July 12, 2023
Lansing, Michigan – Today, Michigan utility giant DTE Energy agreed to a landmark settlement in its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). Signatories to the agreement include Vote Solar, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Ecology Center, all represented by the Environmental Law and Policy Center and known collectively as the Clean Energy Organizations. If approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), the agreement will close the polluting Monroe coal plant years ahead of the current plan, add nearly 3,800 megawatts of renewable energy to the grid by 2030, and drive acceleration of equitable clean energy solutions for DTE’s 2.3 million customers.
“Today’s agreement is a step forward for Michigan’s clean energy transition, and a beacon of what’s possible when policy know-how, regulatory expertise, and community voices converge,” says Will Kenworthy, Vote Solar’s Senior Regulatory Director for the Midwest. “The progress represented in the settlement simply wouldn’t have been possible without a strong coalition that recognized the need to center equity and put people first. That said, we cannot rest on our laurels. We’re looking to the Michigan legislature to advance the kind of bold clean energy agenda that Michiganders have made clear they’re ready for. There is more work to be done on ensuring grid equity, improving reliability, and increasing affordability.”
One provision is an increase of the distributed generation cap from 1 percent to 6 percent in DTE’s service territory. Michigan’s statewide 1 percent cap on distributed energy resources like rooftop solar remains one of the strictest in the nation. It has long been criticized by activists, the solar industry, and lawmakers across the political spectrum. Last year, the Clean Energy Organizations successfully negotiated a 2 percent increase on distributed generation for the other major Michigan utility, Consumers Energy. A bill to eliminate the distributed generation cap is one of several pieces of clean energy legislation that advocates are urging lawmakers to pass when they return to Lansing in the fall.
The agreement also includes a 2032 closure date for the Monroe coal-fired power plant, the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the country. This 2032 closure would come seven years before DTE’s current plan and three years earlier than what was initially proposed in the IRP. DTE also agrees to consider a 2030 retirement date in its next IRP, a provision the Clean Energy Organizations argued as necessary. Expert analysis calculates that the settlement would avoid $432-$972 million in total health costs and 39-87 premature deaths that would otherwise be caused by burning coal at the units through 2035 under DTE’s original proposal. Additionally, ceasing coal burning at DTE’s Belle River plant in 2025-2026 — as opposed to the currently planned closure date of 2028 — will prevent an estimated 71-159 premature deaths each year that the plant is not burning coal.
“A swift transition away from coal and a bigger commitment to renewables is an absolute necessity as we transition to a healthy clean energy future,” says Alexis Blizman, Policy Director at Ecology Center. “Accelerated coal retirement, replaced with clean renewable energy, will have widespread implications for air quality and public health. There’s no question that this will save lives.”
As an additional condition of the settlement, DTE Energy agrees to allocate $38 million to organizations and programs designed to provide bill payment assistance and energy upgrades to income-qualified families. DTE customers already face steep energy bills, with low-wealth households paying disproportionate percentages of their household income.
Of that $38 million, $8 million will help implement home readiness, energy efficiency, distributed generation and energy storage programs for low-income communities.
“DTE’s $8 million contribution to fund renewable energy investment in low-income communities is, quite frankly, thrilling,” says Environmental Law & Policy Center Associate Attorney Daniel Abrams. “This will help address two critical concerns of our clients. First, that low-income Michigan families will be provided sustainable, enduring means to lower their energy bills. Second, that the clean energy revolution leaves no one behind.”
DTE Energy’s proposed IRP was filed in November of 2022. Since then, hundreds of Michigan residents have weighed in on the proposed plan via written comments or testimony at public hearings. In March, the Clean Energy Organizations filed expert testimony in which they outlined an alternative to the IRP.
“We are pleased to be moving forward with a risk-mitigating ‘no regrets’ approach to future generation needs that recognizes the economic realities of renewable generation and energy waste reduction,” said Kevin Lucas, Senior Director of Utility Regulation and Policy at the Solar Energy Industries Association. “DTE’s commitment to retire aging fossil-powered peaker plants and explore energy storage as a replacement also reflects this approach.”
“We proved that DTE’s proposed plan was not inevitable, and that there was a cleaner, more resilient, more equitable path forward,” says James Gignac, Midwest Senior Policy Manager for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “While we are pleased with the settlement proposal in this case, there’s much more work ahead. The Michigan legislature must build on DTE’s progress and take swift and meaningful action to scale up energy efficiency and renewable energy across the state to achieve the just, fossil-free Michigan we know is possible.”