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State Commissioners Discuss UP Utilities, Help With Bill Payments | News, Sports, Jobs

Dan Scripps

IRON MOUNTAIN – Members of the Michigan Public Service Commission reminded residents during a visit on Tuesday that help may be available from a variety of sources if they are struggling to pay their energy bills.

Primarily, the state’s emergency assistance program aims to help low-income households pay part of their heating or electricity bills, or restore service. Another option is the Michigan Energy Assistance Program, which works with households to provide assistance and self-sufficiency services.

A first step is to call 211, a free service that can connect people with the information and resources they need, said Commissioner Tremaine Phillips.

“To call for help,” he said.

MPSC is responsible for ensuring safe, reliable and affordable energy and telecommunications services at reasonable rates. The commission, made up of eight divisions, is made up of three members appointed by the governor for staggered terms of six years.

President Dan Scripps was joined on Tuesday at Iron Mountain by Phillips and Commissioner Katherine Peretick for a public hearing on Upper Michigan Energy Resource Corp.’s Integrated Resource Plan, a 20-year strategy for reliable electricity service.

A key feature is UMERC’s proposed addition of 100 megawatts of solar power generation to a portfolio now anchored in natural gas-fired facilities in the townships of Negaunee and Baraga, generating around 183 megawatts.

UMERC is a subsidiary of WEC Energy Group, the parent company of We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service, with more than 42,000 customers in the central and western Upper Peninsula.

The commission must decide whether UMERC’s plan is acceptable in terms of reliability, cost-effectiveness and diversity of resources, Scripps explained. “Details often come later” he said, noting that no site proposal is under consideration.

Peretick, who has worked in the public and private sectors with a focus on energy storage and technology development, said rapid advances in solar production and storage capacity make it necessary to maintain any prospect. fluid energy. Projects that were once considered marginal could become “Absolutely profitable”, she said.

The Commissioners and Public Information Officer Dan Helms also touched on other topics:

– The MI Propane Safety Plan, released in March, is a five-step plan to ensure Michigan’s propane needs are met. It was developed in collaboration with the Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, and the Michigan Department of Transportation. Although propane is not specifically regulated by the MPSC, the commission has been involved in market surveillance. Governor Gretchen Whitmer called for new rail infrastructure in the UP and the development of propane storage tanks near railway sidings.

– The severe storms of the past year underscored the need for electric utilities to strengthen the power grid and adopt practices to reduce the frequency and duration of blackouts. Fallen trees and tree branches are the number one cause of blackouts in Michigan, which has led to new incentives for additional tree pruning. After launching a grid reliability survey, there is still work to be done to address the challenges of severe weather events.

– The Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund extends fixed broadband broadband service to rural homes and businesses. The MPSC worked with stakeholders to ensure that more income-eligible households enroll in the federal broadband emergency benefit program, which offers monthly bill rebates and $ 100. for a device connected to the Internet.

– Enbridge Energy filed an application in 2020 with MPSC to relocate its Line 5 pipeline to a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac. In April 2021, the panel rejected consideration of arguments about the existence of a public need for the entire Line 5 pipeline. It agreed with stakeholders that the effects of greenhouse gas emissions should be considered in the case under the Michigan Environmental Protection Act. Initial briefs in the case are due February 18 and response briefs are due March 11.

Jim Anderson can be reached at 906-774-3500, ext. 226, or [email protected]

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