Ann Arbor City Council met at Larcom City Hall on Tuesday night to approve DS1, a resolution to hire two companies — 5 Lakes Energy, a Lansing-based policy consulting firm, and NewGen Strategies & Solutions, an economic consulting firm — to analyze energy options formaking the city’s energy source 100% renewable. The resolution follows the passing of the Jan. 18 resolution to request an energy feasibility study and explore options for a 100% renewable energy source. City staff has selected the above two contractors among other bidding firms to complete this study.
Recent U-M alum Zackariah Farah, spokesperson for community non-profit Ann Arbor for Public Power told The Michigan Daily that the group supported the contract and advocated for transparency in the study.
“We feel comfortable with those companies, and we think that they’re going to do a really good job,” Farah said. “What is our concern is that we want to ensure that there are many opportunities for public engagement.”
The Renewable Energy options policy requires the study to include three main alternatives. The first will explore different economic pathways — like tax credits — to reach 100% renewable energy sources. The second will conduct a Phase I study into a full municipal utility, which would require the city acquire assets from DTE, the private utility company currently serving Ann Arbor. The city would then use these assets to create a municipal infrastructure to generate electricity for the whole city. The final part of the study will be a financial analysis of a partial municipal sustainable energy utility. The Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) is a city initiative that would create a 100% renewable energy source utility to serve as a supplemental energy provider in addition to DTE service. The Office of Sustainability and Innovations (OSI) has conducted surveys of residents over the past few months, and the results show broad public support for SEU.
Missy Stults, Director of OSI, said in the meeting the objective of the study is to gather information on public utility options and present them to the public.
“The point of this RFP (Request for Proposal) is to get the facts, the information that we need and the options available to us,” Stults said. “This is a fact finding, information gathering exercise which will then set the table like a buffet of the options before us, so our community can have an informed discussion with actual factual information.”
Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, expressed concerns about the high costs of the study.
“So we’re talking about billions and billions of dollars (to municipalize the utility grid),” Hayner said. “I think this is going to be a big ask and 500,000 dollars to find out how big I guess is just peanuts for this council.”
Councilmember Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, supported the resolution but raised concerns about considering social justice.
“My top priority with all of this is to reduce dirty energy that is negatively impacting growing brains in poor neighborhoods,” Griswold said. “We know that even schools are built in the most polluted areas because land is cheaper, … so I hope with anything we do, we don’t just think of Ann Arbor, but we think regionally because those children need our help now.”
Councilmember Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5 raised a concern that money would be spent on a study that is not used.
“I’m concerned, based on government spending and governments past practices, that this becomes a lot of money being spent on studies,” Ramlawi said. “We have libraries full of studies that we rarely go back and use for things.”
Councilmember Linh Song, D-Ward 2, spoke in support of the resolution, saying she hoped it would decrease the frequency of long power outages that affect those who require a reliable energy source. .
“A feasibility study is the first step to find out a way so that we can protect folks who need reliable energy,” Song said. “If we think about all the other things that we invested in the city, and roads and that kind of infrastructure, I think it’s pretty fair to have electricity.”
Mayor Christopher Taylor said he supported the study as an important step in achieving the goal of A2ZERO, the unanimously adopted plan adopted in 2020 outlining Ann Arbor’s goal to reach carbon neutrality by the year 2030.
“Without having all the facts before us we cannot accomplish our common goal of community wide neutrality by the year 2030,” Taylor said. “It is my hope that this feasibility study will be a giant step forward towards that. We all know where we want to go and we need to know how to best get there because time is incredibly short.”
The resolution passed 10 to 1 with only Hayner voting against.
Daily Staff Reporters Emma Moore and Chen Lyu can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.