Michigan cities flunk on energy-efficiency report card

Robert Thompson/Wikimedia Commons

A new report shows that Michigan's two biggest cities are making progress on clean energy policies — but still have significant room for improvement.

The nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked 75 cities on energy-efficiency and renewable energy, and Detroit and Grand Rapids ranked 63rd and 38th, respectively. David Ribeiro, senior research manager for local policy with ACEEE and main author of the report, said it is intended to lay out a roadmap for future policy.

"This report contains most of the best practices," Ribeiro said. "So if folks in these communities use the report, they could see where their cities could potentially improve, what are the areas that they might be most interested in supporting."

Each city earned points in five policy areas: local government operations, community-wide initiatives, building policies, water and energy utilities, and transportation. The report praised Detroit's strategic transportation plan, but said the city needs to update its building codes and incentivize building owners to retrofit their properties.

The city passed a new climate action plan in spring of 2019, so its ranking on next year's report is expected to rise.
Ribeiro said Grand Rapids fared quite a bit better than Detroit, primarily because of the energy-efficiency programs of the two utilities in the area, Consumers Energy and DTE.

"Energy efficiency has myriad benefits," he said. "Not only reducing pollution, but it also creates jobs and it improves quality of life."

Grand Rapids earned kudos for adopting a program in 2017 to assess a tax and then use it to help building owners fund energy-efficiency, renewable-energy and water-efficiency projects. The report urged Grand Rapids to set an energy-reduction goal, convert streetlights to LEDs and retrofit municipal buildings.

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