Pontiac receives $463K energy efficient retrofit grant

The Clean Energy Coalition will be funneling $4.4 million in grant money to seven distressed Michigan cities for clean energy programs, including Pontiac, Hamtramck, and Highland Park.

The cities will be receiving funds through the Michigan Public Service Commission's Cities of Promise program. Each city will receive $463,000 for installation of renewable energy technology and establishment of a revolving energy fund to pay for the energy management support and future investments.

Joshua Brugeman, a division manager with the CEC, says the initial money helps distressed cities overcome two key hurdles: lack of capital for the investments, and no budget to pay a staff person to manage them. "We provide them with that initial seed capital to improve their buildings from an energy perspective, establishing an ongoing program and revolving energy fund, to turn that initial seed capital into future investments," he says.

The city of Pontiac is at the stage of conducting energy audits, focusing on the city hall and Phoenix Center parking garage. "They present a lot of energy savings potential, and a lot of monetary savings potential as well," he says. "Those are attractive to us because we can build a stronger and more robust revolving energy fund."

Although the chosen cities are distressed, it's still important to invest in energy because of the savings and jobs created long-term, says Jenny Oorbeck, also a CEC division manager. And the funded staff person is also important: "You need someone who knows what they're looking at," she says. "We feel like we're doing the right thing for them, helping them put their arms around the data they need to understand and set up a program going forward."

The CEC is still working out the details of what the final projects will be. Also, some cities, including Pontiac and Hamtramck, received federal stimulus money, so the coalition can co-invest with that funding to create a more robust program.

The CEC, a non-profit organization that works with both public and private partners for smart energy strategies, has also subcontracted with Planet Footprint to keep tabs on the energy usage and savings for the cities, which will help them make informed decisions about their energy projects.

Other cities receiving funds are Benton Harbor, Flint, Muskegon Heights, and Saginaw. All seven cities are part of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority's Cities of Promise program, a program created in 2006 to help redevelopment in distressed urban cities.

Source: Jenny Oorbeck and Joshua Brugeman, division managers for the Clean Energy Coalition
Writer: Kristin Lukowski