DTE Energy Sells Ford Largest Renewable Energy Deal Ever

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When you get your own home solar array, you know that some portion or maybe all of your daytime electricity use comes from the sun, making things a lot cleaner. Add some battery storage, and you can take all of your energy to being renewable. But, if you can’t do that, using the grid as if it were a battery can at least offset your night-time energy use with energy you put into the grid for your neighbors without solar to use.

While it’s that simple for a homeowner, other situations can differ. For renters, you usually can’t get solar (at least not in the traditional way). For businesses, sometimes energy use can be so big that there’s just not enough space for enough solar to cover it all. For example, from what I’ve read, a Walmart store’s energy use is usually around double what it can install on its roof. So, if you’re in one of those situations, you’ve gotta consider alternatives.

One very easy alternative is just to purchase renewable energy from your local electric company. This will cost you a bit more in most cases, and doesn’t give you the control over your energy that a rooftop installation with storage does, but it at least makes it possible to know that your energy is at least offset by solar somewhere else in the grid. This means you aren’t contributing to the problem.

How Ford Got Around This & Will Make A Big Impact

Ford, probably facing a situation similar to that of Walmart or worse, can’t just put up a metric crapton of solar panels to cover everything happening in the factory. But, that doesn’t mean it can just give up on trying to make its operation cleaner and aim for carbon neutrality. And, with a recent deal with DTE, that’s exactly what it has done.

Ford Motor Company will soon be able to attribute all of its electricity supply in Michigan to clean energy, a major step toward Ford’s objective of carbon neutrality. DTE will add 650 megawatts of new solar energy capacity in Michigan for Ford by 2025 as part of the new agreement announced today. The acquisition is a significant investment in Michigan made through DTE’s MIGreenPower program and is the largest renewable energy purchase in the United States from a utility. The arrays will raise the amount of installed solar power in Michigan by more than 70%, according to data gathered by the Solar Energy Industries Association.

“This unprecedented agreement is all about a greener and brighter future for Ford and for Michigan,” said Jim Farley, president and CEO, Ford Motor Company. “Today is an example of what it looks like to lead… to turn talk into action.”

Since 2009, DTE’s investments in renewable energy have supported more than 4,000 Michigan jobs. The construction of the solar arrays is expected to create 250 temporary and 10 permanent jobs. DTE expects that the development of solar farms will provide additional tax revenue for local communities that host its projects. This money may be spent on community support services such as roads, schools, libraries, and police and fire protection. So, the benefits to the community from a 70% increase are big as well.

“We want to congratulate Ford Motor Company for its environmental leadership and commitment to clean energy,” said Jerry Norcia, chairman and CEO, DTE Energy. “Ford was the first large industrial customer to enroll in our MIGreenPower program in 2019 and we thank Ford for its continued commitment to using MIGreenPower to help decarbonize its operations and meet its sustainability goals.”

DTE’s MIGreenPower program is one of the biggest voluntary renewable energy programs in the country, and Ford’s deal is part of that program. To date, the firm has enrolled more than 600 firms as well as over 62,000 residential customers in the MIGreenPower program. Customers in MIGreenPower have enrolled 2.8 million megawatt hours of clean energy every year, which has an environmental benefit equivalent to preventing 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. DTE is Michigan’s largest producer of renewable energy and the company plans to add thousands of megawatts of new clean energy projects to support the program.

This deal was big enough to get the attention of Michigan’s governor, too.

“I want to congratulate DTE Energy and Ford Motor Company for taking this significant step to increase our state’s solar energy production and to position Michigan as a leader in climate action,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “Efforts like this are the reason Michigan had the best job growth for energy-sector jobs in the country last year, which will help to advance our state’s decarbonization goals, create good-paying jobs and strengthen our economy. As outlined in our state’s MI Healthy Climate Plan, we must take immediate, tangible steps to mitigate climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so we can achieve economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2050. Steps like this collaboration between Ford and DTE are helping to move our entire state forward, building on our automotive legacy while protecting clean air and water for future generations.”

Why This Matters

The Ford Motor Company says it is the largest vehicle manufacturer in the United States, producing more cars there than any other automaker and being one of the first American automakers to join with the international community to limit emissions as part of the Paris Agreement. So, getting most of its energy needs from solar is alone going to be a big deal. But, it doesn’t stop there.

As we pointed out further above, the impact of this on Michigan’s renewable energy scene is also going to be big. It’s the biggest such deal ever made, and it increases the state’s solar energy by 70% in one deal. On top of that, it increases revenues to important programs throughout the state, including public safety and education. So, it’s got a lot of downstream impacts beyond the environmental.

Perhaps more importantly, it will encourage other large industrial companies to follow the same path and also build out, install, or purchase their own renewable energy. If we can get other companies to follow this example, the gains can be far bigger.

Featured Image: Jim Farley, Ford Motor Company president and CEO, speaks at an Aug. 10, 2022 event at Michigan Assembly Plant Modification Center in Wayne, Michigan, to commemorate an agreement with DTE Energy, which will add 650 megawatts of new solar energy capacity in Michigan for Ford by 2025. Image provided by Ford.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

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