power source balancing act

The power source balancing act

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Balance and diversity. It’s a principle that can be applied to many areas of life and business. Your diet. Your investment portfolio. Your exercise regimen. And yes, even at DTE as we work to determine the energy mix that will power Michigan’s future.

This is important now more than ever, as  DTE has provided detailed testimony and data to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) about the company’s plans to build a state-of-the-art, $1 billion natural gas-fired plant to replace the capacity that will be retired when three aging coal-fired plants are withdrawn from service by 2023.

Energy generation is an extremely complex process – one that is monitored around-the-clock to make sure our customers have reliable and affordable power whenever they need it. That means having the visibility, access and flexibility to use whatever power source is delivering the greatest value at any point in time.

DTE’s balanced energy mix includes coal, nuclear, renewables such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, biomass, and natural gas. Renewable energy’s contribution is growing quickly in DTE’s portfolio, from about 1 percent a decade ago to more than 10 percent today. As a matter of fact, DTE is the largest investor in renewable energy in the state, having driven investments of over $2 billion since 2008.

But to reach DTE’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by more than 80 percent by 2050 while maintaining affordable and reliable power for our customers, we can’t just rely on installing wind parks and solar arrays.

Why? Natural gas is a 24/7 energy source that provides the “always on” in-state power generation required when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining – especially important here in Michigan. And it is cleaner, more efficient and easier to transport than coal.

The 1,100-megawatt combined-cycle natural gas-fired plant that DTE is considering can quickly ramp up electricity output, so when solar and wind power become unavailable, our customers are not affected. A combined-cycle power plant is highly efficient as it uses both a gas and a steam turbine together to produce up to 50 percent more electricity from the same fuel than a traditional simple-cycle gas plant. The waste heat from the gas turbine is routed to the nearby steam turbine, generating extra power.

In addition to taking advantage of a balanced energy mix to keep customer bills low, DTE’s energy efficiency programs help reduce customers’ energy use by increasing awareness and use of energy saving technologies by providing rebates, tips, tools, strategies and energy efficiency education to help customers make informed energy-saving decisions. DTE customers taking advantage of the company’s energy efficiency programs are seeing a significant return on their investment. For every $1 spent on energy programs, DTE’s customers save more than an estimated $5 in avoided energy costs over the lifetime of the measure implemented.

Generating power and doing it affordably and reliably for DTE’s 2.2 million electric customers is a 24/7 balancing act. Having flexibility is key for DTE to best serve our customers as it embarks on its transformation away from coal toward a new energy future for Michigan.