Ann Arbor’s new report says the city could create its own renewable electricity company
ANN ARBOR, MI – Ann Arbor has decided that the city could create its own public utility, giving city residents and businesses the opportunity to complement their DTE Energy service with locally generated renewable energy.
After months of research, the city’s sustainability office and five technical consultants published a report on Thursday, October 14th, examining the legal, technical and political feasibility of introducing a so-called sustainable energy supplier (SEU).
As intended, it would be a local community utility built by the community for the community, said Missy Stults, the city’s sustainability manager, calling it a new public energy model that focuses on the use of modern energy technologies.
“We thought about how not to focus on sales because the sales system is incredibly fragile,” she said.
It’s a form of public power that is cleaner, faster, and more local, more reliable, fairer, and more affordable than almost any option the city has explored, she said, excited about the upcoming public discussions on the idea.
“We’ve looked into this, and it’s very clearly anchored in the Michigan Constitution,” said Stults. “It has never been technically or economically feasible until the improvements we’ve seen in solar, storage and geothermal energy have achieved the cost reductions and technological advances. And that’s why we think it’s possible. That is not only possible, but also legal. “
Stults believes it could provide 100% renewable energy at prices comparable, if not lower, than DTE’s prices for the 15% renewable energy offered on its power grid.
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“We want this to be part of the public discussion and discourse about public property because it is,” said Stults. “It’s just property that doesn’t focus on the vulnerable parts of our electrical system. It really focuses on the generation fraction and building reliability and resilience. “
The new report provides more details on how an SEU could function and help the city achieve its goal of carbon neutrality by 2030.
Read the report.
Councilor Travis Radina, a member of the city’s energy commission, said he was incredibly excited and optimistic about “this groundbreaking report and what it means for the future of our city and, more generally, the future of public renewable energy in our state.”
“This vision provides Ann Arbor with a clear path to begin building more reliable, fully renewable, and public energy for our community almost immediately, without acquiring the antiquated ‘poles and wires’ energy infrastructure that our residents have been denying for years and without embroiling our city in a costly and lengthy litigation with DTE for most of the next decade, ”he said in a statement.
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Traditionally, an electricity supplier was an all-or-nothing deal and each customer or household could only have one supplier for 100% of their energy needs, said Stults.
Innovations in distributed energy, including solar and energy storage, and advances in energy technologies mean the city can now think differently, and the SEU envisions a new kind of entity, she said.
Through the SEU, Ann Arborites could progressively reduce energy consumption by reducing energy waste and meet the remaining energy needs from clean, local, public sources, she said.
“I am pleased that we have found a promising and fast path that can advance the city’s energy and climate goals,” she said in a statement. “Our residents have told us that they want cleaner, more affordable power options that are more reliable. An SEU has the potential to get Ann Arbor to immediately begin meeting these needs. “
The city is holding a public meeting on October 28th to introduce the concept and get public feedback. It is also expected to be discussed by the Energy Commission on November 9th. The creation of the SEU requires the approval of the city council.
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