Carbon-Free Reese’s

Readers of my maturity may remember a TV commercial from long ago. It visually showed how the Reese’s Cup candy bar was crafted when an individual accidentally dipped a solid chocolate bar into a jar of peanut butter. The rest is history, as they say.

While maybe not accidental, I think something electrically similar (I know it’s a stretch to go from candy to electrons but bear with me! I’m trying to suck you into a great story.) happened in 2017 when Wolverine Power Cooperative was walking around with an affordability mandate in one hand and ran into a carbon-free opportunity.

January 1, 2018, will be the start of a new era that covers the chocolate that is affordability with a peanut butter carbon-free coating. This first day of the year marks the beginning of a 10-year contract for an additional slice of nuclear power in the wholesale supply portfolio for all members of Cherryland Electric Cooperative.

This new piece of nuclear power acquired by Wolverine comes from plants in Illinois. When a Michigan wind deal did not materialize in 2017, Wolverine sought a compromise that would also result in lowering the carbon footprint of its member distribution cooperatives far into the future.

When you add Cherryland’s renewable portfolio of wind, solar and hydroelectric to existing nuclear, plus this new contract, you get a “not-all-your-candy-bars-in-one-basket” blend of power that will be 56 percent carbon-free. There isn’t an electric utility in the state of Michigan outside the Wolverine family of distribution cooperatives with a better mix of carbon-free power.

If you have read this column before, you know that affordability is important to your board of directors and management team as well. I am happy to report that this new contract will not cause an increase in our wholesale power costs. Wolverine has put together a power supply portfolio that will be the envy of utilities beyond Michigan’s borders while keeping prices stable in the years to come.

On top of this, Wolverine added 150 megawatts of additional wind energy and installed a large utility scale solar project in 2017. These projects were also done at affordable prices.

In yet another move last year, Wolverine put out a 10 MW solar offering to members across its five distribution cooperative footprint. Individual members can build up to 1 MW each and receive a small premium over wholesale for the energy produced. This program will run until the 10 MW is built or until January 2020.

I am proud of the Wolverine team for making the effort to improve your power supply in length, price and carbon content. It would have been much easier to simply eat the chocolate alone and spread the peanut butter on some bread like everyone else. Instead, they set out with long-held traditional goals but with a mind open to creative options.

So, there you have it. When out-of-the-box creativity wraps affordability with carbon-free power, you have something as good as chocolate and peanut butter. Affordable, carbon-free electricity is even better than candy because you can use as much as you can afford without expanding your waistline!

Tony Anderson

About the Author:


  1. George Granlund January 3, 2018 at 6:50 am - Reply

    I’m not sure the peanut butter cup analogy works, but it caught my eye. Thanks for including the term “renewable energy portfolio” in your op-ed. Twenty years ago, I’d have been opposed to the use of nuclear energy, but now I see it as being one of the few viable options for our energy future. Let’s keep headed in the renewables direction. Thank you.

  2. Joseph Ambrosi January 3, 2018 at 8:46 am - Reply

    I am no expert on the subject but here are my thoughts. Nuclear power is carbon free but to put it in the same category as renewables is kind of stretching it a bit. Using an analogy like Mr Anderson did, I would say nuclear energy ( the waste it produces) is like our trash or a federal deficit- bury it, forget about it, and let future generations worry about it after we are long gone. A responsible society does not do that.

    • Tony Anderson January 3, 2018 at 10:36 am - Reply

      Therein lies the nuclear conundrum, it is a carbon free resource that runs 24-7-365. Yes, there is a waste issue. In no way did I imply that we bury it and forget it. Wind and solar do not operate around the clock. I can’t get to 56% carbon free without nuclear. I can be 18% renewable and switch from nuclear back to coal but that would also be passing on responsibility to a future generation. I think everyone needs to realize that there is not one silver bullet. With each solution, there will be some compromise. With nuclear, the compromise is the waste. It simply needs to be handled properly and cared for over the long term.

  3. Phil Callighanq January 3, 2018 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    While nuclear power may come with its own ominous risks, I believe enough research and experience in the field has made nuclear power a viable option. Glad Cherryland Electric and Wolverine sought this “compromise.”

  4. David Wdowiak January 3, 2018 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    solar with out storage is like ice cream with out refrigeration. I am tired of telling people what they all ready know or refuse to look into. wind and solar is the least costly form of energy available right here and right now. You know this or you should know this. they are only going to get less costly and more efficient and leave a much smaller carbon footprint. Why are you not demanding geothermal with strict building codes compliant with hydronic, pump and dump and ice safe pond requirements? why are you not telling are coop brothers that solar is for daylight storage and night time usage. Why are we cherryland customers not told of the benefits of fuel cell and lithium ion batteries that can make are local banks and cherryland Coop a win win for all. I honestly think you are a great leader for Cherryland customers but lack the knowledge you require to give solid advice to are fellow customers.
    Yes limitations are a governing problem. But by you not sharing the achievements of solar in Europe, the commitment in China to go total renewable by 2050 you are not offering a true picture in what could be made available to are fellow cherryland members.
    Dave Wdowiak according to DTE energy the most efficient home in Michigan. The first flue damper installed in Michigan The first foam concrete foam in Michigan The first hot water hydronic pressure controlled home in Michigan The first owner of a direct vent fire place in Michigan. Oh yes and over 51 years experience in the construction distribution and repair of high voltage lines and equipment.
    PS if you do not know you should, Nuclear energy has a greater carbon foot print than coal and oil combined plus nearly three quarters of natural gas. also no insurance company in the world will even except a quote for liability let alone the fact that there is still no solution to the polluted storage problem.
    Nuclear energy is not carbon free: reference Science News The atmospheric steam is many times more damaging than carbon dioxide. The heating of the discharge water is as much or more damaging than raising the average earth temperature by more than a degree. please please get informed

    • Tony Anderson January 4, 2018 at 8:21 am - Reply

      Wow, there is a lot of “stuff” in your post. First, wind is getting harder and harder to site in Michigan regardless of its price. Zoning issues are the number 1 reason we don’t have more wind in our portfolio. Solar may get a little cheaper but I believe the big decreases are behind us. Cherryland is in the business of distributing affordable electricity. While we are working on better time of use rates and possibly some geothermal incentive programs, we are not in the building code business. Affordability for the average residential member is precisely why we are doing nothing with storage, fuel cells and lithium ion batteries. Storage is just now creeping into utility scale possibility but it is far from affordable for the average family home as are fuel cells and lithium ion batteries but I expect you already knew this. We will have to agree to disagree on nuclear energy. I firmly believe it is carbon free. I need a lot more proof before I ever buy your statement about discharge water being more damaging that CO2 as well. If you want to get into the carbon it takes to construct a nuclear plant then we also have to count the carbon it takes to manufacture, transport and construct wind and solar. Thanks for commenting and posting. I never get tired of discussing affordability, the cooperative model and anything I don’t know but should.

Leave A Comment