4/27/24 — DTE tells investors that fossil fuels are the future


In DTE’s April 25 “earnings call” for investors, DTE Energy CEO Jerry Norcia doubled down on fossil fuels. In 2022, DTE replaced its St. Clair coal plant with fossil gas, and it plans to convert the Belle River coal plant to gas by 2028. As for the massive Monroe coal plant, which DTE has agreed to close in 2032: “what we’re pursuing there is current technology, where we can use natural gas with carbon capture and storage.” That seems to be the plan beyond 2032, too. “The growth [in power] demand that we’re looking at, like data centers [for AI], are 24 by 7 operations, that will need generation, and power, that cannot be interrupted,” Norcia said. “More 24 by 7 dispatchable generation.” Some of this may be battery storage, but Norcia made it clear that DTE is committed to fossil gas for the long term—probably through the end of the century, given the expected useful life of these new power plants—in direct opposition to both federal and state clean energy goals.
DTE’s plan is a recipe for disaster. The climate emergency needs immediate and significant action. Our national climate agenda calls for achieving carbon-free energy by 2035, and Ann Arbor’s A2Zero plan calls for an even sooner deadline of carbon neutrality by 2030. We need to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, not just reduce them. Carbon capture and storage is a false solution. Even if this energy-hungry technology proves viable at large scale, which is unlikely, it will perpetuate upstream fracking emissions and consume vast amounts of renewable energy best saved for essential things, not giving an investor-owned utility a loophole to keep using gas.
Ann Arbor for Public Power is campaigning to completely replace DTE with a municipal electric utility (MEU), which would enable Ann Arbor to deliver 100% renewable power to all residents. MEUs are also generally more reliable than investor-owned utilities–for example, those in Chelsea, Holland and Lansing have consistently had fewer and shorter outages than DTE. Under an MEU, the city would reinvest surpluses in the grid to better maintain poles, wires, transformers and substations (i.e. infrastructure) rather than spending on shareholder dividends and executive bonuses. Also, an MEU could deliver electricity at a lower rate; for example, Chelsea charges residents roughly half what DTE charges Ann Arbor customers. An Ann Arbor MEU could deliver 100% renewable power from solar and wind, both locally generated and purchased from the regional grid. There would be no tax increase, because the city would finance the purchase of DTE’s local grid with municipal bonds that would be paid off by customer bills. Above all, a municipal electric utility would be run by and for its customers, instead of by an investor-owned utility willing to destroy the planet to enrich its executives and investors. In other words, an MEU would create true energy democracy.
You’re invited to join Ann Arbor for Public Power’s campaign for a reliable, renewable municipal electric utility. Join at AnnArborPublicPower.org/become-a-member
Image: The DTE’s coal-burning plant in St. Clair, Michigan, is now the gas-burning “Blue Water Energy Center.” Credit: Michigan Public Service Commission report, “Blue Water Energy Center Interim Status Report” of April 27, 2022 p.23 by DTE.