Dirty Truth 2.0 - How do Michigan Utilities Stack Up?

On October 3rd, the Sierra Club released an update to our report, The Dirty Truth About Utility Climate Pledges Version 2, that examines the long-term plans of the 50 US utility parent companies that remain most invested in coal and fossil gas generation. Sierra Club analysts found that many utilities are not retiring their coal plants fast enough, not building enough clean energy to replace their fossil fuel generation, and continuing to build expensive, polluting gas plants. To distract from these weak energy transition plans, utilities are greenwashing, announcing nonbinding commitments to reach “net-zero” without taking serious near-term actions. 

Utilities need to cut emissions by 80 percent by 2030 in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the threshold laid out in the Paris Climate  Agreement which would mitigate the most severe possible outcomes from climate change. We can’t reduce emissions across the rest of the economy without a clean energy grid. Right now, utilities are holding us back when they should be leading us into a clean energy future. 

In Sierra Club’s Dirty Truth report, each utility gets a score based on its plans to retire coal by 2030, build clean energy by 2030, and not build new fossil gas plants.  The average score was 21/100, only four points higher than our first report, and 37 of the 50 utilities got a D or F grade. 

Since our original report, Consumers Energy climbed from a C to a high B, becoming the second best parent company analyzed for our report! But Michigan’s largest utility, DTE, slid from a D to an F.


Consumers Energy took a major step toward decarbonization these last two years and should get some serious credit for it. Thanks in part to the work of Sierra Club and our partners, they agreed to move fully beyond coal in 2025, 14 years earlier than previously planned. They also expanded their renewable energy plans and expedited their storage program from 2030 to 2024. Consumers Energy is now one of the leading clean energy utility companies in the midwest, if not the entire country. However, they recently added another fossil gas plant to their portfolio and remain too invested in that energy source, which subjects customers to volatile gas prices and is likely to become a stranded cost. Because Consumers Energy continues to invest in gas without planning enough clean energy to replace their fossil generation on their path to achieving net zero by 2040, they didn’t get an A.

DTE fared even worse, earning the utility an F. While DTE retired a chunk of its aging coal fleet, including the River Rouge, St. Clair, and Trenton Channel plants, they replaced it by building a new massive fossil gas plant, the Blue Water Energy Center. This contradicts their 2050 net-zero commitment and could leave customers paying for stranded fossil fuel costs for decades to come, affecting vulnerable ratepayers and environmental justice communities the hardest. And DTE’s largest coal plant, in Monroe, will remain running until 2040 despite being the country’s 3rd worst climate polluter. (1) They are also dragging their feet when it comes to retiring the Belle River coal plant in 2028.

Over the next year, DTE’s long-term energy plan will be up for review before the Michigan Public Service Commission. If they retired the Monroe plant, DTE's grade would jump up to a B. However, the company has too much gas and is too far behind other utility companies when it comes to investing in wind, solar, efficiency, storage, and demand response to earn an A.

We need your help telling DTE to move beyond coal and invest in clean energy instead! Click here to submit a comment before the utility files its energy plan in November.

You can view the full report and data here.

(1) https://www.eenews.net/articles/the-top-10-emitting-power-plants-in-america/?utm_medium=email