Groups including Vote Solar, Union of Concerned Scientists and the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) are urging Michigan regulators to require DTE Energy to evaluate renewable energy sources before building its proposed billion-dollar natural gas power plant. The groups presented two separate analyses today to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) showing that using renewable energy like wind and solar would cost less for DTE Energy customers than building a gas plant, with the savings estimates ranging from $339 million to $1.2 billion.
“Using DTE’s own analysis tools, our analysis shows that this billion-dollar gas proposal is simply not the best way to provide reliable, affordable, and clean electricity for Michigan customers,” said Becky Stanfield, senior director of western states at Vote Solar. “The bottom line is that solar, wind and efficiency can do the job for less, and DTE should not be locking Michigan energy customers into paying for this costly gas option. More clean energy investment is also better for the state’s economy, building on a growing industry that already employs more than ninety-thousand Michiganders.”
Under a new resource planning law updated by state legislators in 2016, Michigan utilities must seek a “certificate of need” if they want assurance that they can pass the costs of building a plant of this size on to its customers. In order to gain that approval, they must demonstrate that their proposed investment is the “most prudent” way to serve its customers’ electricity needs.
“DTE did not meet its burden to show that their proposed gas plant was the best option for Michigan customers” Sam Gomberg, senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Under Michigan’s electricity planning law, the Commission should send the company back to the drawing board.”
DTE Energy petitioned the MPSC for the certificate on July 31, asking to build an 1100 megawatt (MW) natural gas-fired power plant in St. Clair County, replacing older coal-fired units in the area, which are retiring between now and 2023.
“DTE is overlooking flexible, reliable, renewable resources that can deliver affordable energy to their customers,” said Margrethe Kearney, senior staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “DTE failed to seriously look at solar and wind power, battery storage, energy efficiency, and demand response, which would give DTE the flexibility it needs to integrate clean, cost-effective renewables that are good for Michigan’s economy and environment.”
The Commission will review testimony presented by a range of experts from across the country, including those representing Vote Solar, Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
“DTE’s analysis was based on outdated and inaccurate assumptions about the costs and performance of solar power,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Our hope is that the Commission will put the interests of customers first, and ask DTE to start over with numbers that better reflect reality.”
Hearings on DTE Energy’s gas plant proposal will take place in February and a final order on the MPSC’s decision is expected April 2.
News item from Vote Solar