By Kayla Sosa

The top executive at Michigan-based energy company, DTE Energy, spoke to a group of Grand Valley State University students, staff and local business professionals.

The topic of the talk was about the “soft skills” in business being some of the hardest. DTE’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Gerry Anderson said his years of engineering skills couldn’t have prepared him for working with people, and developing a social culture within a company. He said when he came on as CEO, the company had a “broken culture” within the employees.

“I had no idea how to shape a culture of 10,000 people,” Anderson described in his lecture. “I was looking for a way to improve the company continuously over time with our people at the center of that, rather than feeling like it was being imposed on them.”

Anderson also said DTE is planning to reduce its carbon emissions by 80 percent in 2040. This starts with completely phasing out the use of coal as well as three large power plants in the state.

“The heaviest investments will be in renewables, that’s been wind principally to date and probably will be for the next five years or so,” Anderson said. “Then we’ll flip to a long term investment in solar resources in the state, and in the process our carbon will be down a third by the early 2020s, 50 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2040, and will continue to go down after that.”

Anderson said when there isn’t sun or wind to provide energy, the backup option will be natural gas. Anderson said natural gas emits 70 percent less carbon than coal.

“If I had to guess, in 2040, what will our energy mix look like, it’ll probably be 50 percent of the energy will come from renewables, 20 percent from nuclear, so 70 percent will have no carbon,” he said. “And the balance will be natural gas, which is very low carbon.”

Anderson has served as the CEO of DTE since 2010. He started working with the company in 1993 as the vice president of non-utility business.

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