DTE Energy Officials Cite Job Creation, a Cleaner Environment and Low-Income Customer Assistance as 2010 Goals
DETROIT — The landmark Michigan energy legislation approved in 2008 has provided DTE Energy with some economic certainty that has allowed the company to invest in projects that provide a cleaner environment while providing attractive jobs in the state, the company’s CEO told shareholders at their annual meeting today.
Anthony F. Earley Jr. cited the massive emission-control project at Detroit Edison’s Monroe Power Plant as an example of the company’s commitment to continuing to invest in Michigan and to improve the environment.
“This project has been ongoing for about a decade, but we needed a sound, reliable regulatory environment to support this investment,” Earley said.
In the coming months, he added, Detroit Edison will begin another $600-million phase of the project that is expected to create 600 construction jobs. In addition, another 300 jobs and $300 million in indirect economic activity in the area will be generated by the project. The final phase, to begin next year, will cost $330 million and create another 400 construction jobs. At the peak of activity, about 1,000 construction workers will be employed.
“Now that’s an investment in Michigan!” Earley said.
He also pointed to Detroit Edison embarking on a Smart Grid project that will bolster the utility’s infrastructure, increase customer satisfaction and create jobs in Southeast Michigan. The SmartCurrents project, thanks to an $84 million U.S. Department of Energy stimulus funding grant, will accelerate the project and allow for 600,000 new smart meters to be installed over the next two years.
The project will create 700 deployment and construction jobs, as well as 350 permanent supplier jobs. Just as important, Earley said, is that the project will eliminate manual meter reading, speed response to power outages and enable customers to track their energy consumption and better manage their bills.
“The legislation also facilitated developing cleaner, smarter energy solutions to help customers and create jobs,” Earley said.
This year, DTE Energy plans to invest $25 million in energy efficiency programs to meet state targets and help customers better afford their energy bills. The company also plans to invest another $100 million over the next year to develop renewable electricity generation, including wind and solar projects.
But the company’s investments also address the economic realities of Michigan, and helping its low-income customers, those hardest hit by the economic pressures of the past year.
“Given that the products we provide are so basic to everyday life, DTE Energy had a particularly clear lens on the pressures faced by these customers,” said Gerry Anderson, DTE Energy president and chief operating officer. “And I think it is fair to say that DTE Energy, particularly in Detroit, is dealing with low-income issues at a level unprecedented anywhere else in the country.”
The company and its employees, he added, worked to attain a record level of funding assistance – $119 million that was used to help 250,000 customers – and added more than $9 million in matching contributions.
Employees also went into the community to help low-income customers arrange payment plans and find additional resources to help them pay their bills and use less energy:
The company partnered with four churches to make available experienced case managers to provide on-site energy assistance. That effort will be expanded to serve MichCon customers in the west side of the state this year.
A Customer Assistance Day just prior to the heating season last year drew more than 10,000 customers, and more than $500,000 was provided in assistance.
DTE Energy also hosted 14 energy forums to provide a one-stop shop for customers in need of assistance.
The company also worked with the United Way to establish a 211 On-The-Go program to assist families with food, shelter and clothing when they found themselves caught between the company and a landlord who refused to pay their energy bills or knowingly stole it.
“What we’ve learned over the past year is that the problem is bigger than these combined efforts,” Anderson said, “and that we need to redouble our efforts in 2010. I have challenged our leadership team to do exactly that.”
Anderson cautioned that energy theft is not the answer to the problem.
“We are currently experiencing a serious rash of energy theft, concentrated in Detroit, at levels unique in this country,” Anderson said. “This theft is not only extremely dangerous, but it also undermines a basic tenet of a well-functioning society.”
Anderson provided the example of a landlord who owned nearly 90 properties in Detroit. Electric and gas meters at all of the properties had been tampered with to enable theft. In all cases, the utilities were included in the rent. That landlord two days ago pleaded guilty to felony energy theft charges and was sent to jail, as was the maintenance person who tampered with the meters at the landlord’s direction.
Working closely with the Detroit Police Department and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, there have been 44 arrests related to energy theft so far this year.
“We see all of this…as part of our role in helping our city and our state return to the health and prosperity we all aspire to,” Anderson said.
DTE Energy (NYSE: DTE) is a Detroit-based diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services nationwide. Its operating units include Detroit Edison, an electric utility serving 2.1 million customers in Southeastern Michigan, MichCon, a natural gas utility serving 1.2 million customers in Michigan, and other non-utility, energy businesses focused on gas storage and pipelines, unconventional gas production, power and industrial projects, and energy trading. Information about DTE Energy is available at www.dteenergy.com.