Our statement regarding the MPSC’s approval of the DTE IRP settlement agreement

What made DTE agree to stop burning coal by 20323? Pure people power. When we fight, we win. DTECanDoBetter.com

A video recording of this week’s community webinar is available for download. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, July 26, 2023
CONTACT: Stephanie Cepak, Byrum Fisk Advocacy Communications, scepak@byrumfisk.com 

Advocates forced DTE to cut pollution, invest in clean energy with settlement approved today

Michigan Public Service Commission finalizes settlement agreement pushed by activists on behalf of DTE customers

LANSING – The Michigan Public Service Commission approved a settlement today led by advocacy organizations on behalf of utility customers that will require DTE Energy to emit less pollution and invest more in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and assistance to low-income ratepayers.

The coalition was vocal in pushing for improvements to the inadequate plan DTE initially submitted, which failed to ensure equitable access to clean energy or invest in energy efficiency programs to make energy bills more affordable for ratepayers. Organizations rallied thousands of Michiganders to contact the MPSC demanding that DTE deliver a plan that ensures clean, renewable, affordable energy for all. The combined efforts of grasstops and grassroots activists resulted in vast improvements to the plan that will capitalize on historic clean energy funding and available incentives.

Wins from the settlement include:

  • Securing an earlier retirement date for DTE’s Monroe coal plant – one of the dirtiest in the country.
  • Directing $70 million in energy efficiency funding toward programs for income-qualified customers.
  • Requiring DTE to pay $38 million into community-led programs to assist low-income customers, with $30 million allocated to energy assistance and $8 million to support organizations that will provide solar and battery installation, including funding for home repairs and energy efficiency needed to complete these upgrades.
  • Beyond DTE’s requirement to disclose political contributions, the utility will be required to file public disclosure reports annually that detail any contributions to individuals and other entities adding up to at least $5,000. 

“Michigan’s dirty air woes are a stark reminder of the need for more clean energy in the state,” said Derrell Slaughter, MI clean energy advocate at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “The settlement agreement for energy efficiency, battery storage and cleaner technologies will clearly benefit the health of customers by cutting dangerous air pollution. The recommendations are a win for Michiganders, but it’s not enough. The Legislature must act swiftly and decisively on climate and clean energy legislation. The time for action is now, and together, we can make a lasting difference for generations to come.”

“DTE’s plan will have to prioritize BIPOC and low-income communities that have suffered the devastating public health impacts from pollution and the climate crisis first and worst,” said Gloria Lowe, Founder and CEO of We Want Green Too. “Multiple recent outages show we must take swift action to slow climate change to avoid even worse storms and heat waves in the future. Just last year, Consumers Energy agreed to go coal-free by 2025 and while DTE will retire its Monroe coal plant earlier than scheduled, operating it until 2032 and the utility’s reliance on fracked gas continues to be problematic. We’ll continue fighting to end the use of fossil fuels in Michigan to protect the health and environment of our communities.”

“This settlement is a step in the right direction and it only happened due to advocacy from organizations across the state who intervened, got ratepayers involved and put the big energy utility’s feet to the fire,” said Nick Dodge, communications director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “We have unprecedented amounts of federal funds available to make investments in clean energy, energy efficiency and to lower costs for ratepayers. Members of the Legislature should now look to pass clean energy legislation that empowers the Michigan Public Service Commission to further hold utility companies accountable, seizing this moment to transition to cleaner, more affordable energy.”

“DTE has long been a roadblock in our fight to expand community-based and rooftop solar. We need energy independence to protect us from DTE’s high rates and continual power outages. The settlement agreement will allow more people to install rooftop solar and require the utility to provide funding for community-based organizations to provide solar and battery installation for low-income customers.” said Rafael Mojica, Program Director at Soulardarity. “This is a win, but DTE shouldn’t get to decide how many customers can provide their own energy. It’s time for the legislature to take action so we don’t have to rely on the utilities to make decisions for us.”

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.”

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MPSC approves settlement agreement describing DTE’s operations for next 20 years

MPSC approves DTE IRP settlement agreement

“The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) approved a settlement between DTE Energy and 21 environmental, clean energy, and consumer advocacy organizations during its meeting Wednesday morning.

DTE and the negotiating organizations agreed on a settlement agreement two weeks ago that outlines the electric company’s plans for operation over the next 20 years.

While advocates described the coal and gas plant closures, expansion of renewable efforts and investment into as high points of the deal, they said aspects like reliability and energy costs were left out of the settlement.

“We are signatories to this agreement, and ultimately saw this deal as an advancement that creates a greater possibility for a just energy future,” said Jackson Koeppel, who served as an expert witness for Soulardarity and We Want Green Too in the settlement case.

“We are clear-eyed about the limitations and drawbacks of the settlement agreement,” Koeppel said.”

Read the full article at Michigan Advance

DTE’s Monroe coal plant will now shut down in 2032

DTE's Monroe coal plant will now shut down in 2032

“DTE Electric has agreed to shut down its Monroe coal-fired power plant three years ahead of schedule under a settlement agreement with environmental, business and labor groups filed Wednesday with the Michigan Public Service Commission. The company will also convert its coal-fired Belle River plant to gas under the agreement.

The agreement includes a substantial investment in renewable energy and storage. DTE would develop or purchase 3800 megawatts of renewable energy by 2030 – 400 more than initially proposed, enough to power more than 650,000 homes. It will also develop or purchase 780 MW of storage.

DTE also agreed to invest $70 million in low-income energy efficiency programs, contribute $30 million to organizations that provide bill assistance, and $8 million to organizations that assist low-income customers with energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy, or battery technology.

Detroit advocates called the deal a victory while noting its limitations and drawbacks.

“DTE is receiving favorable financial treatment on their retiring coal plants that effectively protect their shareholders from the worst impacts of their poor investments while not extending the same fiscal protection to ratepayers,” Soulardarity and We Want Green Too said in a statement. The groups also noted that DTE won permission to convert the Monroe to a temporary gas peaker plant  – a plant used for short periods during peak demand – and expects that the company will return to the MPSC to seek approval for a new gas plant to replace the capacity at Monroe.

Advocates said the agreement needs to go further.

“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,” said Will Kenworthy, a senior regulatory director for the Midwest for Vote Solar, which is one of the intervenors in the case.”

Read the full article at Planet Detroit

Advocates win faster coal phase-out from DTE

Advocates win faster coal phase-out from DTE

“Following pushback from ratepayer and clean energy advocates who argued DTE Energy was moving too slowly away from fossil fuels, the electricity utility has agreed to exit coal-fired power production by 2032, three years earlier than previously planned.

Calling the Monroe plant “a massive polluter,” the group’s Michigan field manager, Andrew Sarpolis, hailed the promise of an earlier shutdown.

“Every additional year of its operation exacerbates climate change and harms our communities,” Sarpolis said. “By retiring the plant sooner, we can have a greater positive impact on the state’s health and climate.”

Some signatories also argue the plan doesn’t go far enough. Soulardarity and We Want Green Too, two signatory groups, urged the legislature to pass laws that support the energy transition and protect ratepayers, from enabling community solar to holding utilities more financially accountable for power outages.

“Ultimately, we saw this deal as an advancement that creates greater possibility for a just energy future than the alternative,” the groups said in a statement. “But we are clear-eyed about its limitations, its drawbacks, and the need for further actions.

The so-called Integrated Resource Plan now has to be approved by the MPSC. The next meeting is July 26.”

Read the full article at Bridge Michigan

Our statement regarding the DTE settlement agreement

Michigan is getting more clean energy - because of you. When we fight, we win. (Image: white text on green background with solar and wind energy icons)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, July 12, 2023

CONTACT: Stephanie Cepak, Byrum Fisk Advocacy Communications, scepak@byrumfisk.com

Advocates force pollution cuts, clean energy investments to help customers in DTE’s energy plan, amid continued push for increased accountability

Advocacy groups urge Michigan Public Service Commission to adopt settlement agreement and call on Legislature to expand oversight of utilities

DETROIT – DTE Energy will have to make greater investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and assistance to low-income ratepayers under a settlement agreement negotiated by a broad coalition of clean energy, environmental justice, and consumer advocacy organizations. The coalition has been advocating for DTE to prioritize environmental justice and energy equity in its long-term energy plan while retiring dirty fossil fuel plants and ending further investment in fossil fuels.

Coalition organizations across the state– We Want Green Too; Soulardarity; Michigan United; Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition; Michigan Alliance for Justice in Climate; NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council); Sierra Club; Union of Concerned Scientists; Vote Solar; and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters – turned out hundreds of members of the public to speak out at public hearings and submitted thousands of comments to the MPSC. The sustained pressure, along with strong legal work and expert testimony before the Commission, persuaded the utility company to negotiate a settlement that secured an earlier retirement date for DTE’s Monroe coal plant.

Beyond DTE’s requirement to disclose political contributions, the utility will be required to file public disclosure reports annually that detail any contributions to individuals and other entities adding up to $5,000 or more. This is a significant win for the public after the company’s shareholders voted down a proposal to increase transparency around political contributions in May.

DTE’s original plan failed to keep energy bills affordable for ratepayers and ensure equitable access to clean energy, according to a recent analysis. With historic federal funding and incentives available, the coalition called on DTE to speed up funding and expand access to clean energy. The settlement requires DTE to pay $38 million into community-led programs to assist low-income customers, with $30 million allocated to energy assistance and $8 million to support organizations that will provide solar and battery installation, including funding for home repairs and energy efficiency needed to complete these upgrades. DTE will also be required to direct an additional $70 million in energy efficiency funding towards programs for income-qualified customers.

The settlement agreement will be submitted to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), which makes the final determination on DTE’s long-term plan to provide electricity for customers, called an Integrated Resource Plan. The MPSC next meets on July 26.

“Michigan’s dirty air woes are a stark reminder of the need for more clean energy in the state,” said Derrell Slaughter, MI clean energy advocate at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “The settlement agreement for energy efficiency, battery storage and cleaner technologies will clearly benefit the health of customers by cutting dangerous air pollution. The recommendations are a win for Michiganders, but it’s not enough. The Legislature must act swiftly and decisively on climate and clean energy legislation. The time for action is now, and together, we can make a lasting difference for generations to come.”

“DTE’s plan will have to prioritize BIPOC and low-income communities that have suffered the devastating public health impacts from pollution and the climate crisis first and worst,” said Gloria Lowe, Founder and CEO of We Want Green Too. “Multiple recent outages show we must take swift action to slow climate change to avoid even worse storms and heat waves in the future. Just last year, Consumers Energy agreed to go coal-free by 2025 and while DTE will retire its Monroe coal plant earlier than scheduled, operating it until 2032 and the utility’s reliance on fracked gas continues to be problematic. We’ll continue fighting to end the use of fossil fuels in Michigan to protect the health and environment of our communities.”

“This settlement is a step in the right direction and it only happened due to advocacy from organizations across the state who intervened, got ratepayers involved and put the big energy utility’s feet to the fire,” said Nick Dodge, communications director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “We have unprecedented amounts of federal funds available to make investments in clean energy, energy efficiency and to lower costs for ratepayers. Members of the Legislature should now look to pass clean energy legislation that empowers the Michigan Public Service Commission to further hold utility companies accountable, seizing this moment to transition to cleaner, more affordable energy.”

“DTE has long been a roadblock in our fight to expand community-based and rooftop solar. We need energy independence to protect us from DTE’s high rates and continual power outages. The settlement agreement will allow more people to install rooftop solar and require the utility to provide funding for community-based organizations to provide solar and battery installation for low-income customers.” said Rafael Mojica, Program Director at Soulardarity. “This is a win, but DTE shouldn’t get to decide how many customers can provide their own energy. It’s time for the legislature to take action so we don’t have to rely on the utilities to make decisions for us.”

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.”

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Fossil fuel gas makes the country’s power grid vulnerable

electrical substation under dark sky

Fossil fuel gas plants have grown in popularity over the past fifteen years; this year, these plants will produce 41% of the nation’s power. They’re also contributing to power outages across the country. Fossil fuel gas plants have contributed “to more than seven hours of power interruptions for US households on average in 2021, more than double the rate reported in 2013.”

During this past winter’s storms and freezing weather, a large number of fossil fuel gas-powered plants were offline. “[S]ome gas plants, like Indeck Niles Energy Center in Michigan, didn’t produce any power at all during the grid’s emergency calls to action, the data show. At that brand-new facility, which had only been commissioned a couple of months prior, severe winter weather caused critical equipment like transmitters and valves to freeze, said people familiar with the operations who asked not be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. Indeck Niles management declined to comment.”

Read the full article at Bloomberg

74,000 DTE customers without power after thunderstorm

Dark, ominous rain clouds with two lightning bolts.

“The state’s two largest utilities, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy − which have been under fire for months from customers and lawmakers − are scrambling to repair lines as quickly and safely as possible with close to 80,000 customers — about 74,000 and 6,000, respectively — still with no electricity.

Some of the hardest hit areas appeared to be in metro Detroit.”

Read the full article at the Detroit Free Press

Clean energy and environmental justice groups critique DTE Energy’s Integrated Resource Plan

A report card for DTE Energy’s long-term plan shows nearly all failing grades, along with an A+ for lobbying against the public interest. The full report card can be found at PowerUpMI.org.

A broad coalition of clean energy, environmental justice, and consumer advocacy organizations graded DTE’s proposed plan, looking at clean energy benefits, affordability, and equity. You can view the report card here.

“The report card criticizes DTE’s failure to ensure affordable energy bills for ratepayers and equitable access to clean energy. They have been accused of undervaluing customer-owned solar and energy efficiency, which can alleviate energy burdens and expedite the transition away from polluting fossil fuels.”

Read the full article at WGRT

DTE technology issues leave 2,500 Waterford residents without power during heat wave

thermometer showing hot temperatures under a bright sun

“Crews had been working to upgrade a primary cable when the back-up, called a secondary cable, failed. Technical issues with a portable substation generator caused further delays, [a DTE spokesman] said.

Resident Gary Schlachter, who lives near the lake, said he’s frustrated because he arrived home from surgery and was unable to use a physical therapy machine. The refrigerated food in the house has gone to waste, too, he said on Friday.

“This is ridiculous, especially after what they did last winter,” he said, calling it a “horrible utility performance.”

Pontiac Councilman Mikal Goodman called it “extremely dangerous to have any group of people in the heat without any true respite, especially those with medical conditions.”

Goodman called for better communication from DTE Energy and better compensation for their losses. Customers can apply for greater compensation based on damages on the DTE Energy website.”

Read the full article at The Oakland Press