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DTE Energy accelerates schedule for retiring coal, but not enough to please environmental groups

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DTE now proposes to shut down half the units at its massive Monroe power plant by 2035

DTE Energy has filed a new 20-year energy plan that includes a faster retirement of its coal plants along with other steps to reduce carbon emissions.

The plan, known as an Integrated Resource Plan, is a document filed with state utility regulators detailing how the utility will meet electricity demand for its customers, including what sources of fuel will be used to create the electricity.

DTE says it plans to convert its Belle River coal burning plant to a natural gas peaker plant by 2026, firing the plant up at times of high demand.

And it also plans to shut half the coal-burning units at its big Monroe plant by 2028,  but keep burning coal in the other half until 2035. The utility's previous IRP said the Monroe plant would remain in operation until 2040.

Also in the plan:

  • By 2027: DTE will add 800 megawatts of new solar by 2027 and 240 megawatts of battery storage. (One megawatt powers an average American home for a little over a month.)
  • Between 2028 and 2032: The utility will add another 3,600 megawatts of new solar, and 1,000 megawatts of new wind power.
  • Between 2033 and 2043: DTE will add another 2,100 megawatts of new solar, 7,900 megawatts of new wind, and 1,050 megawatts of new battery storage.

DTE's timeline for ending the use of coal as a fuel source by 2035 is significantly behind Consumers Energy's, which plans to close all of its coal-burning plants ten years earlier, by 2025.
Consumers Energy's goals to add solar are also more ambitious than DTE's Energy, while DTE has more ambitious goals when it comes to adding battery storage.

Reaction from environmental groups was largely unfavorable. Mike Berkowitz with the Sierra Club released the following statement:

“While we appreciate DTE proposing a faster path beyond coal, burning it at two units of the Monroe plant until 2035 is too long to meet the urgency demanded by the climate crisis. We also plan to carefully scrutinize whether Belle River can be replaced with clean renewable energy that is good for jobs, public health, and the climate, rather than converting that plant to burn a different polluting fossil fuel — fracked gas — until 2040.”

And Bob Allison with the Michigan League of Conservation Voters called on ratepayers to participate in public meetings about the plan:

“Michiganders are rightly sick and tired of paying the highest rates in the Midwest for the longest amount of time in the dark of any state in the Great Lakes region. We are at a pivotal time in our state's clean energy future, and DTE must meet this moment with more ambition. This is just their proposal; all this most certainly should be hashed out in public hearings where customers who are upset get to engage with the Michigan Public Service Commission to ensure this plan works for all of us."

From DTE Energy's Executive Summary on its new long-term plan acknowledges that the company has a role in addressing climate change.

"Climate change is the defining public policy issue of our time, and as an environmental leader and one of the largest electric energy companies in the country, we know DTE Electric can help address this challenge in a meaningful way," the summary says.

"Our 2022 Integrated Resource Plan calls for drastically reducing carbon emissions by accelerating coal plant retirements, investing billions of dollars in clean, Michigan-made renewable energy, and prioritizing reliability and affordability as we transition to cleaner generation resources."

Consumers Energy and DTE Energy are corporate sponsors of Michigan Radio.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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