Enviros give DTE Energy failing grade on clean energy

DTE Energy | Wikimedia Commons

If electric utilities received report cards for their investment plans like students do for class assignments, DTE Energy’s 15-year investment plan would get failing grades.

This is according to a coalition of pro-clean energy organizations, who released a “report card” on Monday evaluating the Detroit-based DTE Energy’s plan on criteria including equitable access to clean energy, protecting the public health and prioritizing renewable energy resources. The company disputes the claims.

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DTE Energy submitted the current version of its proposed 15-year energy resource plan to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) this summer. The proposal outlines the electric utility company’s future strategy for energy investments and how it will provide quality, affordable service to its 2.2 million Michigan customers. 

The nine clean energy, environmental justice and consumer advocacy groups signing off on the report card are asking the MPSC, the regulatory body tasked with voting on DTE’s proposal to deny its plan and request a better one.

The endorsing organizations include the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Michigan Sierra Club and several solar advocacy organizations.

The full “report card” reads as follows:

  • Ensuring equitable access to clean energy benefits: F
  • Ensuring affordable energy for all customers: D-
  • Building community power and developing local workforce: D
  • Protecting public health: D
  • Prioritizing energy efficiency: C+
  • Building a path to 100% clean energy: D-
  • Retiring coal plants: C-
  • Avoiding additional fracked gas infrastructure: D-
  • Lobbying against the public interest: A+

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In an emailed statement, a DTE spokesperson said that the company aims to keep “reliability and affordability at the forefront of everything we do,” and that “the NRDC ‘report card’ is merely repeating claims made by parties in the Integrated Resource Plan regulatory process and do not bear out factually.”

The spokesperson also said that DTE’s proposed plan “includes 75% more energy efficiency improvements than required by state law,” calls for “a tripling of renewable energy investments in the next ten years,” and lays out possible scenarios to arrive at a 80% carbon reduction goal by 2040.

The MPSC’s role is to determine whether DTE Energy’s plan is “the most reasonable and prudent means of meeting energy and capacity needs,” and will continue to take and consider public comments until they make a final decision in 2020. So far, there have been more than 1,750 public comments filed with the MPSC regarding the plan since June and the vast majority have been negative.

In the two-day span of Monday and Tuesday alone, 213 individual public comments were filed; all 213 call on the MPSC to reject DTE’s proposal.

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In an emailed statement from the Natural Resources Defense Council announcing the report card, Detroit resident and Sierra Club activist Theresa Landrum said DTE has chosen to “invest in their pocketbooks by doubling down on expensive, polluting fossil fuels.”

“We call on the Michigan Public Service Commission to reject DTE’s polluting energy plan,” Landrum said. “Alternatively, we ask the MPSC to require them to design a plan that protects Michiganders and those living in the most heavily impacted communities by investing in cheaper and cleaner renewable energy sources, efficiency programs, and storage technology.”

The groups argue that a more aggressive focus on clean energy in Michigan would result in statewide consumer savings, more job opportunities in a growing renewable energy sector, and a reduction in air pollution.

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“After decades of investing in polluting coal plants, DTE’s proposed plan continues to rely on fossil fuels as a major source of power generation in the company’s energy mix for years to come.” said Alexis Blizman, policy director at the Ecology Center. “…DTE Energy needs a new plan that moves away from burning fossil fuels and rapidly invests in clean, renewable sources of energy that will reduce illness, rein in health care costs and save lives.”

The proposal could be voted on as early as January. If it is rejected by the commission, DTE would be required to submit a new investment plan next year. 

Dana Nessel | Ken Coleman

One month after putting forward its energy investment plan, DTE Energy also filed a request to increase consumer rates by about 9%. Attorney General Dana Nessel intervened in that case last week and filed testimony before the MPSC, arguing that the increase would be “excessive and unnecessary.”

Nessel’s testimony further states that DTE should reduce its request for an annual revenue increase from $351 million to $41 million.

“As the state’s chief consumer advocate on utility matters, I have a responsibility to ensure any rate increase is in the best interest of our state’s residential ratepayers,” Nessel said in a statement. “This one isn’t.”