Ann Arbor seeks feedback on proposed community-owned sustainable energy utility

The city of Ann Arbor is seeking community feedback on a proposed community-owned Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU), which would supplement DTE electricity through localized solar and energy storage systems.

The SEU would focus on 100% clean, reliable, affordable, and locally built electricity, in keeping with the city's A2ZERO plan for achieving carbon neutrality by 2030.

"Powering our grid with 100% renewable energy, supporting beneficial electrification, and embracing deep energy waste reduction are essential strategies within that plan," says Dr. Missy Stults, manager of the city's Office of Sustainability and Innovations, via email. "An SEU gives us direct control over how fast and deep we go in our work."

Unlike a traditional municipal electric utility, an SEU would not require a court process to take over current equipment from DTE, the city's current utility. It would instead provide an alternative option for residents, mitigating power outages by adding to existing infrastructure.

Stults says the SEU would also focus on a number of other goals aligned with the A2ZERO plan, including energy waste reduction, beneficial electrification, and on-bill financing support. 

One of the biggest potential challenges the city anticipates in implementing the SEU is speed. 

"So far, we are seeing high public interest in the proposed utility and that means, if we move forward, we will need to scale up fast," Stults says. "Finding the workforce and setting up the systems to run at the speed the community desires will be a challenge — but an exciting challenge for sure!"

In addition to visiting the project website and completing a five-minute online survey, the city is also encouraging residents to attend one of two informational webinars on April 29 and May 6 to learn more and provide valuable feedback.

"Our goal is to hear from as many Ann Arborites as possible," Stults says.

Sabine Bickford Brown is a freelance writer and editor based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She can be reached at
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