DTE Energy will close its last coal-burning plant by 2040, and reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.
The decision comes in spite of the Trump administration's decision to slam the brakes on the Clean Power Plan, which would have allowed the U.S. EPA to regulate carbon emissions for the first time.
While the president and top administration officials continue denying the causal connection between carbon emissions from human activity and climate change, many corporations, including utilities like DTE, have accepted it as fact.
"This is an issue we have a responsibility to address," says DTE Energy CEO Gerry Anderson. "And we need to do that in a fundamental way."
Anderson says with the price of wind now cheaper than a new coal-burning plant, and the price of solar rapidly coming down, there is no "sucker's choice" between a healthy environment and a healthy economy. "We can have both," he says.
Add to that the cost of maintaining DTE's older coal-burning plants. "Many are 60 to 70 years old and it simply doesn't make sense to continue to invest in those kinds of facilities."
By 2050, DTE expects to provide electricity from a mix of about 20% nuclear, 40% solar and wind, and 40% natural gas.
But Anderson says the transition has to be done carefully. Managing a grid that heavily relies on solar and wind takes a great deal of engineering, and if done incorrectly can lead to skyrocketing electricity prices.
While Consumers Energy, the state's largest utility, has not made a similar commitment to a timeline for reducing emissions, a statement from the company says it does agree on the need to reduce carbon emissions.
We, too, believe Michigan is looking at a cleaner and leaner future. which includes more renewable energy, more energy efficiency and more natural gas. In 2016 alone, we retired more coal generation than other investor-owned utility in the nation.
Other Michigan companies are making promises related to emissions as well. General Motors has set the most ambitious goal. The automaker says it will rely on 100% renewable energy in its global operations by 2050.