MPSC approves DTE Electric's amended renewable energy plan that expands wind, solar power generation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   July 9, 2020

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The Michigan Public Service Commission today approved DTE Electric Co.’s amended renewable energy plan (Case No. U-18232), expanding the company’s portfolio of wind and solar power generation facilities and addressing concerns raised by the Commission in previous orders, including the ability for third-party purchased power agreements to be used to meet the renewable portfolio standard.

The Commission approved DTE Electric’s request for ex parte approval of the Meridian Wind Farm Turbine project’s supply agreements and engineering, procurement and construction contracts between DTE Electric and General Electric Co., Vestas-American Wind Technology Inc., and Barton Malow Co. Meridian Wind Farm, located in Mt. Haley and Porter townships in Midland and Saginaw counties, will provide 224.9 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Commercial operation of the facility is expected to begin in late 2021.

In addition, the Commission approved DTE Electric’s request for ex parte approval of solar power purchase agreements (PPAs) between the utility company and Assembly Solar III, LLC, and River Fork Solar II, LLC, both subsidiaries of Ranger Power, for two 25-year terms. The Assembly Solar facility in Shiawassee County would provide 79 MW of renewable energy, while the River Fork solar facility in Calhoun County would provide 49 MW.

The approvals, combined with prior investments in renewable energy, ensure DTE Electric is able to meet the state’s renewable portfolio standard, requiring 15% of electricity to come from renewable energy sources by 2021. Beyond this standard set in state law in 2016, DTE Electric plans to invest in additional renewable energy projects to achieve its voluntary goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Commission’s order also resolves issues raised by the Commission after DTE Electric filed an application in March 2018 to add to its renewable energy portfolio. The Commission on July 18, 2019, granted partial approval of the amended plan, permitting DTE Electric to proceed with renewable generation assets that qualified at the time for 100% of the federal production tax credit for renewable energy. The Commission’s July 18, 2019, order approved wind contracts for the 72.45-MW Fairbanks Wind Park, the 197-MW Isabella I Wind Farm, and the 186-MW Isabella II Wind Farm. But the Commission left renewable generation assets not qualifying for the full tax credit to be evaluated in DTE Electric’s integrated resource plan, or IRP, in Case No. U-20471, with the expectation DTE Electric would seek another amendment of its renewable plan.

The Commission in February recommended substantial changes to DTE Electric’s IRP, citing a lack of competitive bidding and other issues that left the Commission without the full range of evidence it needed to evaluate DTE Electric’s renewable energy proposals. DTE later filed an amended renewable energy plan addressed in today’s order.

The order, while approving renewable projects for DTE Electric, also noted that the minimum size requirements in DTE Electric’s request for proposals (RFPs) effectively precluded smaller wind and solar resources from consideration. The Commission urged DTE to find ways for smaller or community-based projects to be considered in future RFPs or investments in renewable energy.

Based on the concerns raised by intervenors in the case related to competitive bidding processes under guidelines set by the Commission more than 10 years ago, the Commission said its expectations for a more robust, independent process with input from stakeholder groups and a better definition of a utility’s role in developing and administering RFPs should be addressed as part of the MI Power Grid Competitive Procurement Workgroup being launched later in 2020.

Intervenors in the case included Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association; Natural Resources Defense Council; Environmental Law & Policy Center; Vote Solar; Ecology Center; Solar Energy Industries Association; Soulardarity; Geronimo Energy, LLC; Cypress Creek Renewables, LLC; Pine Gate Renewables, LLC, and Commission Staff.

In other orders involving renewable energy, the Commission today:

  • Approved Alpena Power Co.’s voluntary green pricing (VGP) program, which allows residential and small commercial customers to designate how much of the electricity they use should be generated from renewable sources. The Commission’s order (Case No. U-18350) continues Alpena Power’s previously approved VGP program. But the Commission emphasized that it’s important for Alpena Power to provide detailed, sufficient information in its semi-annual reports to the MPSC so that the Commission can properly review and recommend improvements to Alpena Power’s VGP program. The Commission also encouraged the company to use surveys, studies or other methods to gauge customer interest and preferences for VGP programs, information that will help the Commission to better assess VGP programs in the future. 
  • Approved amended PPAs between Consumers Energy Co. and Bullhead Solar, LLC, Geddes 1 Solar and Geddes 2 Solar to move up the start dates for providing renewable energy to the utility, originally set for Sept. 14, 2021, to Oct. 15, 2020 (Case No. U-20604). The three plants will pay accelerated start date payments totaling $189,000, an amount Consumers will provide to customers through its power supply cost recovery proceedings. The amended PPAs are expected to reduce customer costs by approximately $738,618 cumulatively.

MPSC SEEKS COMMENT ON FUNDING FACTOR FOR LOW-INCOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE FUND FOR VULNERABLE HOUSEHOLDS  

The Michigan Public Service Commission is seeking comment on its proposed 91-cent funding factor, a one-cent decrease from the previous year, assessed to Michigan utility customers to pay for the annual Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund (Case No. U-17377). The MPSC each year sets the rate, which may not exceed $1 per meter (and only one meter per residential customer), to raise a maximum of $50 million per year for home energy assistance for vulnerable households, through participating utilities. Electric utilities that opt out of collecting the funding factor by law cannot shut off service to any residential customer Nov. 1 through April 15 for nonpayment of a delinquent account.  Any person may submit written and electronic comments regarding the proposed funding factor. Comments should reference Case No. U-17377, and must be received no later than July 16, 2020. Mail written comments to Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909. Electronic comments should be e-mailed to mpscedockets@michigan.gov. Anyone needing assistance prior to filing may contact Commission Staff at 517- 284-8090 or by e-mail at mpscedockets@michigan.gov.

MPSC APPROVES DTE ELECTRIC’S REQUEST FOR ACCOUNTING CHANGES TO OFFSET COSTS INCURRED DURING CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC  

The Michigan Public Service Commission today approved a request by DTE Electric Co. to accelerate amortization of the utility’s more than $1.36 billion regulatory liability for non-plant-related accumulated deferred income tax balances under the 2017 federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which lowered the federal corporate income tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent (Case No. U-20835) The order also approves the company request to file a securitization financing application and request for financing order in 2021. DTE Electric will amortize its regulatory liability by the end of 2021, instead of April 2033, without changing customer rates, allowing the company to defer its rate case filing previously set for July 2020 to at least March 1, 2021. DTE Electric’s request noted that its rate case application would have sought to recover additional costs incurred amid the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, DTE Electric signaled in the request its intent to commit to retire its River Rouge Unit 3 coal-fired power plant in May 2021. The Commission directed DTE Electric to file its community transition plan for River Rouge no later than Sept. 30, 2020, in the rate case docket, Case No U-20561. While the Commission doesn’t anticipate a need to approve the transition plan, the Commission expects DTE Electric to work with stakeholders who filed comments in the case, local officials and the River Rouge community as a whole for feedback in formulating and implementing the plan in a timely manner independent of DTE Electric filing a new rate case. The approved actions are not expected to increase the cost of service to customers.

MPSC DIRECTS UTILITIES TO FILE REVISED DATA PRIVACY TARIFFS, MAKES OTHER ADJUSTMENTS TO CODE OF CONDUCT  

The Michigan Public Service Commission today ordered regulated gas and electric utilities to file revised data privacy tariffs addressing changes to Code of Conduct requirements approved in January 2020 for sharing information between regulated utilities and their affiliates as well as third party competitors of “value-added” services, such as appliance repair, home comfort or protection services (Case No. U-18361 et al). Utilities must file the revised tariffs no later than Aug. 2020. In addition, the order directs parties to use free encryption and password protection programs to share and store information other than a customer list, and password protection for transfer of a customer list. Finally, the order also allows value-added program or competitors to self-certify their status as competitors to utilities in territories where competitors plan to operate.

To look up cases from today’s meeting, access the E-Dockets filing system here.

To watch recordings of the MPSC’s meetings, click here.

For information about the MPSC, visit www.Michigan.gov/MPSC, sign up for one of its listservs, or follow the Commission on Twitter.

DISCLAIMER: This document was prepared to aid the public’s understanding of certain matters before the Commission and is not intended to modify, supplement, or be a substitute for the Commission’s orders. The Commission’s orders are the official action of the Commission.   

 

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