In the spring of 2007, city mayors and managers from across metro Detroit gathered to discuss how our communities could most effectively collaborate on energy policy and programs. One of the resulting recommendations of that discussion was to establish regional energy offices to provide expert consultation and education for government officials and initiate and coordinate energy-saving programs.
A collaboration emerged among the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, WARM Training Center, SEMCOG and the Michigan Municipal League, which laid the foundation for an energy office in southeast Michigan. The Energy Office would support municipal building audits, provide educational programming and craft a business plan to guide further work with a sustainable funding base. This initial activity was financed by grants from the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth (DELEG) and the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) as well as in-kind contributions from the four partner agencies.
At the 2008 Tri-County Summit, the City of Detroit and the Counties of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne committed to a regional partnership for sustainability, citing energy efficiency as their initial focus. To demonstrate interest and support, all four regional partners passed resolutions to move forward with collaboration and to utilize the Energy Office as a key vehicle to accomplish this goal. This created an opportunity for counties as well as cities to be full participants in the project. In 2008 the Energy Office received its first grant from the MPSC to fund the development of a regional energy office serving the Metropolitan Detroit community.
The 2009 Energy Office Business Plan laid out the organization’s governance structure and the aim to become financially self-sustaining by building an endowment fund. Nearly 20 cities joined the Energy Office in 2009 as founding members. In late 2009 and early 2010 the Energy Office assisted several member communities apply for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (EECBG) from the U.S. Department of Energy and Michigan’s Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth (DELEG), helping bring more than $1.7M in entitlement block grants and $800,000 in competitive grants to metro Detroit communities.
The Energy Office received a $3 million grant in 2010 from the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to develop and expand its programs. This allowed the Energy Office to add staff and manage the municipal energy efficiency projects for which the cities received grants. Later in 2010 the Regional Energy Office was successful in partnering with Michigan Saves and DELEG to win a $30 million Department of Energy grant to implement the BetterBuildings for Michigan program through June 2013.
BetterBuildings for Michigan continued through 2011 and by the end of the year the Energy Office had audited and weatherized homes in six neighborhoods in Detroit and metro Detroit. Also in 2011 the Energy Office distributed over $1.6 million of the $3 million MPSC grant it received in 2010 to projects in 13 member communities.
The Energy Office continues its efforts as the southeast Michigan regional coordinator for the BetterBuildings for Michigan program through the year, which expanded to serve every member city of the Regional Energy Office. The Energy Office also continued working with two communities to implement Alternative Lighting Technical Demonstration Grants. The Energy Office filed articles of incorporation with the State of Michigan.
Major focuses for the Energy Office going forward will be to investigate and identify new funding opportunities for municipal energy efficiency and alternative energy projects and to attract more municipalities in southeast Michigan to join and receive the benefits of SEMREO.