The Ann Arbor Energy Commission met virtually Tuesday night to discuss implementing municipal energy programs as well as how the Commission would approach the coming year.
The Commission discussed surveying other municipal energy programs – government-owned projects that support energy-reducing and carbon-neutrality efforts – to evaluate how other cities are approaching energy issues. Commissioner Jonathan Taylor Overpeck, a U-M professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability, discussed how this could benefit Ann Arbor as a whole.
“It would educate us,” Overpeck said. “It would allow us to understand how we fit in. Part of what we need to do in Ann Arbor is be a shining light, an example, a leader.”
Overpeck also suggested a focus on the economic aspect of municipal policies in order to demonstrate how to pursue environmental-friendly energy programs at a low cost for smaller communities.
“What we’re doing in Ann Arbor is a way to develop scalable ideas that then can be adopted more easily by other communities large and small,” Overpeck said. “There are things that Ann Arbor can do that our smaller communities will never be able to do.”
Commissioner Mark Clevey agreed with Overpeck, saying pledges to reach carbon neutrality were no longer helpful in the modern context. Ann Arbor’s A2Zero pledge came after the City Council passed a resolution pursuing carbon neutrality by 2030.
“I’m tired of listening to people come up and talk about what they’re going to do in 2050” Clevey said. “I think those days are over. Let’s get down and listen to people who are actually doing it, find out how they managed to get it done.”
The Commission also discussed a draft of the Office of Sustainability and Innovations’ priorities for 2022, which included increasing staff, funding carbon neutrality projects and promoting A2Zero efforts. Missy Stults, Sustainability and Innovations Manager for the City of Ann Arbor, emphasized that these priorities extended beyond the Commission
“This is not specific to the Commission,” Stults said. “This is to frame the priorities of office for the coming year.”
When asked how the Energy Commission could help Stults with these priorities, she suggested that the priorities needed support in developing and finalizing ordinances.
“It would probably be useful to have a sub-committee revisit (ordinances) and help make sure we’re ready strategically,” Stults said. “There’s this distinction between the body and then where we can take deputies from the body to help support some of the work.”
Discussions then moved towards the Commissioner’s responses to a survey which asked them how they felt about the effectiveness of the Commission’s work over the past year.
The three-question survey used a scale of 1-10. The first two questions asked how effective the Commision thought they had been in Ann Arbor, the average coming out to 6.16. The third question, which asked how rewarding the Commissioner’s time on the Commission was, had an average value of 5.83.
Clevey said showcasing knowledge could help expand the Commission’s effectiveness.
“I think one of our greatest strengths and greatest successes was showcasing and having really smart people come in and talk about facts,” Clevey said. “That gives us something we can do to impact everything we’re trying to do.”
The Commission decided on a list of topics, of which included sustainability millage usage and purpose, the energy code update, Ann Arbor’s Sustainability Energy Utility, green rental and electrifying the public fleets, that could potentially be priorities for the coming year or might be potential presentations to the Energy Commission later in the year.
The Commission then voted on their priorities, the results of which will be verified and reported at a later time. Commissioner John Mirsky and Commissioner Carlene Colvin-Garcia agreed they would discuss potential sub-committees for the discussed topics and report on their decisions in the following meeting Tuesday, Feb. 8.
Daily Staff Reporter Riley Hodder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.