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Lansing Reminded to Act on Energy Policy in Latest Senate Hearing

On Wednesday, August 24, the Michigan Senate Energy and Technology Committee convened a special session to confirm Rachael Eubanks as a new commissioner with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC).  After her confirmation, the Committee heard expert testimony from Sally Talberg, MPSC Chair.

Her testimony—and the Q&A session that followed—highlighted some important concerns the MPSC has regarding the adequacy and reliability of Michigan’s electric generation capacity.  How legislators responded to her testimony provides some valuable insight into how they may act on energy legislation when they reconvene after Labor Day.

Key Takeaways

A few important takeaways emerged from this week’s hearing for the AMP community:

  • “Resource adequacy is fundamentally the role of the states,”
    according to Talberg.  It is the state’s
    responsibility—not the regional grid operator’s—to be anticipating demand and planning
    for enough energy to serve its residents. Essentially,
    this means we cannot depend on a regional supply of electricity from
    neighboring states to make up for any electricity shortfalls in Michigan. 
    We must ensure we have the energy
    resources we need to produce enough electricity to meet all Michiganders’ needs,
    even in times of peak use.

  • Historically, we have been able to make up for any
    shortfalls by relying on nearby states’ electric capacity.  However, with Illinois recently announcing
    additional plant retirements, there
    simply won’t be excess capacity for us to import in the near future
    .

  • That “near future” is sooner than we thought.  The
    Midwest region will lose half of its coal capacity in the next decade. 
    Until 2016, we believed the Midwest would
    have enough capacity in our reserve margins through 2020, but a recent study
    showed that the entire region’s reserve margins will fall short by 2018 if
    Illinois’s plant closures go through as announced.

  • Senator Nofs asked Talberg what Michigan could expect if we
    don’t do anything to ensure reliability and address our capacity, to which
    Talberg replied, “It would be dark.”  She
    highlighted unplanned events that impact electric reliability, such as the
    recent max generation warning
    , as a perfect example of why we need to build out our
    capacity now to ensure energy remains reliable in the future.

No direct actions came from the meeting, but it was
encouraging to see our legislators discussing the future of energy legislation
in the state even before they have to report back for full-time service after
Labor Day.

When the Michigan
Legislature reconvenes, AMP will be reminding them why it’s important to pass
strong new, Michigan-first energy policy without delay.
Stay tuned for
updates on how you can take action.