Wolverine gets green light to sell power

CADILLAC-Wolverine Power Marketing Cooperative (WPMC), a new retail electric cooperative serving large commercial and industrial customers, has gotten the go-ahead from the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to sell electricity in Michigan.

WPMC was one of only eight firms to receive an Alternative Electric Supplier (AES) license from the State, and the only alternative supplier located outside of metropolitan Detroit.

The cooperative can now sell power to companies throughout the state who are presently supplied by Consumers Energy, Detroit Edison and other electric utility companies.

A new law, signed into effect in June 2000 by Governor Engler, lights the way for business customers to choose their electricity supplier by Jan. 1, 2002. Several utilities are in a transition phase presently, allowing their commercial clients to bid to switch suppliers a year early, according to Craig Borr, president and CEO of WPMC.

WPMC will purchase its wholesale power from Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, which provides wholesale power to four cooperatives including Cherryland Electric Cooperative in Grawn, Great Lakes Energy in Boyne City, HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative in Portland and Presque Isle Electric and Gas Co-op in Onaway. The cooperatives serve more than 600,000 residents in rural portions of 35 Michigan counties.

“By purchasing our bulk power supply from Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, WPMC has the ability to rely on Wolverine’s 60 years of experience in the Michigan marketplace, as well as its state-of-the-art Energy Control Center for real-time load monitoring, scheduling and other functions,” Borr said. “This is a real-time market. Customers don’t get a busy signal in this industry; you’re continually matching supply with demand.”

Borr thinks WPMC’s location outside of the metro Detroit area is a benefit. “It’s good in that we know this area much better. The down side is there aren’t as many large commercial customers as there are in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Detroit, but physical location is really irrelevant,” he said.

The alternative supplier license allows entities to sell power anywhere in the state, as long as a customer’s present supplier allows customer choice.

To set up a new commercial or industrial customer, WPMC requires usage history–hourly load information–from the current utility company for a minimum of 12 months. Based on that data and credit history, WPMC may draw up a proposal for the company.

“In a choice environment, suppliers essentially evaluate customers,” Borr said, unlike the present system where local utilities are obligated to serve those in their geographic areas.

And the company has no set rate.

“Rates are reflective of the market and the customer,” said Borr. “There’s a different cost structure depending on how, when, how much energy you use. It’s truly different for each customer.”

Like all electric cooperatives, a board of directors comprised of customers will govern WPMC. Borr believes this is an attractive differentiator to large customers. “Essentially I work for you. You’re the customer and the owner,” Borr said. “It’s an interesting set up as opposed to the sell/buy relationship. You share a lot less in that relationship. There’s openness in this environment.”

WPMC expects to be serving new customers this winter.

For more information on this project, visit the Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative Web site at www.wpsci.com or the Michigan Public Service Commission Web site at www.cis.state.mi.us/mpsc/electric/. BN