Carbon emissions and climate change remain a topic of much discussion and debate, and they are key factors in DTE Energy’s plans for meeting Michigan’s energy needs in the coming years.
In science, except for a few laws of nature, 100-percent certainty is exceedingly rare. Research, experimentation and other avenues of scientific inquiry most often produce findings expressed in degrees of probability. In the absence of a dead-certain conclusion on the issue, we can expect the debate over the role of human activity on climate to continue.
Despite the continuing debate, and in line with our long-standing philosophy on environmental issues, DTE Energy advocates for the development of a reasonable approach to address the emissions of greenhouse gases, including CO2, from power plants and other industrial sources as well as from the transportation and commercial segments of our economy. We believe the approach should be structured in a way that avoids excessive costs for consumers and prevents negative impacts on the economy. We believe the approach also should be structured in a way that allows for new technologies to develop and mature before the greatest reductions are required. Finally, we believe that carbon limits should be set by federal legislation, so that the impact on jobs and the economy can be appropriately considered and so that companies can plan prudently to meet the new rules without fear that they may be changed by the regulatory rule-making process.
DTE Energy already is taking steps to reduce and offset greenhouse gas emissions now and in the future. We are participating in research on new technologies to make carbon capture and geologic carbon storage practical for both new and existing fossil-fuel power plants. We have participated in carbon trading markets to help establish and understand the complexities of that option. We are developing wind and solar energy resources in Michigan. We are helping our customers reduce energy usage and lower their bills by becoming more energy efficient. We are national leaders in developing landfill-gas capture systems and in converting small coal-fired power plants to run on biomass fuels. We also are continuing to pursue a license to build and operate a new nuclear power plant that would share the site of Fermi 2 in Newport. Nuclear power is the only proven, practical technology for carbon-free, base-load power generation. We believe it makes sense to take steps now that will move us toward a lower-carbon future, even if there isn’t unanimous agreement today on the climate change issue.
Our leadership in climate policy issues is further demonstrated through our membership in the Pew Center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC). The BELC is now the largest U.S.-based association of corporations focused on addressing the challenges of climate change and supporting mandatory climate policy.
Greenhouse Gas Goals
The company has been engaged in climate change activities since the early 1990s and over the years has made emissions reduction commitments. Detroit Edison was a charter member of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Climate Challenge Program in 1995 and agreed to take action to reduce, avoid or sequester emissions of greenhouse gases. Program participants were asked to stabilize GHG emissions at 1990 levels by 2000 which the company met.
To meet the Climate Challenge, the company established a goal to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions and support research efforts in the areas of carbon capture and storage and advanced energy technology by concentration of our actions in the following areas:
- Nuclear energy usage
- Energy efficiency projects
- Landfill methane recovery projects
- Forest carbon sequestration
We have also established goals to continue to seek opportunities to minimize waste and explore opportunities for pollution prevention across the enterprise. Progress on these goals includes Initiating a program to significantly increase the recycling of power plant fly ash, which minimizes landfilling of this material. Also, for every ton of fly ash used to replace cement in concrete, a ton of carbon emissions is avoided, since cement production requires the use of large fossil-fuel-fired kilns. Additional waste minimization programs undertaken by the company are described in our Beyond Compliance web page.
Detroit Edison has also committed to the voluntary goal of Power Partners and the Department of Energy to reduce greenhouse emissions intensity 3 to 5 percent over the 2010-2012 period from a 2000-2002 baseline. Power Partners is a voluntary partnership between the electric power industry and the U.S. Department of Energy to develop and implement voluntary climate actions while sustaining economic growth. Through Power Partners, electric power companies are adding natural gas generation, developing clean coal technologies, pursuing additional nuclear generation, developing renewable energy resources, and promoting energy efficiency, tree-planting, methane recovery and other projects to offset carbon-dioxide emissions. While the goal of Power Partners and the DOE applies collectively to the entire power industry sector and not individual companies, DTE Energy has adopted this goal in support of the industry.
In 2007, DTE Energy joined the Chicago Climate Exchange, the world’s first – and North America’s only – voluntary, legally-binding greenhouse gas emissions reduction, registry and trading program. By joining, we committed to reducing our power plant carbon-dioxide emissions 6 percent by 2010 from a baseline of 1998-2000. This goal was achieved.
Progress in meeting our environmental goals, including the greenhouse gas goals, are tracked in our Corporate Responsibility Report.
DTE Energy's net CO2 emissions have declined while generation has increased
- Maximum Detroit Edison CO2 emission, 46 million metric tons, occurred in 1998. Although emissions vary from year to year, depending primarily on the refueling schedule at our nuclear plant. CO2 emissions from fossil-fueled power plants have been closer to 1990 emission levels since 1998.
- Since 1996, we have achieved a steady decline in CO2 emissions per megawatt-hour (MWh) for both fossil fuel generation and our total system generation.
We continue to demonstrate our commitment through our actions
DTE Energy is participating in a number of voluntary initiatives that have been shown to or have the potential to reduce, offset or sequester CO2 emissions from power plant operations.
Eliminating or Storing Carbon Dioxide
- Detroit Edison has been a leading partner in both the PowerTree Carbon Co, LLC, and the Utilitree Carbon Company, and a sole financial sponsor of six bottomland hardwood forest restoration projects in the lower Mississippi River valley. We've also planted nearly 23 million trees in Michigan since 1995.
- At a global level, DTE Energy supports the Rio Bravo Conservation Area project to protect rainforests in Belize.
- As a member of the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, DTE Energy has contributed both financial and technical support for Phase I and Phase II demonstration projects. The Phase II Michigan project is the largest saline formation storage project in the US that has been completed. Currently Phase III is underway and will take place over a ten year period. The goal is to demonstrate the viability of a large scale commercial application of carbon sequestration technology. One million tons of carbon dioxide will be injected into a targeted formation over a four year span and the movement of the carbon dioxide in the formation will be monitored
- Landfill gas is a very potent greenhouse gas. For more than 20 years, DTE Biomass Energy has partnered with landfill owners, operators and municipalities across the U.S. to produce renewable energy by capturing and using landfill gas. Since 1995, DTE Biomass Energy projects have replaced more than 17 million barrels of foreign oil. We've recovered more than 900 billion cubic feet of landfill gas to date - a positive environmental impact equivalent to planting more than 4.5 billion trees.
- DTE Energy and six other utilities sponsored a project with Michigan State University and the Electric Power Research Institute that validated nitrous oxide emissions reductions through reduced fertilizer application with the added bonus of not impacting crop yield. Nitrous Oxide is also a potent greenhouse gas. As part of the project, a protocol is being developed for registering projects such projects as a carbon offset.
Exploring an additional nuclear unit
Nuclear power is the nation's largest source of carbon-free electricity. It is among the safest, cleanest and most reliable forms of energy available in the United States. In fact, nuclear power plants are the only large-scale power sources that do not emit any greenhouse gases. On an annual basis, America’s 104 nuclear power stations avoided emissions of nearly as much carbon dioxide as is released from all U.S. passenger cars combined.
Fermi 2 has been providing reliable, cost-effective power to 2.2 million electric customers in Southeast Michigan for more than 20 years. The plant also has been designated as one of the nation's best-performing nuclear facilities. The Fermi 2 nuclear power plant generated nearly 8.1 million megawatts of electricity in 2010, which avoided nearly eight million tons of CO2 emissions that would have been produced by a fossil-fueled power plant.
Recognizing the need to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants, the company has begun the process for a potential new unit at its Fermi site. Our analysis so far shows that nuclear power will, over the long term, be the most cost-effective base load option for our customers while at the same time helping to achieve the environmental goals of our state and nation.
In September 2008, Detroit Edison filed a Combined License Application (COLA) with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). While the company has not committed to building a new plant, the license application preserves the option to do so in the future. By submitting the COL application in 2008, we maintain eligibility for hundreds of millions of dollars in potential federal production tax credits. These savings would be passed on to customers and effectively reduce the potential cost impact of the new plant.
Investment in Alternative Fuels
- DTE Energy is preparing to invest nearly $1 billion in renewable energy, such as that produced by the wind and the sun.
- Transportation is a large source of CO2 emissions. We've formed partnerships with the major U.S. automotive companies to further the development of electric vehicles. We also are adding gas-electric hybrids and natural-gas powered vehicles to our light-truck fleet.
- Our voluntary GreenCurrentsSM program encourages the development of renewable energy in Michigan through direct customer investment.
- Our DTE Biomass Energy subsidiary is the nation’s largest developer of projects to capture and use landfill gas. And DTE Methane Resources is employing new technology to capture methane gas released by coal mining for use a fuel for electric power generation or as pipeline-quality natural gas.
Increasing Energy Efficiency
- Detroit Edison works with many of its major industrial customers to identify and implement energy saving ideas at their locations. Reducing waste reduces the need for coal-fired power and the attendant emissions.
- Detroit Edison has launched a number of energy optimization programs to educate customers and assist with various types of home improvement projects to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy bills.
- Detroit Edison periodically undertakes internal energy efficiency projects like upgrading turbine-generators, which means less CO2 is emitted per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced.