State regulators say they won't bargain under "threat of blackouts," but their complaint only highlights how the power is shifting.
The Michigan Public Service Commission is...
generating capacity, differentiates you from utilities in surrounding areas, where blackouts are more possible?
One thing that I think is different about us is we [never] quit our energy efficiency programs. We have kept those going, so we have a good staff in place continuing to do that. So I think we're better positioned than some. We figured at one point time, over the last 10 years, we've saved about 270 MW-enough for a whole plant, really-from our energy conservation program.
You met your efficiency goals in 2000. Have you shaved off all you can?
No, we've raised that bar again and put more money to try and increase those [savings]... from 6 MW to 11 MW.
How successful have the cash rebates and low interest loans for home energy improvements been?
That's really how we've gotten the savings over the past 10 years. But those [savings] were at prices that were relatively low. We really look for that to increase as we go into trying to put together some programs around whole house energy efficiency and those types of things. We think we'll achieve even more success because of the prices continuing to increase.
From where are you getting your increased capacity?
We have 100 MW that we're hoping for on the renewable side in five years, which isn't a whole lot. We upgraded our coal plant about 65 MW last summer, and about 35 MW from our gas turbines and hydros, so that's 100 MW. There's a new unit [Coyote Springs II] coming online that we're going to operate. It's actually [been] sold to Avista, but we'll operate it and it comes into our system. That's 280 MW. That's summer of 2002. We hope to be able to buy back some of that. It's not ours. And then we have a Port Westward unit, which is also located on one of our facilities, that could come online by summer 2003 at 650 MW. ... I should also mention we're putting on a high efficiency gas turbine-a small one, it's a 24.9 MW, actually, to stay under our 25 MW rule-at our Beaver plant, so that's also available for us this summer.
Are you planning to keep your same mix (roughly 50-50) of wholesale market purchases and self-owned generation?
Yeah, so far that seems to be the best approach for us. That's always subject to dealing with the commission and what the state wants to do in terms of power supply. But right now the state seems to want us to continue to provide for our customers through a mix of our own generation and purchasing on the market.
Have you implemented any new contingency plans in preparation for this summer?
Certainly what we've done is we've dusted off all our contingency plans. In this business, you kind of live in the world of expecting a storm or a major outage. We've just been through Y2K, we've been through things in the past where you share the shortage or have curtailment plans. So, yes, we're working through all those [plans], making