Traverse City's electric utility has put aside their controversial plan to build a wood burning biomass plant. The Light and Power Board voted last night to make natural gas their top priority as a new source of power.
That also means the utility will rethink its ambitious plan to reach 30 percent renewable energy by 2020.
Critics strongly opposed to biomass said it would deplete area forests and pollute the air. And this week, they brought in a medical doctor and national opponent who told local officials the health risks of burning wood are serious.
Mike Coco, Chair of the Light and Power Board, says the health issue did play a role in deciding to set aside their biomass plan.
"We've listened to the community," he says. "We know that they continue to have questions about biomass. We need to react to that. Ultimately we represent the customers."
Coco says the utility is not abandoning biomass, but they're now going to take a closer look at building a natural gas fired plant.
Natural gas is not renewable.
"I want the community to remember that whether or not we do biomass or natural gas the basis of our situation stays the same," he says. "And that is, today we are 99 percent reliant on fossil fuels."
Coco says TC Light & Power wants more energy independence and reliability for customers. For now, 95 percent of electricity comes from older, coal-fired plants downstate.