Electricity Markets

Moves to Expand Public Power in Michigan Grow in Wake of Recent Outages

In the wake of recent power outages affecting parts of Michigan, communities in the state recently took steps to explore the option of municipalization.

The steps were spurred by power outages in the service territories of investor-owned utilities DTE Energy and Consumers Energy.

On March 1, Washtenaw County residents gave public comments asking the County Commission to investigate the creation of a public power utility, arguing that public power utilities provide better reliability, lower rates, and the ability to reduce fossil fuel use.

Washtenaw County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution directing the County Administrator to investigate alternative options to DTE and Consumers Energy within Washtenaw County.

County Commissioner Yousef Rabhi cited the Michigan Revenue Bond Act of 1933, stating that it gives public corporations like Washtenaw County the right to acquire infrastructure necessary to distribute power and establish its own publicly owned electric utility. 

Meanwhile, in late February, the Pontiac, Mich., City Council approved a resolution that, among other things, calls for the Michigan Legislature to start a committee that would research the feasibility of creating a state-run utility.

In early 2022, Ann Arbor, Michigan’s City Council unanimously adopted a resolution initiating a feasibility study for a public power utility.

Ann Arbor for Public Power, a nonprofit grassroots citizen group, has been leading the municipalization effort. DTE Energy currently serves Ann Arbor.

Ann Arbor for Public Power last summer said that a request for proposals for a municipalization feasibility study fell short on several fronts.

Ann Arbor for Public Power noted that it supports a thorough and unbiased municipalization feasibility study. “However, this RFP is flawed, and could lead to a study that does not provide the information to accurately determine the technical and economic feasibility of an Ann Arbor municipal electric utility,” the group said.

The American Public Power Association offers resources related to municipalization. Click here for additional details.