Sierra Club and DTE Reach Agreement for Groundbreaking Energy Efficiency Pilot Program to Minimize Utility Shut-offs

Program to Pay for New Energy Efficient Appliances Including Water Heaters

Contact: April Thomas, 206.321.3850, april.thomas@sierraclub.o


Detroit, Mich. -- Today, after several years of advocacy, Sierra Club, NRDC, National Housing Trust and DTE Energy reached a landmark agreement that will bring significant energy efficiency upgrades to utility customers in danger of having their power shut off. 

DTE serves the city of Detroit, which has a poverty rate nearly three times higher than the national average. The new program will identify community members who are behind on their utility bills and facing imminent shut-off of their power service. In combination with low-income payment plans they will be offered energy efficiency upgrades for their home at no cost. Upgrades can include new water heaters and refrigerators, and window repair or replacement. Such upgrades could significantly reduce the cost of future electricity bills, minimizing the need to make trade-offs between paying for energy and other necessities. 

“This program is a huge win for low-income families struggling to pay high energy costs,” said Sharonda Williams-Tack, Associate director of Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships program. “Utility shut-offs can be a matter of life or death - people have passed away in Detroit because their power was shut off.  The combination of bill assistance and energy efficiency upgrades can help customers bring down the cost of their energy bills and keep them affordable. In addition to lowering energy bills, energy efficiency investments can also improve home health, safety and comfort.”

The pilot program will target customers beginning in early 2020 until December, 2021 with a goal of providing services to at least 500 customers annually. Trusted community based organizations will conduct outreach to households struggling with bill payments. Implementation of the pilot program will be a collaborative process, with the company conducting quarterly meetings with interested parties to present data on progress and barriers and solicit input and feedback.

“Michigan Welfare Rights supports collaborative efforts that result in ending the practice of utility shutoffs especially at homes where low-income families, veterans, the disabled, and low-income elderly people live,” said Maureen Taylor, State Chairperson of Michigan Welfare Rights. “Utilities should stop inflicting pain on poor people because they are poor."



About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit