January 17, 2011

Consumers Energy executive predicts superhighway to transmit power across Midwest will raise costs for Michigan residents

By Chris Gautz | Jackson Citizen Patriot, www.mlive.com 16 January 2011

A plan to build what’s described as a superhighway to transmit power between Midwest states is drawing criticism from a top Consumers Energy executive, who say it will raise costs for Michigan residents.

CMS Energy Board Chairman David Joos says Michigan would see no benefits, but he predicts Consumers Energy customers could pay several hundred million dollars a year extra for decades.

“We think the customers who benefit ought to pay,” Joos said.

If the Midwest’s electric transmission system is thought of as a highway, the plan would add new lanes to it to accommodate energy being created from wind and other renewable sources in states like North Dakota. That plan received approval last month from federal regulators.

It’s not as windy in Michigan as it is in North Dakota, so windmills operate more frequently there. That makes alternative energy cheaper to produce.

Joos said those who will benefit are the energy producers in wind-rich states and developers of transmission lines. Michigan would not gain, he said, because state law already forces utilities like Consumers Energy to generate their own wind and solar power.

Joos helped organize a group of electric utilities called the Coalition for Fair Transmission Policy last year. It opposes what some call the “socialization of the transmission system.”

“They want someone else to pay for the transmission of the power,” Joos said. “It’s not free to move power.”

Clair Moeller, vice president for the nonprofit Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, said the plan her group created is running into overblown criticism.

“It seems like there’s a lot of hyperbole,” Moeller said.

Moeller’s group comprises utilities and transmission companies in 13 states, and helps deliver electricity through an interstate system of high-voltage transmission lines.

Moeller said the plan would benefit Michigan. If utilities or wind farm owners in the state create excess energy, utilities could use the improved transmission system to move and sell it to other states.

Moeller said no plans have been finalized and that officials are still evaluating whether to move forward on all or part of the recommended improvements.

Congress could step in and stop the federal ruling, but Joos said nothing has happened.

The Michigan Public Service Commission has until Tuesday to file a request for re-hearing with federal regulators.

The commission is considering that, spokeswoman Judy Palnau said.

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2011/01/17/consumers-energy-executive-predicts-superhighway-to-transmit-power-across-midwest-will-raise-costs-for-michigan-residents/