Archived News Release: October 14, 2021 - The City of Ann Arbor has released a report describing the feasibility of a Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) — a new construct that would give city residents and businesses the opportunity to supplement their service from DTE with locally sourced, reliable, renewable and cost-effective energy. Staff in the Ann Arbor Office of Sustainability and Innovations along with five technical advisors prepared the report, which envisions a 100% renewably powered, reliable, local, shared and publicly owned municipal energy utility, built by the community for the community.
“I am excited that we have identified a promising and speedy path that can advance the city's energy and climate goals," said Dr. Missy Stults, the city's sustainability and innovations director. “Our residents have told us they want cleaner, more affordable energy options that provide better reliability. A SEU has the potential to let Ann Arbor immediately begin meeting those needs."
Starting by providing solar and energy storage systems, along with deep energy waste reduction programs, the Ann Arbor SEU marries the long-standing legal ability of cities to serve their residents' energy needs with new technical capabilities, the report states.
“New technologies — advancements in solar and energy storage systems, along with district geothermal and power electronics — have given communities more options when it comes to providing energy services," said Douglas Jester of 5 Lakes Energy, one of the report's authors. “In the past, it was rarely economically or technically feasible for a community to offer energy services if their residents and businesses were already customers of an existing utility. That has changed."
The report explains a pathway that the city could immediately begin implementing to advance the goals of increasing reliability and making an equitable transition to community-wide carbon neutrality by the 2030 goal established by Ann Arbor City Council. It also identifies how a SEU aligns with a series of energy criteria and principles adopted by the city's Energy and Environmental commissions, and City Council.
“A SEU is both novel and tested," said Henry Love of Elevate, another of the report's authors. “Communities such as Holland and Traverse City — even Consumers Energy — offer many of the programs that Ann Arbor's SEU could provide; and the District of Columbia and Delaware have versions of an SEU the city has already, and can continue to, learn from."
“An Ann Arbor SEU would be a municipal utility — one with a singular focus on local infrastructure," said Valerie Brader, an attorney with Rivenoak Law Group and former head of the Michigan Agency for Energy. “DTE's franchise to serve residents is not exclusive — it allows the city to supplement those services and give Ann Arbor residents and businesses new local, clean choices to help meet their energy needs. A SEU can improve sustainability, affordability and reliability at the same time."
The report stems from months of research and exploration by the report's authors and builds on active community discussions about public ownership. The report, along with supporting documents, can be found at www.a2gov.org/a2seu.
“A SEU advances the goal of public ownership and 100% clean power by the year 2030 without wasting money, energy and time trying to work with the investor-owned utility to buy an old and increasingly vulnerable distribution infrastructure," said Paul Fenn of Local Power LLC., a report author. “Instead, the SEU can immediately focus on installing clean energy and meeting the goal of equitable decarbonization."
“The creation of the Ann Arbor SEU would make us an epicenter for energy innovation, create good local jobs, provide access to financing, and make clean energy technology available to all residents," said Greg Bolino with DG Reimagined, a report author. “It will advance reliable, resilient, clean and affordable energy for everyone."
The report concludes that creation of a SEU would necessitate the passing of an enabling ordinance by City Council, highlighting that a SEU can be a powerful vehicle for meeting the A2ZERO goal of 100% renewable energy by the year 2030. Individuals interested in learning more are encouraged to read the report and supplemental materials and are invited to join a public discussion about the concept during a 6 p.m. public meeting Thursday, Oct. 28. Details about the event and the SEU can be found at www.a2gov.org/a2seu.
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