As part of a new plan to reduce its carbon emissions by more than 80% by 2050, Detroit-based DTE Energy will incorporate “substantially more” renewable energy.
The energy company says it will also transition its 24/7 power sources from coal to natural gas, continue to operate its zero-emission Fermi 2 power plant, and strengthen options for customers to save energy and reduce bills.
DTE’s efforts to cut its carbon emissions will garner a 30% reduction by the early 2020s, 45% by 2030, 75% by 2040 and more than 80% by 2050, according to the company, which adds that the reductions and the 2050 time frame align with the target scientists have identified as necessary to help address climate change.
“Over the past two years, we have studied the engineering and economics of Michigan’s energy future very, very carefully,” says Gerry Anderson, DTE’s chairman and CEO. “We have concluded that not only is the 80 percent reduction goal achievable – it is achievable in a way that keeps Michigan’s power affordable and reliable. There doesn’t have to be a choice between the health of our environment or the health of our economy; we can achieve both.”
DTE’s operating units include an electric utility serving 2.2 million customers in southeastern Michigan and a natural gas utility serving 1.3 million customers in Michigan.
The new plans also define a long-term shift by DTE to produce over three-quarters of its power from renewable energy and natural-gas-fired power plants.
DTE’s specific plans include as follows:
- The construction of an additional 6 GW of renewable energy capacity – enough to supply the energy for nearly 2 million homes – supplementing the 1 GW of renewable energy DTE has built since 2009;
- The addition of 3.5 GW of natural gas-fired energy capacity;
- The steady retirement of the company’s aging coal-fired plants;
- An investment of $5 billion over the next five years to modernize the electric grid and gas infrastructure;
Continued heavy investment in energy efficiency and energy waste reduction; and
- An aggressive plan to reduce energy and water within DTE’s own facilities by a minimum of 25%.
DTE has already retired three of its coal-fired power plants: the Marysville, Harbor Beach and Conners Creek plants. In 2016, three additional coal-fired generating units at plants also were removed from service. This process of retiring coal-fired power capacity will continue with the retirement of the River Rouge, Trenton Channel and St. Clair power plants in the early 2020s, the company says.
Notably, since 2009, DTE has spearheaded more than $2 billion of investment in wind and solar resources. The solar project DTE recently completed in Lapeer, Mich., is among the largest solar fields east of the Mississippi River, according to the energy company.
“The transformation of the way we produce power is in full swing,” adds Anderson. “Like all big transformations, this one won’t happen overnight. It needs to be planned carefully and will entail big investments, but that can absolutely be done. We are committed to accomplishing this within the time frame scientists have laid out and in a way that works for Michigan’s economy, homeowners and businesses.”
In response to DTE’s plans, Regina Strong, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Michigan, argues that although the announcement is a “positive step in the right direction toward prioritizing Michigan’s clean air and water, as well as public health,” it only “tells half a story.”
“Over the past five years, we have seen large-scale solar and wind outperform coal, and now we are seeing renewable energy directly compete with fracked gas,” she says. “What we have also seen is our surrounding communities threatened by the deluge of fracked gas pipelines that pollute our air and destroy our land. So, while the Sierra Club welcomes DTE moving beyond coal, it cannot stop there. Michiganders deserve clean energy that protects their air and water. We are encouraged by DTE’s actions today, but the transition to clean energy that puts public health first is far from over.”
Photo courtesy of DTE Energy