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!