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DTE Energy proposes spending $1.7B to double renewable energy holdings

DTE Energy Co. wants to double its renewable energy holdings by investing more than $1.7 billion in wind and solar plants in Michigan by 2022. The proposal, which utility subsidiary DTE Electric Co. filed with the Michigan Public Service Commission, outlines the company's approach to a 2016 law requiring renewables to account for at least 15% of the state's annual generating portfolio beginning in 2021.

The plan would also contribute to a goal of cutting the company's carbon emissions by more than 80% by midcentury, DTE Energy said March 30. Chairman and CEO Gerry Anderson said the company has already reduced its carbon emissions by nearly a quarter by investing approximately $2.5 billion in renewables over the past decade.

"We've concluded not only that the 80% reduction goal is achievable, it is achievable in a way that ensures Michigan's power is safe, secure, affordable, reliable — and sustainable," Anderson said in a news release. "There doesn't have to be a choice between a healthy environment and a healthy economy, although the debate often gets framed that way."

The proposal would boost DTE Energy's renewable energy capacity to 2,000 MW. In 2017, the company's generation fleet included 6,893 MW of fossil-fueled steam-electric assets, 2,033 MW of natural gas and oil-fueled peaking units, 1,141 MW of nuclear capacity and 1,019 MW of hydroelectric pumped-storage capacity, according to an annual report.

On top of the roughly 1,000 MW of wind and solar capacity the company proposed adding to comply with Michigan's renewable portfolio standard, DTE Energy wants to create a voluntary renewable energy program to help large business customers reduce their carbon emissions as well as a pilot battery-storage program designed to improve the reliability of intermittent wind and solar resources. (Michigan Case No. U-18232)

"We will continue to add renewables, both up through 2021 when the state target is 15% but really beyond that as well," Anderson said on a Feb. 16 earnings call. "I fully expect that we'll continue to add additional renewables as the price on those continues to go down," he said, adding that is "something our customers want us to do."

The company's 2018 renewable energy plan calls for adding 330 MW of wind capacity in 2019, 300 MW of wind capacity in 2020, 375 MW of wind capacity in 2021 and 2022, and 15 MW of solar capacity through 2021.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a research firm, said March 28 that falling costs and improved efficiency are making wind, solar and battery technologies viable alternatives to fossil fuel plants for bulk power generation, dispatchable power and flexibility.

"You can have 30[%], 40[%], 80% renewable resources, you just have to plan and operate the system correctly," said John Moura, director of reliability and system analysis at the North American Electric Reliability Corp., which develops and oversees compliance with reliability standards for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.