DETROIT, MI. -- Today, DTE Energy filed its electric and gas energy efficiency (referred to in Michigan as “energy waste reduction”) plans with the Michigan Public Service Commission to reduce energy waste in its service territory. Through the process mandated by state law, Michigan utilities must file plans to allocate resources that improve energy efficiency and reduce wasted electricity in their service territory. DTE is required to deliver customers at least 2% energy savings annually, following the outcome of their most recent Integrated Resource Plan. As Michigan’s largest utility, DTE serves millions of customers and how it funds and prioritizes energy efficiency spending could have huge impacts on the communities affected.
Mike Berkowitz, Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign Representative in Michigan said, “Michigan has one of the highest energy burdens in the country and most of that impact is in Detroit’s majority Black low-income communities. There is a vital opportunity for DTE to equitably distribute resources in a way that prioritizes these neighborhoods that have been historically disenfranchised to lower energy bills and make homes safer and more resilient.”
Advocates point out that Michigan has one of the highest energy burden rates in the nation, especially in the Detroit area. Energy burden is the percentage of a household’s income that goes to paying energy bills, and is used as a metric to measure how burdensome energy costs are on low-income households. Energy burden has been shown to disproportionately impact communities of color and data shows direct correlation between neighborhoods with high energy burden and neighborhoods with a legacy of redlining. The median energy burden of Black households in Detroit is 54 percent higher than that of non-Hispanic white households.
Laura Goldberg, NRDC’s Midwest Regional Director of Energy Efficiency for All said, “DTE’s energy efficiency plan needs to ensure it prioritizes robust, deep programs for residents living in affordable multifamily housing. Energy burden disparities are also very high for families living with lower incomes in affordable multifamily housing, and in Detroit for example low-income multifamily households, along with low-income and black households experience the highest energy burdens. We plan to hold DTE accountable to reaching MI families most in need of energy efficiency.”
Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Ecology Center, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), National Housing Trust, along with organizational and community partners plan to closely review the details of DTE’s energy efficiency filings and push DTE to make good on its stated commitment to strive towards racial equity and justice as the utility makes plans to implement its energy efficiency programs, and the Michigan Public Service Commission considers those plans. By proactively investing resources in high energy-burden neighborhoods, DTE has a responsibility to help families save energy and live in healthier homes.
"High energy burden creates significant health disparities, putting families in physical and economic jeopardy, leaving people in a situation of having to choose between heating and cooling their homes, feeding their families, or seeking needed medical treatment," said Alexis Blizman, policy director at the Ecology Center. "These disparities have grown since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. It is time for DTE to both recognize these disparities and take aggressive steps toward long term, sustainable solutions. This requires a much larger investment in those communities most impacted by high energy burden."
Annika Brindel, the National Housing Trust’s Midwest Director of Energy Efficiency Policy (EEFA) shared, “The National Housing Trust will be closely reviewing DTE’s filings to ensure that planned investment levels in affordable multifamily homes are appropriate given the huge potential energy savings. Multifamily rental homes have historically been under-invested in, resulting in far fewer energy efficiency measures per home than in other types of housing. Significant work needs to be done to close this growing gap as well as to ensure that investments promote racial equity.”
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 www.sierraclub.org.