DTE Energy highlights the utility sector's business case for deep decarbonization at EEI 2017

Electric utility executives have discovered that economywide carbon cuts are their best chance at strong growth. But it's easier said than done.

By Gavin Bade, Utility Dive.

A lot can happen in two years. 

At the Edison Electric Institute’s 2015 annual summit, executives from the nation’s largest investor-owned utility companies were skeptical of decarbonization

A board of CEOs told reporters that President Obama’s Clean Power Plan would raise costs and potentially present reliability issues. In the words of AEP’s CEO Nick Akin, the proposed regulation needed to be reworked so that its carbon targets are “reasonable and rational."  

Fast forward two years — and the policy environment looks quite different. The Trump administration is in the process of rolling back the Clean Power Plan and recently announced the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

Even so, the discussion around decarbonization at this year’s EEI summit took a different slant from years past. The investor-owned utility trade group trotted out Gerry Anderson, its environmental chief and CEO of Michigan utility DTE Energy, to talk about his company’s recent carbon planning.

“I really feel in many ways that our sector would be well served to get out in front of this and let the world know that we've got this one — we will deal with this issue,” he said. “And as a result, we really ought to be in a position to pull in the transportation sector's energy demand and general industry's energy demand as well.”

Anderson said his utility discovered it could affordably cut carbon 80% from 2005 levels by 2050 during the planning process for the Clean Power Plan.