Nixing Michigan Gas Plant has Precedent

Gas plant construction.

Portland General Electric/Flickr

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 thanks to the utility—and yet still—the lights stayed on. DTE should take a page from the Consumers Energy playbook and adapt to what’s in the best interest of Michigan families.

Docket Deja Vu

In July of 2013, Consumers Energy filed an application to build a 700 megawatt gas plant for around $750 million. In the company’s press release, they asserted that the power from this proposed plant was needed to replace the scheduled retirement of their seven smallest and oldest coal plants, which had a total capacity of about 950 megawatts. It all sounds almost exactly like the DTE case.

NRDC intervened in the Consumers’ case back in 2013 alongside Michigan Environmental Council and Sierra Club to review the applications to build the plant and ensure that the best plan was being put forward. We ended up submitting over 2,200 pages of testimony and exhibits showing that the Consumers gas plant was not the best plan and that increased investments in renewables and energy efficiency would prove more beneficial. As the case progressed and better alternatives arose, Consumers admirably did the right thing by withdrawing their proposal in January of 2014. Instead, they purchased a smaller, existing gas plant and have since increased their energy efficiency investment to historic state levels in their most recent plan and have pledged to produce 40% of its power from renewable sources by 2040.

Actions Speak Louder than Announcements

In the DTE case before the state today, NRDC again intervened alongside Michigan Environmental Council and Sierra Club and submitted over 2,500 pages of testimony, exhibits, and briefs highlighting the deficiencies of the application and providing cleaner, more cost-effective options. This time the stakes are even higher with a larger, more expensive, and less justified gas plant on the line. Unfortunately, unlike Consumers’ ultimate change of heart back in 2014, DTE is turning a blind eye to the mountain of evidence against their proposal and is dead set on building the plant no matter what. It should be noted that DTE has also made some recent pledges to reduce carbon emissions and increase renewable energy investment. These announcements make it even more confusing and disappointing to see that in DTE’s plan for this case, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and demand response would largely play the same limited role that they do today, and then actually start shrinking by the early to mid-2020s.

Since DTE appears unwilling to withdraw their proposal, NRDC recommended in our testimony and briefs that the Commission protect Michigan families from rising costs by rejecting the proposal. The Commission will make their ruling for the DTE gas plant by April 27.

About the Authors

Ariana Gonzalez

Director, Colorado Policy, 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.

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