DTE plans $7B, 5-year investment in SE Michigan electric grid, tree trimming

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

DTE Energy Co. plans to invest $7 billion over the next five years to modernize southeast Michigan's electric grid and prepare for increasing demand from electric vehicles.

Portions of the electric grid that are 90 years old remain in operation. The investment will seek to combat power outages, especially in light of increasing storm frequency and strength. The intention by the Detroit-based utility is to decrease costly outages and provide greater reliability to its 2.3 million modern customers.

DTE Energy Co. says it will triple its investment into tree trimming.

“This visionary plan recognizes that our customers’ homes and businesses interact with the electric grid in ways we couldn’t imagine just 20 years ago, and the future of mobility is being revolutionized again in Michigan through electrification, all of which means the grid we share must be adapted to the 21st century,” DTE CEO Jerry Norcia said in a statement. “Much of our grid was designed and built more than a century ago, providing customers the energy required for a much simpler day-to-day life.”

Funds will help to update and build new substations throughout the utility's footprint in Metro Detroit and the Thumb region of Michigan. These efforts will add 700 megawatts of capacity — enough to power 110,000 electric vehicles or 180,000 residential homes.

DTE also will increase automation, provide self-healing circuits, maintain poles and modernize the grid's oldest infrastructure. It's tripling its investment in tree trimming, which can increase reliability as much as 70%, according to the company.

The Michigan Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities in the state, on Thursday approved DTE's request to spend an additional $70 million on tree trimming through 2023 following power outages this summer from severe storms. That's in addition to the $283 million already approved for 2019-21. To fund the extra efforts, DTE will use a portion of unexpectedly higher profits from changed electricity use patterns of its retail customers amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

As a part of DTE's Distribution Electric Plan, other new technologies will support efficiency and the increasing number of residents with private solar generation and storage. The utility also will conduct pilots to study non-wire alternatives for grid reliability, such as energy storage and burying existing overheard power lines in residential neighborhoods.

The new investment plan updates a strategy submitted to the Michigan Public Service Commission from three years ago. It supports DTE's efforts to harden the grid for the next 10 to 15 years.


Twitter: @BreanaCNoble