Energy Crisis and Response
The Energy Crisis of the late 1970's prompted President Carter to put on a sweater and ask Americans to dial down their thermostats. Energy conservation became a national priority. The Tenth Anniversary of Earth Day in April 1980 focused on energy efficiency. In May of 1980, Ann Arbor Mayor Lou Belcher appointed a 21 member Energy Steering Committee to develop an Energy Plan for the City of Ann Arbor. The resulting plan is a guide for energy conservation and sustainable energy use opportunities throughout the City.
The Steering Committee met for a period of one year, and convened five Task Forces: Land Use and Transportation, New Construction and Site Design, Energy Promotion, Building Retrofit, and Renewable Resources. Over 100 Ann Arbor citizens got involved with the Task Forces and Steering Committee, and a broader community forum of over 500 residents was established to provide input to the Task Forces. The resulting plan, adopted by City Council in June 1981, outlined broad energy efficiency goals and objectives and set forth approximately 50 program recommendations. The plan was a model for other cities looking to conserve energy and established Ann Arbor as a national leader in energy conservation policy. (A 1994 Energy Plan Update documents how the City has set out to meet goals and objectives set out in the original plan.)
Upon adoption of the Ann Arbor Energy Plan by City Council, Mayor Belcher appointed a 21-member Mayor's Energy Advisory Board to evaluate and make recommendations regarding the potential of hydroelectric reactivation, a waste-to-energy facility, and the implementation of the Ann Arbor Energy Plan.
The Energy Advisory Board worked to reactivate hydroelectric generation at two City-owned dams: Barton and Argo. The board then became involved in educating voters on two related ballot initiatives: (1) for the City to become a municipal utility as required for this project, and (2) to approve the necessary hydroelectric bond issue.
The Board also developed the Energy VIP program, a residential energy efficiency award program, along with a range of energy education initiatives and municipal energy conservation projects associated with the Energy Plan. The Board met monthly for four years until the election of Mayor Pierce in 1985. Within six months the Energy Advisory Commission was re-formed as a smaller Energy Commission of 13 members, including two Councilpersons. This is the current form and composition of the Energy Commission, except that the Energy Coordinator, as a representative of the City, now provides staff support for Commission meetings and programs.
The Energy Commission has remained active, meeting once a month and implementing many programs and policies, including:
- Support the implementation of energy education and home energy retrofit programs in single family, multi-family and public housing, including the Energy VIP, Home Energy Works, and Home Energy Rating programs.
- Collected and distributed 90 used solar thermal collectors donated to the City by the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (now part of Altarum).
- Supporting the development of an Energy Learning Exhibit at the Leslie Science Center.
- Create an "Energy Meter" educational program for the public library using 10-watt meters left over from a City grant.
- Assisted in annual Leslie Science Center Earth Day Celebration with an Energy Education and Demonstration area.
- Created and manages an Energy Fund in the local Community Foundation to finance small, local energy projects.
- Examine City lighting codes from an energy efficiency perspective, and wrote initial draft of Outdoor Lighting Ordinance.
- Research, create, and implement energy efficiency standards for rental properties.
- Initiate and oversee the development of a special Task Force to address solid waste issues. This Task Force was spun off as the Solid Waste Commission.
- Assisted in the creation and implementation of a $1.4 million bond financed municipal energy improvement project. The successful implementation of this project earned the City of Ann Arbor the 1989 Municipal Energy Achievement Award from the State of Michigan and a National Environmental Achievement Award from the Renew America Foundation.
- Initiate discussions of local utility franchise issues. Former Mayor Ingrid Sheldon assigned the Energy Commission to negotiate franchise with Michigan Consolidated Natural Gas Company.
- Supported the creation (and continuation) of a full time Energy Coordinator position.
- Recommended to Council the creation of a Green Fleets Policy.
- Take an active role in State energy conservation and demand side management programs through communications with the Michigan Public Service Commission.
- Created Electric Marketer franchise requirements which became national example of local franchise in newly deregulated electric market.
- Play an active role in efforts to get a statewide net metering policy established.