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Powering Michigan’s Clean Energy Transformation

image credit: Mark Houston, DTE Energy
Brian Calka's picture
Director, Renewable Energy Solutions DTE Energy

Brian Calka, the director of renewable energy solutions at DTE Energy, with responsibility of MIGreenPower, the utility's voluntary renewable energy program.

  • Member since 2020
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  • May 11, 2020
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When most people think of Michigan, cars, not clean energy, are likely the first thing that come to mind. But, surprisingly, the state is quietly becoming a clean energy powerhouse and is home to the second largest voluntary renewable energy program in the country in terms of megawatt-hours subscribed.

What’s driving demand for clean energy in this motor-centric, industrial, midwestern state?  Like most states, Michigan’s clean energy transformation began with the passing of legislation. In 2016, with bipartisan support, the state passed sweeping new energy legislation that called for, among other things, an increase in the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS), mandating that utilities produce 15% of their energy from renewable resources by 2021. Previous legislation under Public Act 295 - the Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act - had established an RPS of 10% by 2015.  

DTE Energy, Michigan’s largest investor-owned utility, is leading the state’s transition to cleaner energy. DTE achieved the 2015 RPS ahead of schedule and expects to not just meet, but exceed, the 2021 mandate. Already the state’s largest renewable energy investor and producer, DTE will grow its renewable energy generation capacity by 50% in 2020 when it brings four new wind parks online.

Growing its renewable energy portfolio and its voluntary renewable energy programs are important elements of the company’s broader aspirational goal to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The company has also committed to a 50% carbon reduction by 2030, compared to 2005 baseline data, all while ensuring safe, reliable and affordable energy for Michigan.

In April 2017, DTE introduced MIGreenPower, its voluntary renewable energy program. Customers who subscribe to MIGreenPower can reduce their carbon footprint by matching a percentage of their energy use to DTE’s wind and solar projects. Their participation accelerates the demand for renewable energy, enabling DTE to grow its portfolio beyond the assets required by law.

Since 2017, DTE’s original MIGreenPower program has grown to a community of more than 12,000 Michiganders who are using MIGreenPower to deliver on their sustainability goals. Customers are taking advantage of the program’s flexibility and affordability; the program is open to renters and homeowners alike and customers can subscribe at a level that fits their needs and budget. Customers can change their subscription amount once a month if they wish and can stay in the program if they move, as long as they stay within DTE’s service territory.  Since the program’s inception, these customers have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by more than 43,112 metric tons, the greenhouse gas equivalent of taking 9,314 cars off the road for one year. 

In 2019, DTE expanded its MIGreenPower program to offer a tariff specifically designed for Michigan’s largest industrial customers. Several local companies, including some of the state’s most well-known brands, quickly embraced the program to help meet their own corporate sustainability goals. General Motors, Ford Motor Company, the University of Michigan and the Detroit Zoo all joined the program shortly after it began accepting enrollments. General Motors recently increased its participation in MIGreenPower to match 100% of its energy use for DTE-supplied facilities in Southeast Michigan, making it the state’s largest renewable energy purchase to date.  

As more customers enroll in MIGreenPower, DTE will build additional renewable energy projects on their behalf. DTE has already committed to acquiring three new wind parks later this year because of enrollments in MIGreenPower. Two of the wind parks, located in mid-Michigan, will become Michigan’s largest upon commercial operation.

DTE is anticipating additional growth in its MIGreenPower program over the next five years and plans to introduce more program options to meet a diverse range of customer interests. Growing MIGreenPower participation not only helps DTE’s customers deliver on their clean energy goals, it helps create a cleaner future for Michigan. Together, we’re making a real difference.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on May 11, 2020

Really interesting stuff, Brian-- thanks for sharing! Can you talk about how customers are made aware of this program and educated on it? Are you targeting specific types of customers or is it a pretty broad outreach? 

Brian Calka's picture
Brian Calka on May 14, 2020

Happy to share additional insight - This program is open to all DTE Electric customers. We know many of our customers want to do their part to help combat climate change and we invite all of our customers to join us as we transition toward a cleaner future. DTE broadly promotes the MIGreenPower program on its owned media channels and all customer-facing publications. We also implement a number of more highly targeted outreach activities among high propensity customers to increase program awareness and enrollment. In addition, we employ a unique MIGreenPower call center to handle customer inquiries and assist with direct enrollments.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on May 22, 2020

Great to hear it's a multi-pronged attack. I consider myself quite energy conscious, but I've still found that sometimes I have to seek out whether there are new programs I can utilize at my utility rather than having that message pushed to me. But it's all a part of that changing relationship between utility and customer these days-- no longer is it a once per month billing touchpoint but a more frequent partnership/advisor role!

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on May 15, 2020

Brian, Great program letting all customets support Renewable Energy.  Could you explain the pricing difference. Our company charges about twice the rate for Renewable Energy. The closer it is to existing pricing the bigger the take. 

Brian Calka's picture
Brian Calka on May 22, 2020

Of course - The MIGreenPower program is a premium product that includes a subscription rate of 7.2 cents per kWh that will remain the same for the life of the program, and a credit based on the avoided cost of traditional energy and capacity in proportion to your subscription level. In 2020, the credit is 4.0 cents per kWh (a net cost of 3.2 cents per KWh). The program is then billed based on each customer’s electricity use; an average MIGreenPower customer pays an extra $8 a month for more clean energy.

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on May 16, 2020

Thanks for this.  Michigan continues to surprise in their new approaches to meeting energy needs. What is the potential of renewables in Michigan? Can renewables compete on a cost basis with existing nuclear in Michigan?  Can you give us an idea of public sentiment in Michigan with respect to renewables vs. nuclear?

Brian Calka's picture
Brian Calka on May 22, 2020

In 2016, Michigan enacted new energy legislation raising our Renewable Energy Portfolio (RPS) standard to 15% by 2021. In addition to the assets it is building or acquiring to meet the RPS, DTE is adding renewable energy generation capacity through its MIGreenPower voluntary program. Michigan currently ranks 12th nationally for installed wind capacity and we also have several utility-scale solar projects coming online over the next three years. DTE plans to add significantly more renewable energy to its portfolio going forward and is on track to triple its renewable energy generation capacity by 2030. Nuclear power is also a carbon-free source of electricity and the nature of a nuclear plant is that it can supply “base load” electricity that complements more variable renewable energy.

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