DTE Energy OK’d To Purchase Three Wind Farms

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The Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved, in part, DTE Electric Co.’s renewable energy plan, including the purchase of three Michigan wind projects.

The commission says a decision on proposed future renewable energy development will be made as part of its disposition of DTE’s pending integrated resource plan.

Utilities are required to file renewable energy plans with the MPSC under statutes that promote the development and use of clean and renewable energy resources and reduce energy waste through cost-effective programs. DTE filed its current REP in March 2018 (Case No. U-18232).

The commission approved DTE’s purchase of three wind projects that will qualify for a 100% federal production tax credit, resulting in savings the MPSC says will benefit ratepayers. DTE will buy the Isabella 1 and Isabella 2 projects after they are built and tested by developer Isabella Wind (Apex Clean Energy). The proposed projects, located in Isabella County, will produce a total of 383 MW and will be operational by November 2020. DTE also will buy from Gichi Noodin Wind Farm LLC (Heritage Wind Energy) the 72.5 MW Fairbanks Wind Park in Delta County, to be built by October 2020. Power from all three wind farms will be used to meet demand in DTE’s Large Customer Voluntary Green Pricing program.

The commission says, however, that DTE failed to prove that proposed company-owned wind projects to be built in 2021 or later, and which do not qualify for the full federal tax credit, can be cost-effective compared to alternative sources of renewable generation and ownership models. The additional wind projects will be reviewed as part of DTE’s integrated resource plan, which is a comprehensive look at supply-side resources needed to meet power generation needs.

DTE will also launch two pilot solar programs paired with battery storage, microgrid technology, and/or electric vehicle charging, totaling about 15 MW. It must file reports with the MPSC on program costs, planning and development status, lessons learned, and how the pilots will add value for future solar developments.

The commission rejected a request by intervenor Soulardarity that DTE add third-party community solar projects to its plan, saying incorporating community solar into utilities’ systems is being discussed in a commission staff-led workgroup to see how it could potentially benefit all ratepayers, including low-income customers and communities of color.

The MPSC also approved a customer refund of a renewable energy surcharge that was collected but later overturned by the Michigan Court of Appeals. The 5-cent per meter charge was approved by the commission in 2004. After the court’s ruling, the commission in 2012 ordered DTE to return the amount collected, with interest. DTE inadvertently omitted the refund from a past rate case and now will disburse more than $1.4 million. Residential customers will see a one-time estimated 65-cent refund on their next bills, while commercial and industrial customers will get an estimated 79-cent refund. DTE says its current REP does not include a renewable energy surcharge.

Intervenors in the case were the commission staff, the Michigan Environmental Council, Soulardarity, the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Cypress Creek Renewables LLC, Geronimo Energy, and Ranger Power LLC.

DTE has 14 days to indicate whether it supports the commission’s changes to the renewable energy plan. If the company does not agree, the commission’s approval of parts of the plan are voided, and DTE must file a revised renewable energy plan by Nov. 1.

DTE’s previous renewable energy plan (Case No. U-18111) was approved in September 2016.

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