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A Matter of Reliability

On April 14, the regional grid operator, MISO, announced the results of its latest generation capacity auction. This annual process is designed to determine if there is sufficient generation supply to meet this summer’s maximum demand. The results are concerning to us at Great Lakes Energy, as this auction showed that the nine Northern states, including Michigan, are significantly short of the supply needed to keep the lights on when demand is highest.

While this is certainly concerning, it is not surprising, nor is it the first time that Michigan has found itself in this situation. In fact, just two years ago, the Lower Peninsula of Michigan was short of the needed supply to meet the maximum demand for the summer of 2020. Fortunately, from an electric standpoint, the peak demand for the Lower Peninsula was offset by lower commercial load due to COVID. As a result, the most extreme measures of controlled or “rolling” blackouts were not necessary.

In fact, just two years ago, the Lower Peninsula of Michigan was short of the needed supply to meet the maximum demand for the summer of 2020.

What is driving the shortfall in the necessary supply to meet demand? Simply put, the power grid is changing. Large baseload generating assets, primarily coal and nuclear, are retiring and being replaced mainly by intermittent renewable energy. The challenge placed on the grid is that for every megawatt of coal and nuclear that is retired, two megawatts of solar and ten megawatts of wind are needed to replace that supply. Additionally, it is impossible to permit a new coal plant, new nuclear is extremely cost prohibitive, and natural gas is becoming more challenging to permit, as well. Our options are limited.

Fortunately, our power supplier Wolverine Power Cooperative, has invested in generation supply on our behalf, meaning we at Great Lakes Energy have sufficient generation supply to meet our demand. Unfortunately, if blackouts are required by the grid operator, we must do our part as we are all interconnected to the same electric grid.

You only have to see Great Lakes Energy’s 63% carbon-free portfolio to realize that your cooperative has been trending to cleaner resources for the past 20 years. Our concern is about reliability and the risk that continues to grow for the lights to go out.

I want every co-op member to know that this isn’t a statement on renewable energy versus coal and nuclear power plants. You only have to see Great Lakes Energy’s 63% carbon-free portfolio to realize that your cooperative has been trending to cleaner resources for the past 20 years. Our concern is about reliability and the risk that continues to grow for the lights to go out.

There is the potential for this problem to get worse. While we are already facing power supply shortages, nearly 10% of Michigan’s generating fleet of coal and nuclear plants are slated for early retirement in the next three years. We can’t let power plant closures get ahead of the new generation that must be built to replace them.

Issues like reliability are critical, and we want to keep you informed and engaged. To support these efforts, Great Lakes Energy is partnering with other electric cooperatives from around the state and country, utilizing Voices for Cooperative Power (VCP). I encourage you to sign-up for VCP; it’s a great way to stay engaged, informed, and have a voice on critical energy policy issues. Sign up at voicesforcooperativepower.com and find out how you can get involved.

VCP is a network of electric co-op members working together to influence public policy decisions that impact our co-ops and our way of life.

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Robert Dakin
Robert Dakin
5 months ago

What’s going to occur when they add hundreds of EV charging stations to our grid?

Michael Cohn
Michael Cohn
4 months ago
Reply to  Robert Dakin

Most people drive under 40 miles a day. Primarily, only long distance travellers fast-charge during the day. Most drivers slow-charge their cars at home overnight when the grid has low usage. Time Of Use Rates, vehicle timers, etc would ensure when somebody plugs in at 5pm when grid usage is high, the car won’t start charging until 10pm when it’s low. Some electric cars allow the grid to borrow small amounts of electricity from the battery while plugged in during the day for grid stabilization and deposits electricity back into the car at night like a savings and loan bank.… Read more »

Tracey Krause
Tracey Krause
5 months ago

Hi Great Lakes, are you doing any wind power? My house is on a breezy lake, and I would like to explore the opportunity to install a rooftop windmill. Thanks!

Don Peterson
Don Peterson
5 months ago

what is meant by “early retirement”? If that means that these plants are being retired before their end of life, aren’t we shooting ourselves in the foot in the name of green energy? Doesn’t appear to be a sound plan IMHO

Steven Johnson
Steven Johnson
4 months ago

What is GLE’s current energy mix? (I’m asking because of the scheduled retirement of the Palisades nuclear plant that used to produce 6.5% of the State’s baseload power…geography/proximity would suggest that this specific plant used to be a significant contributor to GLE’s energy mix footprint and I’m curious what it looks like now and for the future vs. over the past 20 years – which is continually referenced in GLE publications). Also – it’s my past experience that MISO will first require businesses power customers to cut all non-essential power consumption during a severe grid shortage. Will residential customers be… Read more »

Steve Zucker
Admin
4 months ago
Reply to  Steven Johnson

Hi Steven. Information about GLE’s fuel mix as of Dec. 31, 2021 is available here: https://www.gtlakes.com/fuel-mix-report-2/. The closing of Palisades will impact our power supplier, Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative’s fuel mix. While Wolverine has contracts for specific fuel types, a portion of its portfolio is made of regional market mix power. Whenever MISO’s market mix changes (i.e., the shutdown of Palisades), Wolverine’s fuel mix will change in proportion to the amount in its portfolio (currently 43%). Carbon-free nuclear energy will remain a significant part of Wolverine’s portfolio despite the closing of Palisades because Wolverine has a fuel-specific contract for nuclear… Read more »

Rhonda
Rhonda
4 months ago

Why have the rebates for solar been discontinued if power supply is an issue? I would rather produce more green energy, saving our planet in the process, than lobby for coal and nuclear energy.

Last edited 4 months ago by Rhonda

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