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Ann Arbor for Public Power

Mid-April 2022 Newsletter

 

 

We continue to move forward in our quest to establish a municipal electric utility in Ann Arbor. The city has completed the RFP process and will soon be soliciting bids from qualified consulting firms to conduct a municipalization feasibility study. We continue to monitor that process. A2P2 is also making plans to launch a city-wide petition drive to place a municipalization referendum on a future election ballot.

 

We have Round Table #3 coming up soon in April and an A2P2 Public Power Festival at Burns Park in May. Please join us!

Round Table #3, Thursday, April 21, 2022, from 7-9 pm, the day before Earth Day, Topic: “Public Power Around the Country”

The theme of Round Table #3 will be “Public Power Around the Country: Campaigns and Exemplary Existing Munis; the Path to 100% Renewable Electricity?” Speakers include Maine State Rep. Seth Berry for Our Power Maine, Ursula Schryver, Vice-President of Strategic Member Engagement & Education for the American Public Power Association (APPA), and Darren Springer, General Manager of the Burlington Electric Department and its Burlington VT Municipal Electric Utility. You can register here.

 

 

A2P2 Public Power Festival in Burns Park on Sunday, May 22, 2022, from 5-9 pm.

Like last year’s Festival we will fill you in on our progress to date, introduce our newly established Advisory Board, present a keynote speaker, as well as food, music, campaign paraphernalia and much more. Help us celebrate the campaign for public power as we reach out to the community about establishing a municipal electric utility in Ann Arbor. As last year we will be accepting donations to help fund our future activities, events, and newly designed A2P2 T-shirts, yard signs, and bumper stickers. If you have the means please consider donating to help fund these events! You can donate here!

The A2 Energy Commission (EC) April 12, 2022, meeting: the landfill solar project.

At its last meeting, the energy commission discussed the landfill solar project, and passed a resolution supporting it. The solar landfill project is a 20 Megawatt solar installation on 77 acres at the site of the capped city landfill on the corner of Ellsworth and Platt roads. The 20 Megawatts are equivalent to about 4.5 percent of the Ann Arbor community’s estimated total power demand (which has been estimated at 448 MW). This is the only site in the city suitable for such a large-scale renewable power installation. So, this is a critical initiative for Ann Arbor’s clean energy future.

A2P2 has monitored this proposal for over a year. It’s a complex deal, with DTE Energy heavily involved. A third party contractor will build the facility, which will be owned by DTE, who is arranging the financing. That financing will be paid off by subscribers to the solar power generated at the landfill. These subscribers will not receive the power directly, because the actual electrons will flow into DTE’s regional grid. Instead, subscribers can claim credit for the power to offset their own electricity-related emissions (DTE continues to generate about 70 percent of its electricity from burning fossil fuels). 

As of April 12, the city had not disclosed some critical details of the current arrangement. These include the final bid amount from the chosen third-party contractor, and the expected base rate for subscribers.

While A2P2 strongly supports installing solar at the landfill, we have several concerns about the project. First, DTE will own the asset, not the city. That means the city will have to buy back the project from DTE in order to directly use the electricity once a municipal electric utility is established. Since subscribers, along with the city—which has reimbursed DTE for the engineering and environmental studies—are footing the bill for the project, this amounts to paying twice. The big advantage of this deal is the ability to quickly connect to DTE’s regional grid and bring the clean electricity on line. There are significant downsides as well, the city of Ann Arbor will also be paying a significantly higher cost to do this project with DTE than if the city built and financed the project itself. DTE cannot borrow money as cheaply as the city of Ann Arbor can through municipal bonds, thus increasing the cost of the project. 

There are alternatives, if the city is willing to invest the time: The city could extend power lines to the city water treatment and sewage treatment plants, which are by far the city government’s biggest electricity consumers. It could work to pass legislation now pending in Lansing (and heavily opposed by DTE) to legalize community solar in Michigan, and then sell the power—either directly or through certificates—to city residents. And it could enter the queue to connect the MISO grid, which has a connector close by the landfill. (MISO is a nonprofit that distributes electricity across several Midwestern states.) These options are not mutually exclusive, but they all require the city to retain ownership of the solar farm. They would require more time than the current arrangement, but A2P2 urges their consideration. We are especially incensed that DTE is claiming full credit for the landfill solar project, when it is not paying for its development (although it is arranging financing). All this while DTE continues to use its lobbying muscle to oppose clean energy legislation now pending in Lansing, legislation that would remove the one percent cap on rooftop solar, that would restore net metering (providing homeowners with solar panels a fair rate on their surplus electricity), as well as legalize community solar. Thanks to DTE, these bills remain stalled.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III report, released April 6, 2022, stresses the urgent necessity of facing the Climate Crisis now.

According to the report: “The Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC Working Group III report, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of climate change was approved on April 6, 2022, by 195 member governments of the IPCC, through a virtual approval session that started on March 21, 2022. It is the third instalment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be completed this year.” The report warns that limiting global warming will require major transitions in the energy sector. This will involve a substantial reduction in fossil fuel use, widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency, and use of alternative fuels (such as hydrogen),” Simon Lewis, professor of global change science at University College London and University of Leeds, states in an article in The Guardian, 4/6/2022, “This report is essentially a manifesto for ending the fossil fuel age.”

An Ann Arbor municipal electric utility would enable us to get around the biggest single obstacle to reducing our local emissions: DTE Energy, its dirty power, and its monopoly on local power distribution. With a muni, we can obtain 100% renewable power.

A referendum on municipalization.

The Michigan constitution requires a vote of the people to establish a municipal electric utility. A2P2 is planning a petition drive to place such a referendum on a future city election ballot. If you’d like to help in the planning, please let us know at annarborpublicpower@gmail.com,

Welcome, Volunteers!

If you’d like to get involved with A2P2, contact us at annarborpublicpower@gmail.com. Let us know how you would like to help. For example, you can put up one of our handsome new yard signs on your lawn. For the more ambitious, become a campaign organizer. Also, we’ll be spreading the word about our muni in door-to-door canvassing or through social media. If you have a special skill, let us know. All are welcome.

Join our Discord

Want to join the fight for energy justice and democracy in Ann Arbor? Join the discussion in Ann Arbor for Public Power's Discord server! Our Discord server has up-to-date information about our plans and events. To join, send an email to annarborpublicpower@gmail.com with "Discord" in the subject line and we'll send you an invite!

The situation in Ukraine

As we stated before, we lament Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a war that is claiming many lives. Our sympathies are with the Ukrainian people as they suffer from the senseless violence of armed conflict. We admire their determination to fight for their country. We hope that a ceasefire and end to the hostilities can be negotiated as soon as possible.

 

In the meantime

We’re proud to be doing our part in Ann Arbor to eliminate the use of fossil fuels and to establish our own municipal electric utility. Please join us. We welcome everyone to our events. Check out our website at annarborpublicpower.org or contact us directly at annarborpublicpower@gmail.com.

Have questions, concerns, or just want to say hi? Reach out to A2P2 at annarborpublicpower@gmail.com!
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