News Story

DTE’s Renewable Energy Plan Won’t Satisfy Green Groups

Another critic says the plan calls for ‘more expensive, less reliable energy’

Michigan’s energy regulators are close to announcing their decision on DTE Energy’s long-term plan for how it will provide power to its 2.2 million customers.

And the green energy lobby is calling for the state to reject it.

In a blistering series of statements issued late last week, a coalition of environmental groups said DTE’s plan ignores the imminent threat of climate catastrophe. The company’s integrated resource plan, or IRP, gives only a “passing nod” to renewable energy sources and battery storage, they say, relying instead on “dirty coal, outdated technology and old ways of thinking.”

They’re right that it should be rejected, said Jason Hayes, director of environmental policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. But for different reasons.

DTE’s prematurely retires coal-fired power plants and is insufficiently committed to the potential for carbon-free energy from nuclear facilities, Hayes said.

DTE and Consumers Energy, Michigan’s two largest providers of electricity, both propose massive investments in wind and solar energy production in their long range plans. This, Hayes said, will result in significant cost increases for consumers and a potentially precipitous decline in reliability, he said.

DTE’s plan should be rejected because it (and the greens’ more extreme reliance on renewables and “demand response,” or customers voluntarily cutting energy usage) “demand(s) we rely on more expensive, less reliable energy,” Hayes said.

The statements from the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council and others repeatedly call on DTE to revise its plan to recognize the value of “lower-cost (renewable) energy sources.”

The problem with that idea is that there currently aren’t any, Hayes said.

It is true that the capital costs for building solar and wind-energy facilities have declined in the last decade, he said. But to say those sources are competitive with natural-gas or nuclear power plants is to ignore reality.

Some analyses do find that wind and solar cost sources are competitive, Hayes said. But they typically ignore the fact that wind and solar also require huge investments in transmission infrastructure to get the energy from, for example, a remote wind farm to those who will use the energy.

Additionally, according to Hayes, wind and solar have a far lower capacity to produce energy, because the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine 24/7. Furthermore, they wear out faster than conventional, coal, natural gas and nuclear plants, meaning that it takes many more to them to produce comparable levels of electricity.

In response to a request for comment on the green lobby’s demands, DTE spokesman Pete Ternes said: “As we continue to proceed through the IRP process, we remain committed to doing as much as we can, as fast as we can, to provide the communities we serve with more clean energy that is affordable and reliable.”

A ruling on the company’s proposal is expected from the Michigan Public Service Commission early next year.