Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council.
DTE Energy plans to significantly expand its solar energy portfolio in the next two years to support growing corporate demand for renewable energy contracts.
The Detroit-based utility announced Tuesday that it expects to bring online an additional 420 megawatts of solar power by 2022 as part of its MIGreenPower program, a voluntary renewable energy purchasing program available to all customers. The company would add another 377 MW through 2025, according to a filing with state regulators.
The two-year buildout — subject to Michigan Public Service Commission approval — would expand the utility’s solar capacity nearly 10-fold.
“DTE is delivering on its commitment to reduce carbon emissions and meet customer demand for more renewable energy,” DTE President Trevor Lauer said in a statement. “We appreciate the broad-based customer interest in our MIGreenPower voluntary renewable energy program, which is on track to be one of the largest voluntary renewable energy programs in the country.”
DTE and Michigan’s other large investor-owned utility, Jackson-based Consumers Energy, have proposed voluntary renewable energy program expansions pending at the MPSC. In recent years, the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council — along with its corporate members — have raised concerns about program prices and the way proposed contracts are structured.
MEIBC President Laura Sherman said the group is reviewing DTE’s latest proposal, but said it suggests growing interest in renewable energy contracts.
“DTE’s proposal to expand its MIGreenPower program is additional proof that renewable energy is the cheapest form of new energy,” Sherman said. “It’s also continuing evidence that corporations, universities, communities, and individuals want to purchase renewable energy. We look forward to reviewing the proposal to ensure that it represents the most reasonable path forward and that best practices for competition are followed.”
The utilities’ plans follow a record year for corporate renewable energy purchases in 2019 when industrial and commercial customers purchased more than 9,000 MW of capacity across the U.S. Economic uncertainty during COVID-19 pandemic has slowed deals for power purchase agreements, but experts say demand will likely ramp back up. Across North America, estimates show corporate demand for renewable energy contracts still outweighs available supply.
In West Michigan, Grand Rapids-based Steelcase Inc. said last week that it had met a company-wide goal to reach net zero carbon emissions and is planning additional renewable energy purchases to lower emissions farther over the next decade, as MiBiz previously reported.
Over the past two years, DTE has announced major renewable energy contracts through MIGreenPower with General Motors and Ford Motor Co. Approximately 16,000 residential, commercial and industrial companies are enrolled in DTE’s MIGreenPower program.
DTE has 15 wind and 31 solar projects as part of its clean energy portfolio, and plans to add three wind projects by the end of the year.