Today, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) approved DTE Energy’s nearly billion-dollar gas plant proposal for East China Township. The proposal drew opposition from customers, businesses, elected officials, and clean energy advocates that submitted expert testimony outlining the economic advantages of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and demand response over DTE’s gas proposal.
“DTE’s proposed gas plant is a nearly billion-dollar mistake. While the utility should retire its economically challenged coal plants as expeditiously as possible, DTE is doing a disservice to its customers by defaulting to replacing one dirty fossil fuel with another,” said Shannon Fisk, Managing Attorney for Earthjustice which represents Sierra Club in this proceeding. “We will carefully evaluate whether to appeal the Commission’s ruling, and will work hard to ensure that DTE’s upcoming Integrated Resource Plan filing prioritizes clean energy development, rather than more dirty gas plants.”
Today’s decision concludes the MPSC proceedings regarding DTE’s request for authorization to charge its customers for the cost of building the gas plant. The utility says that the 1,100 MW gas plant would replace aging coal plants that have been announced for retirement between 2020 and 2023. Studies commissioned by Sierra Club, Michigan Environmental Council, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, however, showed multiple scenarios that clean energy and market purchases would be significantly lower cost for customers.
“While DTE’s nearly $1 billion gas plant may benefit the utility and its corporate parent’s shareholders, it is a costly mistake for Michigan customers,” said Regina Strong, Michigan Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “We certainly hope that in its upcoming Integrated Resource Plan, DTE will truly listen to the community, experts, and advocates. It is time to make a real commitment to clean energy that would benefit customers, spur economic development, and protect public health.”
DTE’s proposal was accompanied by an Integrated Resource Plan in which the utility forecasted that it would build a second nearly $1 billion gas plant in 2029, would not pursue additional renewable energy after 2023, and would burn more fossil fuels in 2029 and beyond than it does today. State law, however, requires DTE to submit for approval another plan in March 2019, which provides the Commission and utility another chance to put DTE on a cleaner path forward.
“The approval of DTE’s massive gas plant will prove to be an expensive and significant obstacle for Michigan’s clean energy future,” said Ariana Gonzalez, Energy Policy Analyst with Natural Resources Defense Council. “DTE is expanding gas generation, but the state is demanding more cost effective renewable energy and energy efficiency. We must do better for Michigan families and businesses.”