Feasibility Study for a Public Power Utility in Ann Arbor

Aug 21, 2021 | City Council

The recent multi-day power outage has prompted a lot of conversation in our community about improving the reliability of our electricity and the City’s relationship with DTE, specifically. For some time now, many local leaders have advocated for a public municipal power utility, similar to what already exists in over forty municipalities in Michigan. Arguments in favor of a public utility include: reliability, sustainability, accountability, and affordability.

The City’s Energy Commission is close to concluding what has been many months of discussion about a public utility. In February, the Commission heard a presentation about public power as well as advocacy from our State Representative Yousef Rabhi and State Senator Jeff Irwin (both Rabhi and Irwin support it). You can find information about that meeting here:

In July, the Energy Commission heard another presentation on the topic of a municipal utility, including legal advice about how to achieve it in the state of Michigan. At that meeting, the Commission was asked to recommend funding for a feasibility study. You can find information about that meeting here:

Because public utilities exist across Michigan, there is a lot that we know already in terms of how it would function in Ann Arbor. However, a feasibility study is the appropriate first step in exploring this option. There is significant support in the community for a public power utility, but it is also appropriate that Council receive advice from the Energy Commission regarding this feasibility study.

I will have a resolution on the agenda for our next Council meeting (9/7/21) that asks the Energy Commission to consider and vote on the question of a feasibility study. I ask that this vote be taken at their next meeting (9/14), so that Council can receive their recommendation in time to vote on it at our next meeting (9/20). I am grateful for the Commission’s months of work on this issue and I look forward to their ongoing input as we move forward.

A recommendation for a feasibility study does not bring immediate action, but does push our efforts in a specific direction: establishing the parameters of the study and identifying the appropriate entity to do that study. The Energy Commission has a work session planned for October that includes presentations from Winter Park, Florida and Boulder, Colorado (the former has a successful public power utility, the latter does not). As we contemplate how to make this happen in our own state of Michigan, we can learn from the experiences of others!

If you would like to learn more about what a public power utility would mean for Ann Arbor, visit the website of Ann Arbor for Public Power (A2P2):