LANSING – The Michigan Public Service Commission 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.