Ann Arbor, Mich., City Council Approves Resolution On Public Power Feasibility Study

September 9, 2021

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
September 9, 2021

The Ann Arbor, Mich., City Council on Sept. 7 approved a resolution that asks the Ann Arbor Energy Commission to provide a recommendation on whether or not the Commission believes the city should undertake a feasibility study to understand options related to creating a municipal utility, including traditional and non-traditional models.

Prior to the council’s meeting, Ann Arbor, Mich., Council Member Elizabeth Nelson announced plans to introduce a resolution at the meeting asking the Ann Arbor Energy Commission to consider and vote on the question of a public power feasibility study for the city. She wanted the Energy Commission to vote on the matter at the Energy Commission’s Sept. 14 meeting.

At the city council meeting, Council Member Travis Radina noted that the Energy Commission is scheduled next month to hear from representatives of Boulder, Colo., and Winter Park, Fla., about their experiences related to municipalization.

In November 2020, Boulder voters declined to pursue municipalization for the city. Winter Park formed a public power utility in 2005.

Radina therefore put forth an alternative proposal that provided the Energy Commission with additional time to report back to the council.

But Nelson objected to the notion that her resolution “is somehow overstepping and dismissing the value” of input from the Energy Commission, noting that she has had many conversations with members of the Energy Commission who shared with her the length of time that this has been discussed.

“This is not a big step that I’m asking for,” she said. “I have crafted this resolution very carefully to include the Energy Commission. I would argue that if our community felt very strongly about this, if our community felt a compelling need,” the council could act “without first asking for input from the Energy Commission. My resolution is specifically asking for their input, with the knowledge that they have been discussing this for months.”

Nelson said that “I think that there is a reason to act sooner rather than later, and I know that members of our community are looking ahead to the possibility of this feasibility study informing a potential ballot question for next year and so three months might matter. Pushing this down the road three months – I don’t see any reason. I feel like the Energy Commission could probably give us an answer given that they’ve been talking about this since February.”

The council ultimately voted to ask the Energy Commission to provide a recommendation no later than December 31, 2021 as to whether or not the Commission believes the city should undertake a feasibility study to understand options related to creating a municipal utility, including traditional and non-traditional models.

The American Public Power Association offers a wide range of resources and information related to municipalization on its website.

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