Sunday, July 13, 2008

DTE to Invest Billions in Alternative Energy in Michigan... Maybe

There is one caveat. This morning's Freep tells the story-

DTE Energy is getting ready to spend billions of dollars on alternative energy investments in Michigan, boosting the state's efforts to become a leader in this rapidly growing market.

The parent company of the Detroit Edison and MichCon utilities plans to make about $3 billion in renewable energy investments in Michigan over the next six to seven years, said Knut Simonsen, senior vice president of DTE Energy Resources Inc.

These investments depend on the state passing a new law mandating that 10% of its electricity come from renewable energy sources. The House of Representatives and the Senate have passed their own bills toward this goal, but major differences between the two must be reconciled.

Rumor has it the energy package goes to conference this week to iron out the differences between the House and Senate. As you know, the House has already passed a 10% renewable standard, and in the dead of the night, the Senate obliterated any meaning in these bills in a move the Freep called "abysmal" and the "worst possible combination of utility bills imaginable".

Although today's Freep doesn't tell us what DTE will do if the Senate decides to obstruct progress on the RPS, they do tell us what DTE has in mind as far as investment in alternative energy. Will the Senate Republicans turn down billions in investment for our state?

The bulk of DTE's multibillion-dollar investments will be in wind power in Michigan's Thumb and on the western side of the state, Simonsen said. The utility already has acquired easements on about 40,000 acres of land in Huron County for a potential wind farm.

DTE also recently decided to begin making $15 million to $20 million a year in alternative energy investments through its venture capital fund called DTE Energy Ventures, Simonsen said.

Will the Senate Republicans turn down the potential to bring new manufacturing jobs to Michigan?

The utility has already invested in a California company that's developing low-cost solar energy panels. It did not want to disclose the company's name. But Simonsen said that if the company's efforts prove successful, production of the panels could be done in Michigan in the next few years.

And if the Senate Republicans do turn down thousands of new jobs and billions in investment, what could their excuse possibly be?

DTE wants to invest in Michigan companies...

DTE Energy Ventures is one of a few corporate venture funds in the state that's focused on alternative energy.

Simonsen took over the fund about nine months ago and is rebuilding its small investment team in Ann Arbor. The fund is looking to invest in companies that already have raised their first round of venture capital.

"To the extent we can find good Michigan opportunities, all else being equal we prefer Michigan companies," Simonsen said.

... but venture capital will go where it is wanted. The major players in California told us so months ago...

Granholm said that while VC fund managers in her first few meetings were surprised and impressed by what they heard about Michigan’s efforts, they also made it clear that they will look favorably on states with aggressive public policy initiatives favoring the growth of renewable energy sources.

... DTE Energy Ventures will be no different. If they can't find favorable conditions in Michigan, they will go elsewhere.

When Mike Bishop said his focus this year would be "jobs, jobs, jobs", little did we realize he was talking about sending jobs to other states.