel source in the state, but this plant's existence means there will be a little less coal being imported into Michigan.

At the ceremony today celebrating its opening, the Lansing Board of Water & Light sang the new "REO Town" plant's praises:

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s first new utility built power plant in 25 years was fired up today in Lansing.

The Reo Town power plant’s natural gas powered turbines whirled to life this morning.

The $182 million plant will generate electricity and steam for Lansing Board of Water and Light customers.   The plant will generate up to 300,000 pounds of steam for 225 steam customers in downtown Lansing and will completely replace BWL’s Moores Park Steam Plant.   It also will provide 100 megawatts of electricity, about 20 percent of the utility's electric generation. 

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Public Service Commission and Michigan Energy Office officials plan to hold the first of seven forums this week on the state's energy future.

Among those scheduled to speak Thursday in Lansing include representatives of the Michigan Manufacturers Association, Michigan Environmental Council and Citizens Against Rate Excess.

The four-hour public forum called "Readying Michigan to Make Good Energy Decisions" starts at 1 p.m. at the Library of Michigan.

Callum Black / Flickr

With all the buzz around the fiscal cliff in Congress, something happened that you might’ve missed.

There’s a federal tax credit. It’s called the wind energy Production Tax Credit, and it was about to expire at the end of last year.

At the final hour, Congress extended that tax credit, and President Obama signed the bill.

It now covers wind projects that start construction in 2013.

Peter Kelley, a spokesman for the American Wind Energy Association, says the credit gives tax relief for the first ten years of a wind farm.

Michigan will get $90,000 from the US Department of Transportation to help prevent damage to underground pipelines. The federal agency announced the grant today. It's granting $1.5 million total to 22 states. The money will support advertising efforts for MISS DIG.

"The number one cause of pipeline damage is people excavating on their own property without knowing what’s underground," said Judy Palnau, a Michigan Public Service Commission spokeswoman. The MPSC applied for the grant.

user wheat_in_your_hair / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - About 8,000 DTE Energy Co. customers in Oakland County will receive credits on future bills after losing service this summer due to a substation fire.

The Detroit News reports Friday that the credits will range from $25 to $250 and show up on bills over the next several months.

Residences and businesses in Royal Oak and Berkley, north of Detroit, lost power for two days last month.

DTE Energy spokesman Len Singer says the amount of the credits will depend on the length of time customers were without electricity.

The newspaper reports that customers can seek a $25 credit if an outage lasts more than 16 hours under normal conditions or more than 120 hours under catastrophic conditions.

The state's biggest electricity provider says customers who don't want a smart meter will have to pay extra for the privilege.

Smart meters use radio signals to allow two-way communication between a customer's residence and the utility.

The meters let utilities know immediately who has lost power, among other things.  The company will also be able to remotely shut off power and turn it back on. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

How hot was it today?

Hot enough for Consumers Energy to smash its all-time record for electricity demand.

DETROIT (AP) - Utility workers are battling high temperatures as they work to restore electricity to tens of thousands of Michigan homes and businesses without power following thunderstorms this week.

DTE Energy said early Saturday about 45,000 of its customers were without power, mostly in Oakland and Wayne counties. Consumers Energy reported about 23,700 of its customers without power.

Most of those without electricity lost service after storms late Wednesday and Thursday. DTE says most of its customers should have power back by Saturday night.

user Coolcaesar / wikimedia commons

Nearly 150,000 Michiganders are sweating through today without electricity.

Severe storms earlier this week knocked out power to more than 400,000 Michigan utility customers.

Spokesmen for DTE and Consumers Energy say it may be late Saturday or early Sunday before all the electricity is restored.

Dan Bishop is a spokesman for Consumers Energy. He says utility crews expect to make a lot of progress today, despite having to work in temperatures around 100 degrees.

“The heat is obviously the story of the day,” says Bishop. “The most important concern for us is to make sure our crews are well hydrated and working safely.”

Consumers Energy is getting some extra help from linemen from Missouri and Indiana.

charlesandhudson.com

Electric utilities in Michigan are expecting to see a big spike in demand today, as temperatures are expected to climb to 100 degrees in parts of Michigan.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michiganders will use less gasoline and electricity this summer, that's according to the Michigan Public Service Commission.

The state utility regulatory agency issued its annual Summer Energy Appraisal today.

Judy Palnau is the agency’s spokeswoman. She says there are a couple reasons why the public service commission expects gasoline sales will decline about 2 percent this summer in Michigan.

“Part of that is a economy. But part of that is we are also driving more energy efficient vehicles,” says Palnau. 

Palnau says the economy is also a reason why they expect electricity use will dip slightly this summer.

“Our sluggish economy is still a factor in decreasing use of electricity,” says Palnau, though the MPSC expects residential electric use will increase. 

The MPSC study also predicts natural gas sales will decline nearly 5 percent this summer. A mild winter drove down demand among both business and residential natural gas customers.

Tom Remick / wikimedia commons

American Electric Power officials say reactor no. 2 at the Cook Nuclear Plant in southwest Michigan came back online Saturday after a 38-day refueling and maintenance shutdown.

Cook Nuclear Plant is located north of Bridgman, Michigan.  

From an AEP press release:

Indiana Michigan Power’s Cook Nuclear Plant Unit 2 returned to service today at 4:47 p.m. following a refueling outage that began March 21. In addition to refueling the reactor and performing regular maintenance and testing work, the 38-day, 16-hour outage also included the installation of new main output transformers.

ABC 57 reports reactor no. 1 will be refueled next year.

Brown / michiganradio

A new energy company has moved into the residential power market in Michigan.

Glacial Energy has been operating in Michigan since 2008. But now they’re offering their services directly to households, too.

Glacial Energy regulatory affairs manager Derek Smiertka says the company only operates at the retail level—and that means they can generally offer cheaper rates than the big utilities.

Marlana Shipley / Flickr

The extremely hot weather has caused some electrical outages in metro Detroit. High temperatures and storms last month contributed to power outages across the state. The National Weather Service expects southern Michigan’s heat wave to continue through the weekend.

Scott Simon is with Detroit Edison. He says the electric grid is in good shape and should be able to handle the increased need for power.

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