Environmental, conservation groups meet DTE announcement with skepticism

As DTE Energy made headlines last week with its announcement that it plans to double renewable energy investments by 2022, environmental and conservation groups renewed concerns over DTE Energy’s plan to build a $1 billion natural gas plant in St. Clair County and refrain from building additional renewable energy until after 2040.  DTE’s announcement represents the bare minimum required to meet Michigan’s bipartisan clean energy legislation passed in 2016.

“DTE is repackaging its plan to meet modest 15 percent state clean energy requirements today, but is proceeding with its poorly conceived gas plant proposal,” said Becky Stanfield, Director of Western States for Vote Solar.  “Meanwhile, across the country, utilities are finding that renewables beat gas on price, economic development and can meet energy needs reliably.  DTE is anchoring Michigan to another generation of fossil fuel plants to benefit shareholders, not customers.”

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DTE Energy’s announcement comes as the utility company is seeking approval before the Michigan Public Service Commission to build a $1 billion natural gas plant in St. Clair County. DTE’s proposal has been met with intense opposition from ratepayer protection advocates, health advocates, energy experts, environmental conservation groups and more. Even Public Service Commission staff have scrutinized DTE’s plan for not accounting for volatility of natural gas prices and the benefits of investing in renewable energy and efficiency instead of building the plant.

More disturbingly, DTE has ramped up investments in natural gas infrastructure, a reason many suspect why it has been so aggressive at pushing natural gas plant expansion in Michigan. DTE’s sister company has part ownership of the nearly completed Nexus Pipeline, which many consider to be a blatant conflict of interestfor a regulated utility company.

“Energy experts demonstrated that a more balanced approach to our energy future that combined energy waste reduction programs, renewable energy and natural gas could save DTE ratepayers more than $2 billion over the life of their proposed plant,” said James Clift, Policy Director at the Michigan Environmental Council.  “Unfortunately, DTE’s announcement regarding renewable energy is lacking, and represents a missed opportunity for Michigan to save money, protect public health and create more clean energy jobs for our future.”

Historic, bipartisan energy legislation passed in 2016 requires regulated utility companies to generate 15 percent of their electricity from clean, renewable sources by 2022. DTE’s announcement would put the utility on track to just meet that requirement.

“DTE Energy is essentially announcing it will abide by the 2016 energy law’s renewable energy requirement – that’s not news,” said Nick Occhipinti, Government Affairs Director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “As prices for clean, renewable energy continue to fall, investing in wind and solar is a common sense investment that protects Michigan’s air and water.”

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