Credit: Submitted / DTE Energy

Michigan regulators Friday approved DTE Energy’s request to build a $1 billion, 1,100 megawatt natural gas plant, concluding a nine-month process that brought strong pushback from clean energy groups.

The Michigan Public Service Commission said DTE’s near-term forecasts showed a “significant near-term need for power” as it retires coal generation. The company retired 510 MW of coal over the past two years, and plans another 1,970 MW by 2023.

Construction is expected to start in a year. The plant is scheduled to be operational by spring 2022. The MPSC said heightened energy efficiency efforts during this time “presents cost savings and could provide some flexibility on the in-service date for the plant.”

Clean energy groups said DTE’s modeling was flawed and argued the utility’s capacity requirements could be met by energy efficiency, renewables and demand response, deferring the immediate need for a new gas plant. Groups also say the decision puts Michigan on a risky trend of overbuilding natural gas plants over clean energy alternatives.

“Given the availability of lower-cost clean energy alternatives, this decision exposes Michigan ratepayers to unnecessarily high rates, a litany of risks associated with fossil fuel dependence and significant levels of pollution and carbon emissions,” said Sam Gomberg, senior energy analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Margrethe Kearney, an attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said it is “discussing all options, including appeal.”

The MPSC noted that demand-side alternatives and renewables “could potentially displace — not just defer” a second gas plant DTE has forecasted to meet its needs in 2029.

Andy compiles the Midwest Energy News digest and was a journalism fellow for Midwest Energy News from 2014-2020. He is managing editor of MiBiz in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was formerly a reporter and editor at City Pulse, Lansing’s alternative newsweekly.