- DTE Energy said Thursday it will work to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, building on the utility's previously announced plans to reduce emissions 80% by 2040.
- But the utility says it will require assistance in reaching carbon neutrality, including technological advancements and regulatory changes that could include a price on carbon or a cap-and-trade system.
- DTE pointed to the possibilities presented by small modular nuclear reactors (SMR), large-scale energy storage and carbon sequestration, as it continues to add renewable resources and phase out coal.
DTE is the latest in a string of utilities that have set carbon neutral goals, though their timelines vary. Duke Energy made a similar announcement last week, while Public Service Co. of New Mexico, Avista Energy and Xcel Energy have also all committed to carbon-free power.
"We are fully committed to doing our part to dramatically reduce carbon emissions from DTE Electric," DTE CEO Jerry Norcia said in a statement.
The utility is working to phase out coal-fired generation, and earlier this year told Michigan regulators it will close the St. Clair Power Plant and the Trenton Channel Power Plant in 2022, one year ahead of schedule. Its latest Integrated Resource Plan also calls for a $2 billion renewable energy investment over the next five years.
Thursday's announcement does not mean the utility will change its short-term plans, a DTE spokesperson told Utility Dive. It will operate under its same IRP, and now says it can reach net-zero emissions — though the goal will require assistance.
"We will work with policy makers to advocate for focused research on carbon offsets, high volume storage and carbon capture technologies," Norcia said.
DTE says it is on pace to triple its renewable energy capacity in the next 10 years, has driven investment of $2.8 billion in "Michigan-made renewables and expects to double that in the next five years."
The utility is "pushing the envelope with this ambitious mid-century, net-zero target," Center for Climate and Energy Solutions President Bob Perciasepe said in a statement. "The great wisdom of this plan is the technology-inclusive approach."
SMRs are seen by many as a way to reduce expensive construction and engineering costs associated with large nuclear projects. The technology remains in development, but earlier this year, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission completed the first phase in the design certification application process for a small reactor being developed by NuScale Power.
On the regulatory side, officials say Michigan's biggest need is a consistent way to count carbon, so that a cap- and-trade system or carbon price could be put in place.
The utility "will work with state and federal policy makers to advocate for focused research on carbon offset, capture and storage technologies and supportive policies," DTE Energy Vice President of Environmental Management and Resources Skiles Boyd wrote in a blog post.