Filings to help lower power costs

Submissions made to MPSC

NEGAUNEE — The Upper Peninsula Power Co. has submitted two filings with the Michigan Public Service Commission, which is expected to lower power costs for residential, commercial and industrial customers.

UPPCO announced Friday that while customers will experience only a minor reduction to their monthly bills, the actions address the power costs for UPPCO customers by helping them use less energy plus increase support to lower-income customers.

One filing involves UPPCO’s decision to transfer administrative responsibility for the Energy Waste Reduction program from the state of Michigan to UPPCO. The EWR program provides funding for energy efficiency projects, which include appliance rebates and lighting programs for residential, commercial and industrial customers.

The program will begin in January. With UPPCO overseeing the program, it expects to see about $1 million in annual savings, mostly on the commercial and industrial side, which will be passed on to customers.

The second filing involves the company’s decision to take part in the 2018 Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund, which provides weatherization, financial assistance during critical winter months and energy-use education to help low-income households permanently decrease their energy bills and therefore, move toward self-sufficiency.

UPPCO’s participation in LIEAF, which will go into effect in September, is expected to increase assistance to hundreds of customers.

UPPCO CEO Jim Larsen, who said the LIEAF program has existed for several years, explained how UPPCO will be involved.

“What we do is we contribute to that fund on an annual basis, and then those funds are then distributed to agencies throughout the state,” Larsen said. “Those agencies are actually the ones that deliver that assistance to the customers in need.”

UPPCO had not participated in the program in the past, he said.

“The real benefit of doing that is not only do you increase the assistance for low income (people), but it also provides additional programs that aren’t currently available to our customers,” Larsen said. “They’ll be eligible for those in the future.”

Superior Watershed Partnership Executive Carl Lindquist believes there is a great need for this program.

“The Low-Income Energy Efficiency Fund helps make it possible to provide people with heating assistance and energy conservation assistance when they need it most,” Lindquist said in a news release. “New funding for LIEAF means the Superior Watershed Partnership and other community action organizations will be able to help more people.”

TrueNorth, a statewide organization that gives energy assistance to low-income households, already has helped more than 700 UPPCO households this year with paying heating and energy bills.

That’s particularly important in the Upper Peninsula, with TrueNorth President and CEO Bev Cassidy noting grants the organization receives through state and federal utility funding provide vital assistance for households in need.

“Many households struggle to stay safe and warm during the long winter months,” Cassidy said in a news release.

The Michigan Public Service Commission will not determine the actual LIEAF rate until later this month, although UPPCO said the monthly charge to customers will not exceed $1. When added to the larger savings from the EWR program, residential customers will experience an overall cost reduction of 30 cents to $2.90 a month. Commercial and industrial customers will see overall cost savings of $13.30 to $128 a month.

According to UPPCO’s website at uppco.com, the company, based in Marquette, serves about 54,000 electric retail customers in 10 U.P. counties. Its service territory of 4,460 square miles covers primarily rural countryside, and industries served by UPPCO include forest products, tourism and manufacturing.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.