GHG Emissions, Utilities  -  May 16, 2017

Michigan's largest utility to be coal-free by 2040

“There is no sucker's choice between a healthy environment and a healthy economy, although it often gets framed that way,” the CEO of Michigan's largest utility holding company said this week. "We can have both as we attack this problem, as long as we do it in a smart way."

Gerry Anderson, chairman and CEO of Detroit-based DTE Energy Co. reportedly spoke plainly May 16 in announcing the company's plans to transition entirely away from coal by 2040 as part of its goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050.  The utility said in a news release its emissions reduction goal, and the 2050 timeframe, align with the target scientists broadly have identified as necessary to help address climate change. 

Crain's Detroit Business reported that the company will invest $15 billion over the next 30 years in renewable energy and natural gas-burning power generation for its 2.2 million electricity customers in Southeast Michigan. According to the publication, Anderson told reporters: "Climate change is a big deal. I think it's the policy issue of our era." 

The company had already announced plans to retire thousands of megawatts of coal generation from its supply stack, and at the end of 2016 had already taken six of its coal-fired power plants offline. DTE said it plans to retire three more in the early 2020s. 

On the May 16 briefing, according to Crain's, Anderson was critical of President Donald Trump's promises to revive the U.S. coal industry, saying that his words do not change the price tag of replacing or repairing the country's aging fleet of coal-fired power plants. 

"A new administration can't turn a 70-year-old coal plant into a 20-year-old coal plant," the publication quoted Anderson as saying. "... We’re not announcing this to try in the face of what’s being described or discussed in Washington. We're just describing what we think is apparent to us."

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