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Michigan's largest power plant plans to close three years earlier than expected

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
DTE's Monroe Power Plant

DTE Energy, the largest energy company in Michigan, said Wednesday it intends to accelerate the closure of the state’s largest power plant. The move is part of a settlement agreement with almost two dozen organizations regarding DTE's CleanVision Integrated Resource Plan.

The groups intervened when DTE first proposed a long-term power generation plan last year.

Under DTE's new proposal, the coal-fired Monroe Power Plant — one of the country's top emitters of carbon dioxide, according to federal data — is now scheduled to close in 2032 rather than 2035.

The Belle River Power Plant, located in St. Clair Shores, is also scheduled to be repurposed in the same year. According to a news release from DTE, the repurposing is for the coal-powered plant “to run on natural gas at a fraction of the cost of building a new power plant, while accelerating reductions in carbon emissions.”

Trevor Lauer, the president of DTE Electric, said the Bell River Power Plant would be a "peaker plant," meaning won’t run often, but will enable the company to meet periods of high demand and build more resources.

“One of the really exciting things about this integrated resource plan settlement is that we’re able to bring a lot more renewables and energy storage onto the electric grid, and retire two major units at our Monroe Power Plant that currently burn coal,” said Lauer.

DTE said the closing of the Monroe Power Plant will mark the end of the company’s use of coal, completing a drastic reduction from 77% usage in 2005, to zero less than three decades later, in 2032.

Environmental groups said there's a lot to like in the settlement.

Will Kenworthy with the group Vote Solar said he's especially happy that DTE agreed to raise its cap on how much solar power customers can generate on their own.

“The distributed generation cap’s going to be increased, and that's going to allow distributed generation to participate more fully in the overall resource mix," Kenworthy said.

And Shannon Fisk, an attorney with the group Earthjustice, said DTE's pledge to expand renewable energy generation and storage sets it up for long-term reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

“They’re going to accelerate their renewable energy and storage build over the coming decade, so that hopefully we will be in a position to replace coal with clean energy rather than another dirty fossil fuel.”

DTE said the plan was submitted to the Michigan Public Service Commission for approval Wednesday.

Lauer noted that DTE has a no-layoff policy, and that the company will work to move employees to different facilities or operations.

“We’ve shut down multiple coal fire facilities over the last seven years, and we’ve been able to work successfully with our employees either at moving them to different facilities or moving them into different areas of our operations, and I expect we’ll be able to do the same thing,” said Lauer.

DTE Energy is among Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

A.J. Evans is a senior at Michigan State University, studying journalism. He currently works as a newsroom assistant at Michigan Radio.
Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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