Views from the industry: DTE Energy

Diversified energy company DTE serves 2.2 million (m) electricity customers and 1.3 m gas consumers in Michigan, U.S. It is developing and managing energy-related businesses and services nationwide. DTE is targeting net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Expanding renewables, energy efficiency programmes, and demand side response are keys to this.

We spoke to John Boladian, Director of Energy Efficiency and Demand Response Management, DTE Energy about the need for sophisticated grid management, pivoting online during the Covid-19 pandemic and driving an affordable energy transition.

John Boladian:“DTE plans to triple its renewables generation by 2030 and quadruple it by the time we exit coal in 2040. We have invested principally in wind, but solar will feature increasingly to meet customer demand. We are expanding our MIGreenPower Growth voluntary renewable energy programme for customers seeking to reduce carbon footprints by participating in our wind and solar projects.

This energy transition will require more sophisticated grid management as balancing becomes more complex because of more generating assets, distributed generation, microgrids, energy storage, Demand Side Management, and energy-efficiency measures. For example, we have launched a non-wires pilot with our business partners in distribution that utilizes multiple DERs to determine if we can reduce peak load at specific circuits. Additionally, we will be launching a demand response pilot utilizing electric vehicles in late 2020 with 1,000 customers of automakers to determine if demand savings can be achieved and to test customer acceptance and behaviour.

On DSM and efficiency, we need to integrate the necessary software and equipment technologies at commercial and industrial (C&I) and residential sites. We are trying to bring all stakeholders together to define objectives and routes to achieve our 2050 goals cost effectively. The transition must be affordable for our customers.

Regulations require us to achieve energy-efficiency targets. Our approved Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) incorporates a 2.0% electric energy-efficiency saving target in 2021 and beyond.

More than 3.8 million electricity customers have directly participated in our energy-efficiency programmes since 2009. As one example, our midstream residential or C&I programmes allow us to provide incentive payments directly to distributors or retailers, who pass the cost savings on to the consumers. It is useful for buying appliances like fryers or refrigerators for a restaurant.
The potential studies indicate that the most cost-effective opportunities are strongest in the commercial and industrial (C&I) segments. For example, we have worked with many business customers and have seen energy efficiency ramp up since 2009 to become integral in how they save money and boost efficiency in their operations. Construction of buildings continues to be strong, and that’s the best time to install energy-efficiency measures.

We offer 20-plus energy-efficiency programmes across residential and C&I customers and are currently expanding the portfolio. New programmes for homes include solution-based (online marketplace, appliance comparison tool and new home construction) and technology-based offerings through our smart meter (DTE Insight app). DTE Insight lets customers manage energy use on your mobile phone. Furthermore, we have several residential programs that help income-qualified customers become more energy efficient, too.

During Michigan’s stay at home order, COVID-19 restrictions limited several residential energy-efficiency programmes that included in-home visits. Also impacted were some C&I programmes, including our midstream platform and business energy consultations, as customers could not visit distributors. However, where access to sites was permissible, we were able to complete retrofits much more easily at manufacturing sites because of production shutdowns. Currently, we still see delays in supply chain for appliances which have also impacted our programmes as well.

The pandemic pushed more of our products online sooner than planned, and we developed our capability to remotely evaluate homes. During restrictions, our online channels were extremely popular. Messaging to customers during this time included energy efficiency tips to help with customers become more efficient.

We have included in our year-end programme evaluations the total projected carbon reduction derived from our gas and electric energy efficiency programmes. This trend is emerging more in discussions nationwide amongst the energy efficiency industry. The move towards measuring the reduction in carbon emissions rather than kWh savings is becoming more common as utilities seek to define the benefits of energy efficiency more broadly.”

John Boladian

The move towards measuring the reduction in carbon emissions rather than kWh savings is becoming more common as utilities seek to define the benefits of energy efficiency more broadly

  • John Boladian ,
  • Director of Energy Efficiency and Demand Response Management ,
  • DTE Energy