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DTE will increase energy efficiency spending on households with greatest energy burden

External part of an air source heat pump
wikipedia/creative commons
External part of an air source heat pump

Updated and corrected: 12:05 pm

Updated and corrected: 3:33 pm

DTE Energy has settled a dispute with environmental groups over its energy efficiency programs.

The utility has agreed to dramatically increase how much it spends to improve energy efficiency in low-income neighborhoods.

Laura Goldberg is with the Natural Resources Defense Council. It's one of the groups involved in the settlement.

She said low-income Detroiters spend far more of their incomes on energy than many other groups in the state. That's in part due to income disparities, and in part due to the kinds of housing that is often available in the neighborhoods, namely older homes and apartment buildings that are expensive to heat.

Goldberg said DTE will first do an analysis to find out which census tracts in metro Detroit experience the greatest energy burden.

"We know historically when programs are not targeted to those communities, not designed for those communities, don't include budgets for those communities, then, the programs are inaccessible," she said.

Goldberg said DTE will focus most of the energy efficiency programs on heating and cooling upgrades and insulating homes. And homes with outdated electric heatingh systems will get heat pumps, which run on electricity, rather than natural gas furnaces.

"We don't want to see lower-income households using gas equipment, in a world where most likely we eventually want to see everyone have more electric equipment in their homes."

Under the settlement, DTE will add almost $40 million to its energy efficiency budget for income-qualified customers in 2022 and 2023.

Correction: A previous version of this story said customers with outdated gas or electric heating systems would be eligible for a heat pump replacement, but the heat pump replacements can only be provided for buildings and homes that have electric heating systems.

Clarification: This story has been updated to more correctly describe that income qualifications are the measure used in the settlement agreement.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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