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Detroit — DTE Energy, electricity provider for more than 2,200,000 Michigan homes and businesses, announced Thursday a goal to "achieve net zero carbon emissions" in its electric business by 2050.

The plan had already been to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 and by 80 percent by 2040.

More: DTE to request bids for solar and wind projects

Jerry Norcia, DTE Energy's CEO, said in a statement that the utility's commitment is "the right thing to do for our customers, businesses and the environment."

"Additionally," Norcia added, "we will work with policymakers to advocate for focused research on carbon offsets, high-volume storage and carbon capture technologies."

Carbon neutrality "will require further advancements in technology," the utility's statement said. 

Skiles Boyd, VP of environmental management and resources for the utility, said it would take breakthroughs, on both technological and legal fronts, to achieve net-zero emissions.

DTE announced its goal, rather than just going about the work quietly, because the company believes "it's important to try to be a leader in our industry," Boyd said. 

"If we just did it quietly, people wouldn't know," Boyd said. 

No cost estimate was immediately available. Boyd noted that energy costs can fluctuate drastically, citing renewable energy, thought to be expensive a decade ago, as an example.

In 2022, the Blue Water Energy Center will come online in St. Clair County. The switch to natural gas from coal will help DTE drop carbon emissions at that facility by 70%, Boyd said. DTE estimates it will provide power for some 850,000 homes and businesses.

And the plan is to take two other coal-fired facilities offline in the decades to come: Belle River Plant by 2030, and Monroe Power Plant by 2040.

While "costs have come down greatly" on renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, Boyd noted that "the wind doesn't always always blow and the sun doesn't always shine."

The move to net zero will also require the help of consumers, Boyd said.

Already, some 10,000 customers have signed up for DTE's MiGreenPower, which allows them, for a cost, to source more of their energy from renewables than from traditional sources. The sliding scale starts at 17.5% and goes all the way to 100, and as users toggle the options for how much energy they use and how much of it they prefer be renewable, the too

Among the high-profile consumers to do so are Ford Motor Company, General Motors, the Detroit Zoo and the University of Michigan.

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