Another major utility is accelerating its transition to renewables

Source: By Julian Spector, Canary Media • Posted: Monday, July 17, 2023

Michigan’s DTE Energy has announced a plan to spend $11 billion on clean energy construction and close its remaining coal plants sooner.

A shot of the exterior of a large office building with a sign that says DTE Energy
DTE Energy’s headquarters in Detroit, Michigan (Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

DTE Energy, one of Michigan’s largest utilities, pledged to build far more renewable energy as part of a long-term plan finalized Wednesday.

The 20-year plan would spend $11 billion on clean energy construction in Michigan and hasten the closure of DTE’s remaining coal plants. Notably, the utility proposal won support from a cohort of 21 different community groups spanning the environmental, labor, energy and business domains. The resulting ​settlement agreement” still needs to be approved by state utility regulators, but that broad public buy-in bodes well for its chances.

The Michigan utility, which serves electricity to 2.3 million customers, is the latest example of how investor-owned utilities are embracing more rapid clean-energy adoption thanks to falling costs and the likelihood of stricter emissions-reduction policies. The federal Inflation Reduction Act makes this shift even more financially attractive for utilities by providing a decade of predictable tax credits for clean energy deployment.

DTE had previously pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, adopting the midcentury timeline that has become standard for the power sector since Xcel Energy led the way in 2018. But around the country, climate hawks, consumer advocates and a growing number of state legislators are pushing for a quicker shift to clean energy, both to avoid locking in new fossil fuel investments and to lower the price of electricity for households.

After winning a legislative trifecta in the 2022 elections, Michigan Democrats introduced an ambitious bill last month to mandate a carbon-free grid by 2035. That policy, which is still being debated in the legislature, would make Michigan the most ambitious state for grid decarbonization, as well as the first state to align with President Biden’s goal of cleaning up the electricity sector by 2035. DTE’s resource planning started two years ago, so it had largely wrapped up by the time the new legislative proposal arrived this summer.