Public Power Requires Public Ownership
New Ann Arbor SEU plan doesn’t offer clear path to 100% renewable energy by 2030
Ann Arbor for Public Power supports the goals of a sustainable energy utility (SEU) for Ann Arbor, but not as a substitute for pursuing municipalization of the local electric grid.
The city’s recent report, “Ann Arbor’s Sustainable Energy Utility,” proposes a novel city-owned entity that would encourage energy waste reduction, home electrification, microgrids that use rooftop solar, community solar installations and other positive measures. We support this concept, which is innovative and constructive. However, an SEU cannot achieve strategy one of the A2Zero plan, “Power our electrical grid with 100% renewable energy.”
“Microgrids are a great tool for resilience and for integrating more renewable energy,” said State Senator Jeff Irwin. “I’m excited about the possibility of more microgrids and how this can bridge the gap to full municipalization.”
Only a quarter to half of buildings are candidates for microgrids, and only 10-20% optimally suited for them. Community solar opportunities are limited by available open space. An SEU can help, but it cannot generate enough clean electricity to even bring us close to our goal. An SEU won’t have the infrastructure to purchase clean electricity from generation facilities outside of the city. By comparison, a municipal electric utility owns the electrical distribution infrastructure. It can acquire, generate, and distribute its own electricity, offering a clear path to 100% renewable generation through a combination of local generation and purchased power.
Municipalization provides all the benefits of an SEU but at a far larger scale and with complete community control of the grid. A municipal utility can address DTE’s reliability issues directly, by undergrounding the wires if we choose and updating infrastructure. Furthermore customer payments will stay in the community and, even after acquisition costs, will return surplus revenue to the city for reinvestment in decarbonization solutions.
“We are in a climate crisis, this is not the time for baby steps and half measures, we need full municipalization of our grid because it achieves lower rates, more reliability, a sustainable future, and perhaps most importantly we the people will own it,” said State Representative Yousef Rabhi.
We believe that transparency and public engagement are fundamental. This report was drafted with no community input or insight. Municipalization, on the other hand, has generated substantial grassroots support to date — most recently at the October 12th Energy Commission meeting which focused solely on the topic of municipalization.
Ann Arbor for Public Power is convinced that municipalization is the best path forward for the city of Ann Arbor, and the only realistic option to reach 100% renewable power by 2030. We invite the community to join us at annarborpublicpower.org.