Before a local energy company can build a new plant, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) must deem the plant necessary—as part of the energy company’s integrated resource plan (IRP) to keep energy costs both efficient and fair for Michigan consumers. Last week, the MPSC issued a “Certificate of Necessity” allowing DTE Energy to start building a natural gas plant in East China in St. Clair County.
To learn more about how the citizens of St. Clair feel about the new plant, AMP spoke with Jeff Bohm, St. Clair County Commissioner.
Meet Jeff Bohm: Lifelong Michigander and Energy Advocate
Jeff Bohm, a lifelong resident of East China, decided St. Clair County was not only a great place to start a family, but a great place to start a business too. In 1992, Jeff opened his first gym, Viking Fitness Center, and has since expanded to Port Huron, Marysville, and Marine City, Michigan. In addition to being a small-business owner, he has served on the St. Clair County Board of Commissioners since 2004 and was elected as the Chairman three years ago.
Here’s what Jeff had to say about why St. Clair County has welcomed DTE’s proposed plant:
“We can’t afford to rely solely on renewables. That’s why [the natural gas plant] receiving a Certificate of Necessity is critical.”
Wind and solar are great resources, but we can’t count on them 100% of the time. Natural gas is reliable 100% of the time. With Michigan weather being highly unpredictable, Jeff asked, “What are we supposed to do when the sun isn’t shining, or the wind isn’t blowing?” A shift to wind and solar exclusively would impose risks on Michiganders statewide.
“A ton of local families and businesses will benefit from the new natural gas plant.”
The economic benefits are clear. There is a great deal of work that goes into designing, building, and operating a new power plant, which means new, well-paying jobs in construction, engineering, manufacturing, surveying, welding, technology and more. The natural gas plant will also provide millions of dollars in new revenue for St. Clair County each year, which means stronger schools, better roads, improved emergency services, and more.
“Natural gas is cleaner than you think.”
Jeff mentions the environmental benefits of natural gas, and he’s right. Natural gas releases approximately 50 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than coal and 20 – 30 percent less than oil. In fact, carbon emissions nationwide are the lowest they’ve been in the last 30 years thanks to cleaner alternatives like natural gas.
Our conversation with Jeff reiterated what we already know to be true: an increased investment in natural gas is the right choice for Michiganders as a critical piece of Michigan’s evolving energy future. Natural gas provides a clean alternative to coal and will prevent an energy shortfall as our older coal-fired plants close. Natural gas is also an obvious choice for Michigan because it’s abundantly available and particularly suited to Michigan’s geography.