DTE, Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Others, File Settlement for Energy Plan


Settlement with Earthjustice hastens retirement of coal power in Michigan, mandates clean energy


Kathryn McGrath, Earthjustice, kmcgrath@earthjustice.org

Renner Barsella, Sierra Club, renner.barsella@sierraclub.org

This morning, DTE filed a settlement agreement with Sierra Club and other parties to solidify the utility’s long-term plans for serving its customers’ energy needs. This settlement of litigation over DTE’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) puts Michigan on track to end the burning of coal for electric generation in less than a decade, a major milestone for climate progress in the state. Sierra Club was represented by Earthjustice and the firm of Olson, Bzdok & Howard in this Michigan Public Service Commission proceeding.

Key benefits of the settlement include: locking in DTE’s proposal to retire half of the massive Monroe coal plant 12 years earlier than previously planned and accelerating the retirement of the final two units of Monroe to 2032. DTE will increase its near-term investments in clean energy like solar, wind, storage, and energy efficiency and DTE must seek approval of its next Integrated Resource Plan by December 2026, with a commitment to study an even earlier retirement, and clean energy replacement, of the final Monroe units at that time. DTE will also direct an additional $70 million in energy efficiency funding towards programs for income-qualified customers, and retire in 2024 a gas-fired peaking unit in an environmental justice community in River Rouge.

Sierra Club’s Michigan Field Manager, Andrew Sarpolis, said, “DTE’s Monroe coal plant is a massive air polluter, impacting public health and our climate in Michigan. Every additional year of its operation exacerbates climate change and harms our communities. By retiring the plant sooner, we can have a greater positive impact on the state’s health and climate.”

Shannon Fisk, Earthjustice attorney and director of state electric sector advocacy, said, “This legal settlement commits DTE to an expeditious transition away from burning coal that is compelled by economics, public health, and climate science. With the Monroe coal plant — the third largest climate polluter in the country — partially retiring in 2028 and fully retiring by 2032 (or possibly earlier), people in southeast Michigan will soon begin to breathe easier. Today’s settlement will accelerate the buildout of clean solar and wind power in Michigan as well as battery storage, and it funds energy efficiency programs. Together, that puts DTE on a path to develop abundant clean energy, and avoid a possible future methane gas plant — which would be a dirty and expensive proposal that would almost certainly be challenged before the Public Service Commission.”

The settlement agreement has secured an accelerated retirement date for the nation’s third largest climate polluter, the DTE Monroe Coal Plant. This is a significant win for the environment and public health in Michigan. Retiring this massive polluter sooner will bring public health benefits and avoid millions of tons of CO2 emissions per year. According to Clean Air Task Force’s Toll From Coal report (2019) the Monroe plant contributes to 38 deaths a year, meaning that dozens of lives are saved every year of the earlier retirement. As of a year ago, DTE was planning to continue operating the Monroe plant until 2040. Two of Monroe’s four coal burning generating units will now retire in 2028, with the other two following in 2032. DTE will also be required to file its next IRP in 2026, rather than 2028, and to evaluate in that IRP retiring the final two Monroe units in 2030, which would be consistent with U.S. climate goals needed to help limit the deadly impacts of climate change.

The settlement also requires DTE Energy to increase its investment in clean energy in Michigan. DTE will now plan for energy efficiency savings of 2% per year through 2027, and add more solar and storage resources earlier than DTE had initially proposed. These commitments should help ensure that DTE will be able to replace the last two Monroe coal units with clean energy rather than the new gas plant that DTE identified as a “placeholder” in its IRP. These clean energy commitments are a step towards transitioning to lean, sustainable energy, and reducing our reliance on burning fossil fuels.

DTE’s Monroe coal-fired power plant, Sept. 15, 2020.
DTE’s Monroe coal-fired power plant, Sept. 15, 2020. Retiring this massive polluter sooner will bring public health benefits and avoid millions of tons of CO2 emissions per year. (Ted Auch / FracTracker Alliance, 2020)

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