State OKs revised DTE 15-year plan beefing up energy efficiency

By: - April 17, 2020 4:32 pm

DTE Energy | Susan J. Demas

Updated, 6:53 p.m., 4/17/20, with comment from DTE

Two months after a state regulatory body rejected its first try, Detroit-based DTE Electric Co. saw its revised 15-year energy resource plan approved Wednesday afternoon.

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) had rejected DTE’s original plan in February, after many months of sustained criticism from environmental groups, clean energy advocates and concerned residents. Major critiques stemmed from the plan’s lack of competitive bidding, too-few ambitious energy saving goals and a slow timeline to retire a major coal-fired power plant in St. Clair County.

The revised integrated resource plan approved by MPSC on Wednesday, which outlines the electric utility’s roadmap for future energy investments and continued service to customers, adopted the MPSC’s substantial recommendations.

DTE Energy is the second-largest public utility in the state, with 2.2 million electric customers and 1.3 million natural gas customers in Michigan.

In a statement, DTE spokesman Micah Ragland said the company is “pleased” that the MPSC approved its plan.

“Throughout this process, we received constructive feedback from our customers, the MPSC, environmental organizations and DTE employees on ways we can continue to deliver more clean energy in a manner that is safe, affordable and reliable,” DTE’s statement reads.  This collective feedback is the foundation of our plan and will reap positive benefits for our customers, the environment and Michigan’s economy.”*

Some of the changes adopted by DTE in its approved energy plan include:

  • The expansion of energy waste reduction programs that will help customers achieve better energy efficiency
  • Reach the more ambitious annual energy savings goals of 1.75% in 2020 and 2% in 2021, which are the same levels approved for Consumers Energy (DTE had proposed 1.65% in 2020 and 1.75% in 2021)
  • Further analysis of the utility’s proposal to not retire the coal-fired Belle River power plant until 2029-30, which the MPSC said was inadequately justified given its current analysis
  • Keeping two of DTE’s ongoing demand response pilots, but removing costs associated with others proposed by the company

As part of the utility’s proposals to add a backup supply route for Traverse City-area customers in the case of routing and emergency situations, the MPSC also approved DTE natural gas pipeline projects in two northern Michigan counties.

The first settlement will allow DTE Gas to build a 9-mile natural gas pipeline through Grand Traverse County, expand an existing meter station in Frankfort and upgrade an existing gate station in Traverse City. The MPSC press release states that although construction could begin as early as this spring, the timing may be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The second settlement will allow the construction of a 14-mile natural gas pipeline through Grand Traverse and Benzie counties, plus upgrades, modifications and expansions of several nearby DTE Gas stations.

The MPSC did not, however, approve DTE’s proposal for new supply-side renewable resources, and instead directed the utility to present them in its ongoing renewable energy plan case that the commission says will be decided soon.

James Gignac, lead Midwest energy analyst for the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, praised the plan’s new revisions but emphasized that DTE should continue to be held accountable.

“The revisions DTE made in its long-term plan are a step in the right direction, but efforts must continue to ensure DTE is achieving as much cost-effective energy efficiency as possible and properly evaluating increasingly cheaper renewable energy options,” Gignac said.

“These steps will help ensure the company’s remaining coal plants can be retired as soon as possible and not replaced with risky investments in gas plants—saving ratepayer dollars and reducing dangerous air pollution emissions.”

Another part of DTE’s approved plan is the new requirement that it will file its next integrated resource plan two years sooner than required by statute, on Sept. 21, 2023.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.