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Townships say tax dispute settlement with DTE Energy opens doors to more wind and solar

David Jones

DTE Energy has settled a long-running tax dispute with townships over wind farms. The settlement means DTE will drop its tax appeals over the correct formula for depreciating the taxable value of wind turbines, and townships won't have to pay back millions of dollars in taxes to the utility.

Carl Osentosky is Executive Director of the Huron County Economic Development Corporation. Huron County has the most wind turbines in Michigan, according to a recent count.

He said it's hoped that Consumers Energy and other utilities will follow suit and enter into similar settlements.

"That's what we're hoping for, that we can reach similar resolutions with those folks that still have tax appeals, and we can move the whole discussion forward on other other renewables."

Osentosky said the dispute was chilling both wind and solar development in DTE's territory.

"We've heard from local communities — several of them — that they were not interested in any discussions with solar installations until the wind taxation issue was settled," he said.

In a statement, DTE Energy said, “This is a good step forward in improving relations with local communities and in resolving assessment issues for utility scale wind parks in Michigan. We hope the agreement with DTE will provide a roadmap for other wind park owners to resolve their pending tax appeal cases as well.”

In response to an inquiry, Consumers Energy did not disclose if it is engaged in negotiations to reach a similar settlement with townships over the wind farms in its territory. The utility emailed this statement:

"Consumers Energy stands for a fair and appropriate tax on Michigan wind energy systems to keep energy costs competitive, support local services, and create energy jobs in our state. Ultimately, tax revenue generated for communities from wind farms is paid by our customers on their monthly bills. We are committed to mutually beneficial solutions that help host communities prosper while maintaining affordable energy for our customers.”

DTE Energy and the Consumers Energy Foundation are corporate sponsors of Michigan Radio.

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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