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DTE plan calls for doubling renewable power by 2022

wind turbines in a field
Mark Brush
Michigan Radio

DTE Energy says it will rely heavily on wind power double its renewable energy production by 2022.

The state’s largest utility submitted itslatest plansto comply with Michigan’s renewable energy portfolio standards to the Michigan Public Service Commission Friday. Those standards require utilities to get 15% of their energy from renewable sources by 2021.

DTE will double renewable energy production from 1,000 two 2,000 megawatts annually, the company said in its filing. The utility currently has just over 11,000 megawatts in grid capacity to service more than 2.2 million customers in southeast Michigan.

The basis for that increase will be wind power. DTE plans to bring two wind energy projects that are already in the works online by 2019, and build two more that will go online by 2022. The company also plans to invest in another 300 megawatts of wind energy capacity to serve businesses that want to participate in a voluntary green energy program.

DTE Renewable Energy director David Harwood says the company’s plans reflect the fact that wind is still the most cost-effective renewable power source in Michigan, though the cost of solar energy technologies is dropping faster.

“We do see a day when potentially solar will become cheaper than wind, but we’re not there yet,” Harwood said.

The plan does call for DTE to invest in a “small amount of additional solar capacity, and with that solar some new pilot ideas that we want to explore with regard to battery storage, and maybe even a solar energy storage/electric vehicle charge kind of a combination,” said Harwood.

Harwood says this plan lays the groundwork for DTE’s larger goal of reducing its carbon emissions 80% by 2050.

Some critics suggestDTE still isn’t embracing renewable energy as much or as quickly as it should. The company has quickly moved away from its traditional reliance on coal-fired power, but is also making substantial investments in natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal but is still a fossil fuel whose extraction poses significant environmental risks.

But Harwood says DTE’s plan is environmentally sound. “This plan basically doubles that 1,000 megawatts in a very short period of time,” he said. “So I think it’s a pretty aggressive and pretty progressive approach to increasing our renewables. I’m not sure we could do it much faster than that.”

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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