DTE plans 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050

The Detroit News

Michigan’s largest utility said Tuesday it plans to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent in the next 33 years by moving away from coal-fired plants and toward natural gas-fired facilities and renewable energy.

DTE Energy said it would increase its generation of renewable energy by a factor of six — from the current 1,000 megawatts to 7,000 megawatts by 2050. That amount would supply nearly 2 million homes, the utility said in a statement.

DTE did not specify what the mixture of wind and solar power would be. But the Detroit-based utility indicated in the past couple of years it planned it rely more on cleaner-burning natural gas than coal-fired power plants to help generate electricity.

“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,” said DTE Energy Chairman and Chief Executive Gerry Anderson. “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 Energy already had decided to retire 11 aging coal-fired facilities that environmentalists had attacked for spewing too much pollution, even as the utility updated scrubbing and other technologies to reduce emissions. The plants would close by the early 2020s.

The utility reiterated in a statement that it plans to shift to more natural-gas-fired plants to supply electricity to its customers. It plans to add 3,500 megawatts of energy this way to ensure customers can get electricity all of the time — something most renewable sources can’t guarantee.

The combination of renewable energy and natural-gas-fired plants would supply three-quarters of the Detroit-based utility’s power by 2050.

DTE also plans to spend more money on energy efficiency measures and reducing energy waste, which it said would help customers control their energy use better and save money. It expects to invest $5 billion during the next five years to modernize its electric grid and gas infrastructure that would “support” more than 10,000 jobs in Michigan.

“I want to be clear that this plan is more than a commitment to a long-term goal in 2050,” Anderson said. “We have already begun fundamental transformation in the way we produce power, and we will press that transformation forward steadily in the years and decades ahead, sharply improving environmental outcomes in the process.”

The moves come even though the Trump administration has been more wary of climate change projections and more friendly toward the coal and oil and gas industries. Among President Donald Trump’s moves were signing an executive order to allow more drilling offshore and reduce regulations that had effectively started shutting down the coal industry in states such as West Virginia.

"DTE Energy has developed a long-term plan for meeting its customers’ electricity needs and the Michigan Public Service Commission will evaluate the proposal in detail as part of the upcoming integrated resource planning process called for under the state’s energy reform laws that went into effect in April," Sally Talberg, chairman, Michigan Public Service Commission, said in a statement. "Our duty will be to examine the impact of DTE's plans on reliability, affordability, and the environment under various scenarios so that the Commission can make informed decisions about future electricity supplies serving the residents of the state of Michigan."

As part of DTE’s strategy, it plans to reduce by at least 25 percent the energy and water use within its own facilities.