How a Big Coal Based Utility Pivots to Wind, Renewables

September 17, 2018

Up until just a few years ago, Detroit based DTE, the second largest utility in Michigan, and a classic example of a big, coal-heavy rust belt electric producer, was still pushing back on efforts to decarbonize and enact more ambitious Renewable Portfolio standards in the state.
Then something happened.
Confess I’m not sure exactly what – but it might have something to do with the great performance of the wind farms the utility has been putting up in recent years, and the increasingly obvious results of economic models from across the county that show renewables outperforming fossil fuels in coming decades, and perhaps an enlightened self interest in realizing that there’s no fighting a technological disruption of this magnitude.

My jaw dropped when a company official affirmed commitment to the Paris Initiative, and a low carbon profile by mid-century.
I get it – it’s not enough. But given the progress of the last 5 years, and the rapid pace of technological change, I don’t think it’s naive to imagine even more ambitious goal setting in the not too distant future.
Above, and below, the company is touting it’s success with robust wind development throughout the state, and the spectacular benefits to local communities.


2 Responses to “How a Big Coal Based Utility Pivots to Wind, Renewables”

  1. jmmirsky Says:

    Here’s the rest of the story….
    DTE submitted a proposal for a new $1B 1,100 MW natural gas-powered plant which was just approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). The approval was over the objections of many entities which pushed for more aggressive funding of energy efficiency / optimization measures and greater renewable energy investments as an alternative, at least to cover some of the capacity or to delay the construction to point in time when renewables are more competitive.
    NG plants have a lifespan of 30+ years. That means the new plant will emit CO2 over that period; in addition the NG supply chain will contribute fugitive methane emissions.
    While DTE’s actions have improved significantly in the recent past, it and the MPSC won’t do the right thing until carbon’s externalities are considered in financial calculations. Carbon is atmospheric sewage which utilities are allowed to ‘dump’ at no cost to them but at great cost to us and the planet.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      I have a disagreement with DTE on the Natural Gas Plant – at the same time, my take is to encourage positive actions – and there is absolutely no doubt the company has come light years in a very short time.
      A lot can happen with a proposal like this, and the record shows that technology and economics in energy have been changing at warp speed…

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