2018 U.P. Energy Summit brings industry experts together

MARQUETTE, Mich (WLUC) - The 2018 U.P. Energy Summit was held Wednesday at Northern Michigan University.

Representatives from energy and power companies from across the Upper Peninsula met to discuss the changing landscape of energy.

New legislation and how it impacts the way we produce and consume energy was a major topic at the summit.

Public Acts 341 and 342, the laws put in place in 2016, seek to make energy in Michigan more sustainable, reliable, affordable, and environmentally friendly.

Sally Talberg, chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission, says the law was written to give all utilities flexibility in how the law is applied to their company.

“The energy laws really allow for flexibility and the ability to adapt to different solutions that are going to meet the local needs. It doesn't prescribe specific outcomes,” she said. “There are minimum requirements for renewable energy, but how you go about doing that really is to be decided by and be customized at the local level.”

But Rep. Beau LaFave, Rep.Sara Cambensy, and Sen. Tom Casperson feel it addresses downstate needs more than the challenges facing the U.P.

“I'm very interested in amending that law and finding a U.P. solution,” Rep. LaFave said during a video conference at the summit.

“Do we have to be beholden to laws that really benefit and relate to the Lower Peninsula?” added Rep. Cambensy. “Are there ways to kind of carve out our own laws and regulations that will help us get to solving some of those rural problems?”

Talberg says the law makes it easier for all Michigan consumers to have an option in where they get their energy.

“They're called green pricing programs, and so customers can decide if they want to get all or some portion of their electricity from green energy supply, such as solar or wind or other sources,” said Talberg.

Consumers are driving the conversation more than ever.

“I would just encourage everybody to start talking amongst yourselves in having maybe a plan to move forward so we can present something downstate that is more of a collaborative plan for the Upper Peninsula,” said Sen. Casperson.

Talberg also touched on the progress at the Presque Isle Power Plant.

She says so far, things are on schedule, but they don't know when exactly PIPP will be closed down.

“Part of it depends on making sure that the gas generation is in service and commercially in operation before they can move forward. It's essential that the generation is there to keep the lights on,” she said.

The UMERC natural gas facilities are expected to be opened in 2019. The goal is to shut PIPP down by 2020.