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We Energies requests permission to close UP plant

  • Associated Press
  • September 11, 2013 - 9:10 AM

MILWAUKEE — We Energies, which recently lost its largest customer in Michigan, could shut down its power plant in the Upper Peninsula unless it works out a deal with the Midwest power grid operator.

In a filing with securities regulators, the Milwaukee-based utility has asked the operator of the Midwest wholesale power market to allow it to suspend operation of the Marquette, Mich., plant in February through May 2015 unless the power is needed for reliability reasons.

Midcontinent Independent System Operator could wind up paying We Energies to keep the plant running, the utility said. We Energies plans to align its power supply to shrinking demand in Michigan after two iron ore mines and other customers switched to alternative power suppliers under Michigan's electricity choice program, utility spokesman Brian Manthey said.

We Energies lost more than 85 percent of energy demand in Michigan when the mine operator and other customers left. The mines, upset over four rate increases in five years, began buying power from Integrys Energy Services Inc., of De Pere, according to the Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1aB3t04 ).

As a result, We Energies is re-evaluating a joint venture with Wolverine Power Cooperative, which was formed to keep the U.P. plant running. Wolverine was planning to invest $130 million to $140 million to install scrubbers to reduce air pollution.

"We've talked with them, and we are continuing discussions to determine what changes need to be made to the joint venture to move forward with it," Manthey said. "Unless some changes can be made in the agreement, the situation could lead to the full or partial death of the plant."

We Energies has about 1 million customers in Wisconsin and Michigan, including 28,000 are in the U.P.

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