The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) approved a settlement agreement between multiple stakeholders and DTE Electric regarding the utility’s Voluntary Green Pricing and MIGreenPower programs.
Under terms of the agreement, DTE will will lower the MIGreenPower’s program cost and simplify enrollment, including adding a fixed-price subscription option. The changes are set to be implemented during the first quarter of 2022.
DTE will also implement a new pilot program that will create three community solar projects in Highland Park, Detroit, and River Rouge. Low-income subscribers to these projects will receive a monthly reduction on their energy bills from the solar savings.
As for the projects themselves, DTE has agreed to fund a portion of the project cost and will begin to solicit a partnership with a third-party organization to assist in funding the new installations.
The three highlighted projects are not the only solar capacity to come out of the settlement, as the agreement paves the way for DTE to add more than 420 MW of new solar capacity proposed as part of the company’s renewable energy plan filed last August.
This week’s compromise came in large part due to the work of Soulardarity, a membership-based non-profit working to save customers money on energy bills, and work with local communities to build a just and equitable energy system. And while the road to arrive at this point stretched 16 months, Soulardarity said that the settlement “leaves a lot to be desired from the perspective of racial, economic, and environmental justice and energy democracy.”
The group cited DTE’s efforts to fight locally owned solar projects, specifically referencing the utility’s ad campaign surrounding Michigan HB 4236, a bill to lift the 1% peak demand cap on utility distributed generation programs. Soulardarity said it also objects to DTE’s practice of hiking residential electricity rates and selling the debt of customers unable to make payments to collection agencies.
Shortcomings of DTE’s larger business practice aside, the group said that the settlement includes potential community benefits and positive changes, such as:
Bringing clean energy to three communities that have been subject to “decades of environmental injustice”
Providing monthly ratepayer benefits estimated to be between $25 and $30, to be delivered as direct benefit on their electric bill
Including a low-income ratepayer from each community on the board overseeing the pilot program, who will all receive compensation
DTE committing to fund $300,000 to the cost of each project and choosing to neither recover those costs nor make a profit.
Soulardarity said that each of the three community solar projects will be at least 250 kW in capacity, although other project specifics have not yet been released.