DTE Joins Growing Number of Power Companies with Carbon Goals

Detroit-based DTE Energy wants to slash its carbon emissions by more than 80% from 2005 levels by 2050, a reduction it said is in line with broad targets identified by scientists to address climate change. 

The company said on May 16 that it plans to substantially increase investments in renewables, transition its baseload capacity from coal to natural gas, and keep its Fermi 2 nuclear power station open. 

“I want to be clear that this plan is more than a commitment to a long-term goal in 2050,” said Gerry Anderson, DTE chairman and CEO. “We have already begun fundamental transformation in the way we produce power, and we will press that transformation forward steadily in the years and decades ahead, sharply improving environmental outcomes in the process.”

By 2050, the company wants to produce more than 75% of its power from renewables and natural gas plants. That will entail boosting its renewables capacity from the current 1 GW to 6 GW and adding 3.5 GW of new natural gas–fired capacity. Its plans call for an investment of $5 billion over the next five years to modernize the electric grid and gas infrastructure, as well as “heavy investment” in energy efficiency and energy waste reduction. It also plans to aggressively decrease energy and water consumption within DTE facilities by at least 25%.

It wants to retire its aging coal-fired power plants. DTE has already shuttered three of its coal-fired power plants—the Marysville, Harbor Beach, and Conners Creek plants. In 2016, three more coal-fired units were removed from service. “This process of retiring coal-fired power capacity will continue with the retirement of the River Rouge, Trenton Channel and St. Clair power plants in the early 2020s,” the company said. 

“DTE’s efforts to cut its carbon emissions will garner a 30 percent reduction by the early 2020s, 45 percent by 2030, 75 percent by 2040 and more than 80 percent by 2050,” the company said. 

DTE’s announced plans to transition to a low-carbon fleet echo efforts by several major U.S. companies in recent years. MidAmerican Energy last year announced a goal to provide 100% renewable energy, though it did not set a target date. At the end of 2016, 48% of its generation capacity came from wind and 31% came from coal, MidAmerican said. 

Xcel Energy in March said it expects to see at least a 45% reduction companywide in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2021, if it is able to fully implement approved and proposed renewable energy plans.

Westar Energy’s 2015 Annual Report says that its fleet’s carbon emissions will fall 36% below 2005 levels by 2017—which means they will fall below Clean Power Plan targets, even though the utility serving Kansas is challenging the rule in court. 

And FirstEnergy Corp. last year set an aggressive goal to curb its carbon emissions by at least 90% below 2005 levels by 2045, even though 56% of its power mix is coal-fired. 

—Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor (@sonalcpatel, @POWERmagazine)

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