Mich. (WJMN) – More than half of local government officials in Michigan see improving energy efficiency for local businesses or residents as somewhat or very relevant to their jurisdiction’s government, according to the results of a U-M survey released today on Energy Efficiency Day.

While 70 percent report having at least considered plans or policies regarding energy issues, just 59 percent report having developed local policies and 55 percent say they have implemented policies, according to survey results released by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

The Michigan Local Energy Survey (MiLES) was sponsored by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) in a fall 2019 wave of CLOSUP’s ongoing Michigan Public Policy Survey to better understand local officials’ perceptions of the costs, benefits and likelihood of developing energy policies and engaging in sustainability activities.

Approximately four in 10 Michigan local governments have had energy audits conducted for at least one type of government facility. Among jurisdictions that have not had audits, more than half say the audits are not a priority, while about one in five say they do not have sufficient funding to conduct an audit.

“It’s encouraging to see that more than a third of jurisdictions have performed an energy audit on at least one of their facilities,” said Robert Jackson, assistant director in EGLE’s Materials Management Division and Energy Ombudsman. “Energy audits are important first steps to recognizing where you can make improvements to realize bottom-line savings on your energy bills. Contact your local utility about getting an energy audit, which will identify cost-effective efficiencies and potential long-term savings.”

The MiLES survey looked at five energy issues and whether they were somewhat or very relevant to the local jurisdiction’s government: 

  • Regulating placement of energy infrastructure on private property (57 percent).
  • Improving energy efficiency for local businesses or residents (53 percent).
  • Siting energy infrastructure on public property (45 percent).
  • Reducing their jurisdiction government’s use of fossil fuels (44 percent).
  • Planning for electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure (23 percent).

Dr. Brandy Brown, EGLE’s Office of Climate and Energy Advisor, expressed hope that the report will spur activity.

“Energy efficiency and energy policy should be a regular topic of discussion among local officials,” Brown said. “Leading by example not only saves taxpayer money, but can influence residents’ behavior. Planning for EVs, installing solar panels and benchmarking are all forward-thinking discussions that all local officials should be having with their constituents.”

Other survey findings:

  • Only 19 percent of respondents have someone specifically responsible for addressing energy issues.
  • Of the 30 percent of local governments that have not at least considered energy issues, two-thirds of officials say that a lack of expertise to develop policies, costs associated with developing energy policies and having more important priorities are barriers to addressing energy issues locally.
  • A majority (52 percent) say they rarely or never engage with their residents on energy issues.

Dr. Sarah Mills, senior project manager of the U-M Graham Sustainability Institute and CLOSUP, says this is actionable information.

“The results of the survey are already being put to use,” Mills said. “EGLE and U-M are launching a webinar series to allow local governments to share their experiences in undertaking clean energy projects and learn about funding and other resources to help make those projects possible.”

The first webinar is today. EGLE’s Energy Efficiency Programs for Communities will explain how EGLE programs support communities that are interested in advancing energy efficiency and clean energy for their own facilities or are taking steps to advance clean energy communitywide. Future webinars will address The Michigan Energy Code Adoption Process (1-2 p.m. Oct. 15) and Energy Benchmarking for Municipal Facilities (1-2 p.m. Oct. 22).

EGLE’s Energy Services offers grants to facilitate energy related implementation projects, improve energy management, support energy efficiency activities and accelerate the transition to renewable energy for communities, schools, manufacturers and small businesses around the state. Program details and applications can be found on the Funding Opportunities webpage.

The survey had a nearly 73 percent response rate. The margin of error is plus or minus 1.39 percent.