Guest Column

Senate bills plug Michigan into a secure energy future

June 17, 2016
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As someone who works in energy and whose company has successfully installed or helped reduce emissions on over 6,000 megawatts of Michigan’s electrical generation, I can say with confidence that Senate Bills 437 and 438 are business-friendly, customer-friendly and environmentally friendly solutions that secure Michigan’s energy future.

Today, my company is building a new power plant in Holland that will generate 114 megawatts using clean natural gas.

Michigan, like the rest of the nation, is currently undergoing a dramatic transformation of its electric generation. The new Holland plant is part of that change, replacing the recently shuttered 76-year-old coal-fired James De Young Power Plant.

New environmental regulations coupled with the age of power plants are triggering a wave of coal plant retirements across our state and the Midwest. Because of these retirements, surplus generation is disappearing. In fact, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) — the independent grid operator that oversees the power system from the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico — projects a potential power shortfall of 2,000 megawatts in its territory.

Even more concerning, MISO says Michigan is close to dropping below its planning reserve margin — the necessary cushion that ensures the lights stay on during peak demand — by 2020.

Senate Bills 437 and 438 address this change in Michigan’s energy infrastructure, and Barton Malow is proud to play a key role in our state’s energy transformation. In recent years, we have successfully led projects that include new renewable generation at the Cross Winds, Echo Park and Stoney Corners wind farms; numerous environmental upgrades to the state’s existing generating fleet; and we are currently building the new natural-gas-fired power plant in Holland.

These were all competitively bid projects that resulted in the lowest possible cost while maintaining reliability.

Barton Malow represents a significant network of Tier 2 suppliers within the energy sector supply chain. When new generation is built in-state, we’re investing in local businesses and the hardworking men and women of Michigan.

Michigan’s utilities are committed to providing reliable, affordable power to their customers. And they are taking responsibility for the stability of Michigan’s power system by building and operating power plants here in our state.

Certain power providers, like Wolverine Power Cooperative, generate power in-state and supply it to their customers, including Amway. This is the exact model called for in Senate Bill 437 to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for every Michigander.

This is why we and businesses and labor groups across Michigan — including Ford, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Building & Construction Trades Council — have come out in support of Senate Bills 437 and 438. While these are just a few of many supporting a Michigan-first energy plan, taken together they employ or represent thousands of hard-working Michiganders.

We fully support Senate Bills 437 and 438 because they require that all energy providers — including alternative energy suppliers — demonstrate enough power to meet their customers’ needs at a minimum two years into the future. Moreover, they ensure that new power generation is built locally, keeping jobs here in Michigan while securing reliable, affordable and clean energy.

We’re committed to Michigan’s families, businesses and communities. When the city of Holland approved the new energy park project, it did so understanding the need to think and plan long-term and invest in new local generation for its customers. Michigan lawmakers have a responsibility to think about our state’s energy long-term. It’s time alternative energy suppliers do the same.

Doug Maibach is chairman of the Barton Malow Enterprises Board of Directors. Barton Malow Co. is a contractor in market specialties that include education, energy, federal projects, health care, industrial and manufacturing, as well as special event facilities.

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