DTE Energy is seeking to build a nearly $1 billion natural gas-fired power plant in East China Township, officials announced Tuesday.

The utility filed a certificate of necessity with the Michigan Public Service Commission late Monday afternoon for the plant, which is expected to power 850,000 homes beginning in 2022. The project will be constructed on company property in St. Clair County.

The request comes a year after DTE Energy officials announced that the utility would retire and replace three of its coal-fired power plants by 2023.

“With the retirement of those coal plants, we want to ensure that we have clean, affordable, reliable energy,” said Irene Dimitry, vice president of business planning and development for DTE Energy. “That’s why we’re proposing to build the plant.”

The three coal-fired power plants set to close from 2020 to 2023 are St. Clair, River Rouge and Trenton Channel. Workers will be retrained to work in the new plant, officials said.

DTE Energy conducted nearly a year of research and competitive bidding to determine if a natural gas-fired plant would be the best solution for customers, utility officials said.

The MPSC anticipates it will respond to the application within 270 days, said Nick Assendelft, a spokesman for the public service commission. During that time, various entities can submit testimony and exhibits related to the project for review.

If approved, the project is expected to be break ground in 2019 and will create 500 construction jobs, officials said.

“Representing the construction trades, I’m excited to see DTE investing in and bringing jobs into our state,” Shorty Gleason, legislative director for the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, said in a release. “This gas plant build represents real, sustainable economic growth and it will be exciting to be a part of the industry’s transformation.”

Dimitry said the project is another step in the company’s goal to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by the early 2020s and more than 80 percent by 2050.

DTE Energy’s efforts to make those reductions include plans to increase its investment in wind and solar farms by 4,000 megawatts and the operation of its zero-emission Fermi 2 power plant in Monroe County’s Frenchtown Township.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN

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