Utilities, Commercial, Finance, Industrial, Solar, Sourcing Renewables, Wind  -  February 7, 2017

GM, others mull utility wind, solar energy program

Photo of a portion of DTE's 200,000 solar panel project in Lapeer, Mich., provided by DTE Energy. 

Two large Detroit-area energy users have expressed interest in a new program being offered to business and residential customers of DTE Energy that want to increase their use of clean energy. 

The utility holding company announced the new program, MI Green Power, in a Feb. 7 news release. 

"Until now, customers who wanted to use more renewable energy were limited to installing their own solar panels or other renewable equipment at their homes or businesses – which requires a significant initial investment," Irene Dimitry, vice president of business planning and development at DTE Energy said in a statement. "We also know that customers who rent apartments or live in condos may be unable to make any alterations to the exterior structure of the homes they live in. MIGreenPower is designed to address customer demand for a more flexible and affordable alternative."

Energy for the program will be sourced from the Pinnebog Wind Project, located in Huron County, and three solar arrays located in Detroit and Lapeer.  By subscribing to MI Green Power, DTE says customers can elect to increase the amount of renewable energy they use in 5% increments, up to 100%.

The utility said two of its large energy customers, General Motors Co. and Selfridge Air National Guard Base are evaluating their interest in the program. 

"This type of program further spreads awareness of the viability of renewable energy in a way that also makes sense for the energy bill," Rob Threlkeld, GM's global manager of renewable energy said in a statement. "We'll look at programs like this as we work to meet our goal of meeting the electricity needs of GM's global operations with 100% renewable energy by 2050."

Selfridge, which is the largest base operated by the Air National Guard in southeast Michigan, has also expressed interest in being one of the program's early adopters, according to the utility. 

"We are looking carefully at this program," Brigadier General John Slocum, the Base Commander, said. "We think it can provide us with a means to meet our sustainability goals efficiently and economically. We are excited to know that DTE is bringing this type of opportunity to its customers in Michigan."  

Participation in this program is voluntary and open to all of DTE's 2.2 million full-service business and residential electric customers. Participating customers will see an increase to their monthly bill that depends on the level of renewable energy they select. A calculator on the program website allows customers see how their monthly bill will change correlated to the percentage of clean energy they select, as well as the corresponding positive environmental impact. 

Editor's note: Threlkeld is a Smart Energy Decisions advisory board member. 

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