DTE Energy to seek electric rate increase to modernize energy grid

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

DTE Energy said Wednesday it will propose a rate increase to fund a $388 million investment to modernize and improve reliability of the state’s energy grid and electric storage and generation system.

The proposed increase would cost the average residential customer up to $10 a month.

DTE Electric plans to file an electric rate case request Friday with the Michigan Public Service Commission, said Trevor Lauer, president and chief operating officer of DTE’s electric company.

Known as DTE’s Grid Modernization CleanVision plan, Lauer said it will take about 10 months for the MPSC to vet the request and seek public input. 

If approved, the increase could take effect in November 2022.

“This investment will not only help to improve reliability for our customers now and into the future, but also help with the net zero carbon goals that we’ve laid out by 2050 that align with the goals the governor has also laid out for the state of Michigan and companies like ours that participate in the state of Michigan,” Lauer said.

This is the first electric rate increase request for the utility since 2019. In 2020, the company received approval from the MPSC for a plan to keep electric rates unchanged until 2022 as part of an effort to give customers relief amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A gas rate increase totaling $84.1 million for DTE customers took effect this month, with the average ratepayer being charged an extra $3.18 a month.The utility said most of the additional revenue would go toward modernizing its gas delivery network.

The rate hike costs a residential customer using 100 cubic feet of natural gas each month an extra $3.18.

The grid modernization covered by the planned electric rate increase includes DTE's tree trimming surge program and infrastructure investments such as substations, poles, wires and transformers. Smart technologies will help detect and prevent large-scale interruptions, the utility said. 

The plan also includes the start-up of the Blue Water Energy Center, a $1 billion natural-gas power plant in St. Clair County's East China Township. The company will retire the St. Clair and Trenton Channel power plants.

In September, DTE Energy announced its distribution grid plan.

“That’s going to help us get to where we need to be in the future with this strong reliable electric grid,” Lauer said. “I feel great about the grid plan because it continues the work that we’ve been doing. It’s not a series of new initiatives. It’s continuing on the great work that our engineering team has laid out."

The filing follows a year of frequent weather events that impacted the electric grid across the state. Late last year, DTE Energy initiated a $90 million investment to remove trees and trim branches away from power lines following criticism over widespread power outages caused by the storms. That funding does not impact customers' bills, Lauer said. 

Lauer said DTE Electric has a workforce of about 5,000, with two-thirds in field related roles. The plan would support hiring additional line people, including engineers, underground cable splicers and those who work in bucket lifts.


Twitter: @CWilliams_DN