News Story

DTE head: ‘Sometimes you can’t count on’ wind and solar

As energy giant moves away from coal, CEO emphasizes need for reliable nuclear and natural gas

DTE Energy CEO Jerry Norcia acknowledged the unreliable nature of wind and solar power Wednesday morning before a panel of Michigan lawmakers. He specifically used the troubled energy transitions in Europe and California as examples of what not to do.

“Now, solar and wind are fabulous resources,” Norcia told the House Energy Committee, “but sometimes you can’t count on it when you need it.”

Norcia held out natural gas and nuclear as examples of reliable energy.

In 2035, DTE Energy will retire the Monroe Power Plant, which will be the last coal-burning plant in Michigan. But as Michigan moves away from coal, reliability is a concern, Norcia said. In 2021, four of Michigan’s top 10 energy producers were coal plants.

Some lawmakers want DTE to stop using coal before 2035. Senate Bill 276 would require companies to retire coal plants by 2030, years ahead of schedule.

“Beginning in 2030,” the bill reads, “an electric utility shall not include a coal-fired electric generation facility in a plan.”

Read it for yourself: Senate Bill 276 of 2023

“The first thing that we worry about is reliability,” Norcia told lawmakers. “We don't want to destabilize the grid, right? We’ve seen it happen in other jurisdictions, you know, we’ve seen it happen in California and other states. We’ve seen it happen there in a fundamental way.

“And so we pay very careful attention that as we retire coal plants, we’re replacing it with assets that can be called on when you need them. So for example, natural gas assets are there when you need them. Nuclear assets are there when you need them.”

Norcia testified for about 70 minutes before the committee.

Storms in February and March resulted in back-to-back power outages across Metro Detroit. In response, House Energy Committee Chair Helena Scott, D-Detroit, vowed to create an energy work group.

That has not happened. DTE President Trevor Lauer testified before the House and Senate energy committees, while Norcia visited the House committee Wednesday. But no work group has been formed, and no current legislation calls for steps to bolster energy reliability in Michigan.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.