As Ann Arbor moves away from fuel, DTE Energy is investing billions in it
ANN ARBOR, MI – DTE Energy is investing in Ann Arbor gas infrastructure by neighborhood, replacing thousands of domestic gas pipelines.
While the Detroit-based utility sees gas as part of the region’s energy future, Ann Arbor’s A2Zero 2030 Carbon Neutral Plan calls for a move away from fossil fuels and moving residents and businesses across the city to make their buildings fully electric and powered to supply 100% renewable energy.
While DTE’s investments conflict with Ann Arbor’s nine-year targets, the utility believes the new gas lines are necessary, while local officials have mixed feelings.
“This is exactly why you have to read between the lines to find the truth when it comes to promises made by companies like DTE,” said State Representative Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor.
“On the one hand, they say they are net zero, while on the other hand, they are putting millions into fossil fuel infrastructure. It is disappointing that DTE has decided to spend our installment payers’ money on building a soon-to-be-out-of-date infrastructure that rarely has service interruptions, rather than upgrading the electrical infrastructure that seems to be a weekly problem for them. “
Investing in more fossil fuel infrastructure is wasting good money that could be used to harden the power grid and move to renewable energy, Rabhi said.
Corby Energy Services DTE employees replaced more gas lines in Ann Arbor’s historic Old West Side last week. In some cases, the pipes being replaced are more than 100 years old.
DTE officials declined to say how much the current round of work will cost or how many houses it will cover, nor will the company disclose the per-house cost of new gas pipelines.
By and large, DTE admits it is investing billions of dollars in new gas infrastructure nationwide and is getting new gas pipelines for thousands of Ann Arbor customers.
“By the end of 2021, DTE will have upgraded our infrastructure for 4,500 households in Ann Arbor and we plan to complete the upgrade for almost 17,000 additional customers in the coming years,” said DTE spokeswoman Colleen Creagh Rosso.
The upgrades now not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also provide infrastructure for next generation energy, including “renewable natural gas” and hydrogen, Rosso said.
DTE also plans to invest $ 20 million in upgrading Ann Arbor’s power grid over the next several years to increase power reliability and capacity in parts of the city.
As part of the company’s gas renewal program, which is expected to cost $ 3.5 billion over 17 years, DTE is replacing cast iron and steel pipes with more reliable plastic pipes in its Michigan service area, Rosso said.
“These upgraded pipes will reduce methane emissions by the equivalent of 100,000 cars off the road,” she said. “Our gas customers can also work with us to improve the environment by subscribing to our Natural Gas Balance Program, which gives them the opportunity to offset up to 100% of the natural gas emissions from their homes and small businesses.”
DTE would not comment on whether it would give homeowners who want to switch from gas the option of a cash loan equivalent to the cost of replacing a gas pipeline and instead invest in full electricity for their homes.
The gas renewal program was approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission and it is essentially a moot point to discuss diverting funds, Rosso said. The program is part of an agreement with the MPSC to keep the system safe and reduce methane emissions, she said.
“It is therefore required by the state,” said Rosso.
The city’s sustainability bureau, which runs the city’s carbon neutral A2Zero, declined to comment, while elected city leaders expressed mixed feelings.
While the city’s goal is to expand electrification and move away from fossil fuel burning, city officials also want existing gas supply services to be safe until full electrification is achieved.
“I’m disappointed, but I also have to measure it by being responsible and knowing that if we don’t replace them, we can have mistakes,” said Councilor Ali Ramlawi, D-5, another of those follies that she turned into a Invest outdated infrastructure. “
Councilor Erica Briggs, D-5th Ward, also sees both sides of the problem.
“While I would prefer DTE to invest in clean energy, these replacements are critical,” she said. “I understand that DTE has prioritized these lines based on the age of the infrastructure, the potential for leaks, and the population density. These improvements will make our neighborhoods safer. “
Briggs said she still hopes DTE makes more investments to improve the reliability of electrical services and move to greener energy sources faster, and she likes the idea of giving homeowners a choice between electrical upgrades and gas upgrades for those who want to become fully electric.
DTE is committed to a clean energy future and is the state’s largest investor in renewable energy, but natural gas plays a key role in its sustainability goals by providing customers with safety, reliability and affordability, Rosso said.
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