Palisades future to be announced today

The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Covert Township is pictured in 2016. A hearing today in Lansing will determine whether it will stay online after 2018.

COVERT — The future of Palisades Nuclear Plant should be much clearer after today. 

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) is set to announce its decision on Consumers Energy’s request to end its power purchase agreement with Entergy Corp. when Palisades Nuclear Power Plant closes in October 2018.

MPSC is the state regulatory body charged with ensuring safe, reliable energy and telecommunication services at reasonable rates. Among its key functions is to regulate electricity rates of companies such as Consumers Energy, MPSC Chairwoman Sally Talberg said at a public hearing on the case in May. 

The MPSC was tasked with evaluating whether there is cost savings for customers with the end of the contract, the liability impacts if the contract is ended early and what sort of replacement options are available to ensure reliable power supplies.

Consumers Energy entered into a 15-year power purchase contract with Entergy, the owner of Palisades, that was approved by the MPSC in 2007 and is set to expire in spring 2022.

When Entergy announced plans last December to close the plant in October 2018, it was essentially agreeing to end this contract, Talberg said.

In February, Consumers Energy filed an application with MPSC to recover its costs for the early buyout of the contract. They want to do this through the utility rates its customers pay over several years, using a kind of financing under Michigan law.

It is alleged by Consumers Energy, Talberg said, that even with factoring in that buyout payment, it would still be a cost savings for customers if the contract is terminated in 2018, instead of 2022.

In August, Palisades spokeswoman Val Gent said if the MPSC does not issue an order that is acceptable to all parties, then they will operate Palisades under the current contract terms until 2022. After that, it’s impossible to know if the plant will continue to operate or close at that time. 

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