Ask any child where electricity comes from and nine times out of 10 they will point to a light switch. Ironically, our perspectives don’t really change that much as we get older. We want the air conditioning or heat to come on when we adjust the thermostat and lights to come on whenever we flip a switch. For most of us, it doesn’t really matter where it originates from as long as it’s available when we need it and it’s affordable.
Coal-fired power plants have been what Michiganders have relied upon for the past 75 years to provide the reliable power we need and have served us well. But we know today that burning coal emits carbon dioxide and other emissions into the atmosphere that the scientific community has linked to climate change. As we build the power generation sources of the future, we have made the commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2040 – a decade sooner than what we originally planned. And we’re doing it because it’s the right thing for our customers, the environment and future generations.
The age of our remaining coal plants (ranging from 34 to 66 years old) and the need to replace them due to deterioration, has put us at a pivotal juncture in the history of our company and the industry – the move away from coal toward cleaner sources of energy. Critical to our success as we transition, will be to maintain the reliability of the electrical grid and keep it affordable for our customers.
DTE is building renewable energy at a rapid rate, and by the time we remove all coal from our generation fleet in 2040, our renewable-energy portfolio will have quadrupled.
But living in Michigan, we know that the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, so we need an additional, affordable power generating source that we can rely on 24/7.
To that end, DTE has begun construction on the Blue Water Energy Center, an 1150 megawatt natural-gas fueled power plant approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission. It will replace three retiring coal plants and will provide enough energy to power 850,000 homes beginning in 2022. More than 500 Michigan skilled labor jobs will be created during construction and an additional 35 full-time positions will be filled when the plant becomes operational in 2022. About 200 personnel are currently working onsite and the overall project is about 20% complete, with the first major equipment deliveries scheduled this fall.
When the Blue Water Energy Center comes online, it will be the most fuel-efficient power plant in Michigan. It will run on natural gas and use combined-cycle technology that captures waste heat to produce additional electricity. The plant will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 70%, other pollutants by 90%, and will be 40% more efficient than the three coal-fired plants it replaces. It is a critical component of a balanced energy mix that provides 24/7, always available power generation required when wind turbines and solar arrays are unable to produce electricity due to weather conditions or time of day.