The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, August 18, 2017

DTE proposes new gas-fired plant

By The Building Tradesman

EAST CHINA TWP. - DTE Energy has filed a Certificate of Necessity with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MSPC), seeking to build a new natural gas-fired power plant of about 1,100 megawatts (MW) on existing company property that will provide affordable and reliable power for 850,000 homes beginning in 2022. 

The almost $1 billion project will be built at a cost of approximately $860 per kilowatt and is scheduled to break ground in 2019, creating hundreds of Michigan jobs during construction. 

DTE selected the East China Township site for its new natural gas plant because it already has in place electric, natural gas and other infrastructure, experienced employees and a supportive community – DTE has operated the St. Clair and Belle River coal-fired power plants there for many decades.

"Representing the construction trades, I'm excited to see DTE investing in and bringing jobs into our state," said Shorty Gleason, legislative director of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council. "This gas plant build represents real, sustainable economic growth and it will be exciting to be a part of the industry's transformation."

If approved, DTE expects plant construction to create about 500 jobs. DTE says construction of the natural gas-fired plant is one of many steps they're taking to achieve its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 30 percent by the early 2020s and more than 80 percent by 2050.

The utility said it will achieve these reductions by adding 4,000 MW of renewable energy from wind and solar farms, transitioning its 24/7 power sources from coal to natural gas, continuing to operate its zero-emission Fermi 2 power plant, and providing additional opportunities for customers to save energy and reduce bills.

"A fundamental transformation in the way we produce power in Michigan has already begun. Last year, we announced three DTE coal-fired power plants will be retired by 2023 and replaced with cleaner, more efficient, reliable and affordable energy, including natural gas and renewables," said Trevor F. Lauer, DTE Electric president and COO. "This filing with the MPSC includes nearly a year of research and a competitive bidding process that determined building a natural gas-fired plant is the best solution for our customers due to many factors, including the environment, reliability and affordability."

A Certificate of Necessity is an application filed with the MPSC by an energy company seeking to purchase, contract for or build a power plant. This process is established by Michigan's 2008 energy law and further refined through the 2016 energy legislation. 

Upon receiving the filing, the MPSC has 270 days to review DTE's request and respond.  If approved, the new gas-fired plant would be the most efficient power plant in Michigan.

"Natural gas-fired plants will be a critical part of our power generation capacity in the decades ahead," Lauer said. "Natural gas significantly reduces carbon, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions, offers an affordable and abundant domestic supply, is easy to transport and provides a reliable 24/7 power source for our 2.2 million customers." 

Long term, DTE plans to produce over three-quarters of its power from renewable energy and highly efficient natural gas-fired power plants. DTE also will continue to reduce its energy waste annually by 1.5 percent.

"DTE has been an important partner to St. Clair County for more than 60 years, both as a job creator, a responsible corporate citizen and a strong community partner," said Daniel Casey, CEO, St. Clair Economic Development Council. "We are excited about the move to cleaner energy and are thrilled that DTE has made the commitment to continue to be an integral part of our community for generations to come."

The new plant is scheduled to begin operation in 2022, offsetting some of the capacity retired when three of the company's Michigan coal-fired power plants – River Rouge, St. Clair and Trenton Channel –  are removed from service in the 2020-2023 timeframe. 

DTE Energy has operating units that include an electric utility serving 2.2 million customers in Southeast Michigan, and a natural gas utility serving 1.3 customers in Michigan.