DTE Criticized, Gas Plant Approved: What's Next for Michigan

After 270 days filled with testimony, briefs, and cross-examinations, the Michigan Public Service Commission decided to approve DTE’s billion-dollar gas plant. But not without some strong words saying DTE exhibited troubling behavior. While the decision is disheartening because cleaner and cheaper alternatives could have easily met the demand for energy, it should not be interpreted as an indication of where the state is going. Thanks to new state guidelines, going forward, the state will have higher standards for energy planning.

What This Decision Means

There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that such a large gas plant will be a costly impediment to reaching Michigan’s cleanest, most affordable energy future. It locks customers into paying one billion dollars for the construction, puts them at the mercy of volatile gas prices, and crowds out need that could have been met with cost-effective renewable energy. The good news is that clean energy is still being demanded from customers and it can help insulate us from of the impact of this plant.

1. Customers still want renewables.

The chorus of families and businesses across the state calling for more renewable energy is growing. Residents and big companies alike want to reap the health benefits and job creation that renewable energy has to offer.

  • Six Michigan cities support a vision of 100 percent clean and renewable energy for their cities.
  • Five Mayors in the DTE service territory urged DTE in this case to invest in clean energy instead of the massive gas plant.
  • Over 10,000 petitions were delivered to DTE from Michiganders saying they want clean energy to be prioritized.
  •  38 companies and public institutions such as General Motors and Wal-Mart have made public commitments either to renewable energy purchasing or greenhouse gas emissions reductions that entail renewable energy purchasing for their own use.

So, even with the construction of the gas plant, DTE will have to increase their investment in renewables to meet customer demand.

2. Energy efficiency can help ward off negative impacts.

As the cheapest, cleanest way to address our energy needs, energy efficiency will be more important than ever in counteracting the likely rising bills due to the gas plant. Home improvements such as smart thermostats, roof insulation, window replacement, boiler replacement, boiler controls, radiator replacement, and lighting upgrades all make a home more energy efficient, saving you money.

Here, we are making good progress. In the last four months, the Commission approved two big settlement agreements with Consumers Energy and DTE for historic levels of energy efficiency and performance metrics supporting long life and low income measures. See what programs your utility (DTE, Consumers Energy) offers to start saving money today!

What Comes Next

Last November, the Commission came out with new guidelines for energy planning. Some improvements include better stakeholder engagement prior to the submission of the plans, a clear explanation of how the utility will reach the 35% combined renewable energy and energy waste reduction goal by 2025, and scenarios that push utilities to explore higher levels of energy efficiency, renewables, and demand response. Consumers Energy will be filing the first plan under the new guidelines on June 15, 2018 and DTE will have to come back and file a new plan on March 29, 2019. While the new guidelines should help, if you want Michigan’s clean energy future to start now, let your utility know!

About the Authors

Ariana Gonzalez

Senior Energy Policy Analyst, Climate & Clean Energy Program
Blog Post

Over 600 Michigan residents are pushing their Mayors to sign on to a letter asking the Public Service Commission if building a one billion dollar gas plant is necessary, when cleaner, cheaper options are available.

Blog Post

As we near the date for the Commission’s decision on DTE’s $1 billion gas plant, it’s important to remember that not too long ago the state faced a similar proposed gas build from Consumers Energy. That plant was never built—and yet still—the lights stayed on.

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.