We are a community organization approaching 1,000 people who feel that the BLP plans need a second look.
What is the Grand Haven BLP?
What is the Board of Light and Power (BLP)?
The BLP is a department of the Grand Haven city government, under the direction of an elected five-member board. It has the responsibility of obtaining and distributing electrical energy to the City of Grand Haven and parts of Ferrysburg ,Grand Haven and Spring Lake Townships. As it is a municipal utility, it is not regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission.
How are the members of the BLP elected?
They are elected by the voters of Grand Haven for 6-year terms. Two members of the Board are retiring this year. We will lose the services of long-term Chairman Jack Smant, and Independently thinking Board Member John Naser. As five people are running for the Board, there will be a primary election on August 3 to reduce the field to four for the two seats., and a general election to fill the two seats on November 2.
I can watch a live stream of GH City Council meetings, but not BLP meetings? City Council meetings, but I can only listen to BLP meetings and it's hard to know who is talking. They do not record their meetings, and put them on YouTube, like as the City does. Why?
That is a question for the BLP. We do not understand why the BLP Board does not make it convenient for residents and customers to follow their meetings easily.
The Minutes of their meetings are heavily redacted to hide the 3 – 2 discord among board members and BLP Staff.
Is the BLP as transparent as they would like the public to believe?
Their message of being transparent is constant from them. Those who follow their actions have a different view.
Did the BLP have a schedule to publicize specific opportunities for the public and for businesses in the community to comment on their new 5-year strategic plan?
Here are some recent realities: On Earth Day, April 22, the BLP (by a 3-2 vote) voted to adopt a 5-year Strategic Plan. They held no public hearings on their plan. They did not reach out to industry, commercial enterprises, or to the residents of the community to share their thinking, or to gain information
How about the same question for their 5-year Capital Improvement Plan?
They did the exact same thing on May 20 when they adopted their 5-year Capital Improvement plan. They had no input from the community, but listened primarily to their internal staff.
Given the number of studies BLP has paid for, could someone explain the reasoning for paying for another?
The previous studies were done under the direction of the BLP, conducted by consultants with vested interests in the energy industry. The studies were focused on identifying the best type of natural gas-fired power plant. The consulting companies reported exactly what they were told to, rather than to determine what is best for our community.
The Grand Haven Energy Organization is working to have an independent study, done by a highly qualified organization that is highly skilled in their understanding of energy and energy’s future, look at current plans here, and to advise our community if those plans are appropriate. If the study indicates the plans are right for us, so be it. If not, is it not right to know this now, before we waste at least $27,750,000.
Who is paying the advertising and public relations expenses of the BLP efforts to promote their plans for Harbor Island?
You and I. BLP rate-payers are paying the $48,000 bill for the public relations firm BLP has hired, Boileau Communications.
How much money does the BLP have in cash or in cash equivalents?
The current estimate for cash and cash equivalents is between $25 million and $30 million.
About $11 million of that money is owed to Huntington Bank which has issued a Bond Anticipation Note to the BLP for up to $20 million. It is likely that that note will be renewed, and paid over the next few years from revenues. It is prudent financial management to maintain a healthy cash balance.
I have heard that the BLP is making substantially more money since they closed the Sims coal-burning plant. Is that true?
Yes. In the 6 month period from October 2020 through March 2021, the BLP net operating income increased an average of $302,218 per month. This is an increase of 74.76% over the same 6 month period in the previous year.
Tell me about the City Council resolution requiring the BLP to build a project on Harbor Island?
There isn’t one.
Actually, BLP is not required to build on Harbor Island. Here is the actual wording of the resolution passed by the City Council on November 19, 2018:
18- 312 Moved by Council Member Fritz, seconded by Council Member Scott, to authorize the decommissioning of the Sims Power Plant, effective in June of 2020, conditioned on the commitment by the BLP that by June of 2023, Grand Haven will have the capacity to generate a majority of local electricity within the service area and that future facilities will include capacity to partner in the support of the snowmelt system. This motion carried unanimously.
Note: there is no requirement for the BLP to build on Harbor Island. In addition, the resolution requires the BLP to produce about 36 MW of energy. The plan the BLP has proposed will produce only 12.5 MW. This is NOT in compliance with the Council resolution.
What is the cost of electrical energy in Grand Haven compared to our neighboring communities, including Holland and Zeeland which have municipal electric utilities?
Rates change often. The most recent comprehensive comparison is the one produced by the American Public Power Association in October of 2020, reporting on revenue per kilowatt-hour in 2019.
Since that time, rates in Holland have been reduced by 10% across the board. Some BLP rates have been reduced recently, slightly. Some have been increased, slightly.
BLP residential rates are substantially higher than in Holland and Zeeland. BLP Industrial and Commercial rates are higher than those of Consumer’s Energy, as well as for customers of the Holland and Zeeland electrical utilities.
The BLP has been touting the fact that its rates are lower than those “in our neighboring community.” This is true for Consumers Energy rates for residential customers, but it is not true of their rates for Commercial or Industrial customers for which Consumers Energy rates are lower.
Residential Electricity, per Kilowatt-Hour Revenue Comparison of Grand Haven to Other Public Utilities and Consumers Energy
Those of us who have the Grand Haven Board of Light and Power providing electrical service to us should be very pleased with the quality of service the utility provides to us.
However, when compared to other publicly owned utilities in Western Michigan, we should be very concerned about our rates.
Yes, our revenue per kilowatt-hour charges are more expensive than those of Consumers Energy, but they are dramatically higher than the rates of other publicly owned utilities. This chart shows how prices compare.
The information is from the American Public Power Association publication, “Average Revenue per Kilowatt Hour (in cents), for 2019. The information was published in October of 2020.
Rates in several of these locations have changed. Some, such as Holland, have lowered their rates by 10% across the Board (though the figure listed below, which is now higher than current rates, is from the October 2020 study). Recently, Grand Haven lowered rates slightly for certain, primarily industrial customers, but has raised rates a small amount for more than half of their customers.
Average Residential Revenue
Michigan Public Utility Average
Above/Below MPU Average
Consumers Energy is a stockholder-owned utility. Rates are regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission. Rates include a return on investment as well as revenue to cover taxes.
If regulated, publicly owned utilities are regulated by their communities, They do not pay dividends to stockholders, but many, including Grand Haven, pay a % of their revenue to the municipalities that own them. Interest on bonds for public utilities are tax exempt, which lowers costs of bowering significantly, compared to costs for investor-owned companies.
Is there a consultant’s report recommending a 12.5 MW gas plant for Grand Haven?
Progressive AE recommended the 12.5 MW plant after determining that the gas supply to Harbor Island would not support anything larger than that.
Both a 36 MW plant and a 20 MW plant were also studied. The larger plant was considered too expensive. The 20 MW plant was deemed not feasible as the gas supply to the Island is limited. Although BLP says they "right-sized" the plant for Harbor Island, BLP actually has no other option.
Are the members of the BLP Board unanimous in their support of their proposal for Harbor Island?
No. The five members of the board have consistently split on the plans. Two members, Larry Kieft and John Naser have opposed the plans. Three other members, Todd Crum, Gerry Witherell, and Jack Smant are committed to their staff’s plans for electricity for Grand Haven.
The elephant in the room (or is it the whale in the river) is what would happen to BLP customers if the electricity grid that delivers 100% of the energy the BLP needs is interrupted for an extended period?
During most of the year, BLP’s daily demand peak is around 34 MW. During the hot summer months, the daily demand peak may reach 68 MW. So, a 12.5 MW plant simply is not large enough to supply all customers with all the power, if the grid should fail. BLP staff would have to rotate power on and off through their distribution circuits. The BLP website addresses this issue.
What is the Grand Haven Energy Organization (GHEO)?
What is the Grand Haven Energy Organization?
The Grand Haven Energy Organization is a RAPIDLY growing community-based group of volunteers concerned about the future of the electrical energy supply for our community. As of mid-June, we have a supporter list of nearly 1,000 persons.
Our core committee (which handles the routine tasks that arise) comprises of 22 citizens including former Mayors Gail Ringelberg and Roger Bergman, former State Representative Jon Jellema, former City Managers, civic leaders such as Field Reichardt, Oliver Shampine, the immediate past President of the GHHS Senior Class and others.
We are conservatives, moderates, and liberals working together for the future of our community.
We are proud that our efforts have been recognized by regional environmental and good government groups such as the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) and the West Michigan Chapter of The Sierra Club, who have provided us with in-kind support. Our funds to inform and educate the community have been raised locally, and are managed by WMEAC. The West Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club has contributed funds for a billboard, and for some of our yard signs. We thank them for this support!
What is the purpose of the GHEO??
We are concerned that the BLP is advancing its energy plan without sufficient citizen oversight or involvement. The BLP plans, which are the largest expenditure of public funds for Grand Haven since the 1970s, deserve an independent look.
Our purpose is to educate and persuade the community and City Council that a delay in the authorization of a bond issue for the BLP's expensive plan must be done until an independent study is complete and is shared with the community. This is both is prudent and responsible public policy.
How is the GHEO working to influence the City Council’s response to the BLP proposal?
In the fall of 2019, the Grand Haven City Council set as one of their goals for 2020 to seek “A Community-Driven Energy Solution.” A number of Grand Haven residents reached out to City Council members and Mayor Monetza in the spring of 2020 by presenting them with a citizen petition, with 234 names, asking that they form an independent group to meet their goal. The Council asked us to work with the BLP who, by a 3-2 vote, rejected our involvement. A larger group, now called the Grand Haven Energy Organization, formed to continue to work on the issue. We are currently collecting signatures on a second petition to urge the City Council to take a careful look at the BLP’s plan. As of the middle of June, more than 800 signatures had been secured.
What are the sources of funds for the GHEO?
While the BLP is spending $48,000 of ratepayer money, we have a budget 1/10 that amount: $4,800. Our funds are from donations of local people. We have also accepted limited support (for a Billboard and ½ of our yard signs) from the local chapter of the Sierra Club, which, as is true for many of us, is very concerned about the environmental issues on Harbor Island. We are proud to have attention from these west Michigan environmentalists who recognize the precious natural resources of our community.
We would GLADLY accept your donation!
How may I donate?
We are accepting educational donations through the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) which has agreed to manage our funds. There are tax advantages to donating through them, as funds contributed there are used for educational purposes. Please do so at https://wmeac.org/donate - and when you do, designate they are for the GHEO!
In addition, we are asking individuals who are willing to do so, to help cover some of the costs of our more direct city government communications efforts. If you are willing to help, please write us at Dennis@GHEnergy.org
How else may I help?
This is a classic “People vs PR” campaign. We do not have the huge PR budget of the BLP to sell our program – we just have people!
First and foremost, please sign our advisory petition to the Grand Haven City Council requesting that they delay the decision on the BLP proposal, and secure an independent analysis of the plans, as well as alternatives.