Energy Issues and Policies in Michigan Local Governments

October 7, 2020

This report presents the opinions of Michigan’s local government leaders regarding a variety of energy issues and policies in their jurisdictions, including the relevance of particular energy policies for their communities, whether the jurisdiction has staff or external consultants devoted to energy issues, energy audits in government facilities, barriers to local energy policymaking, and more. These findings are based on statewide surveys of local government leaders conducted in the Fall 2019 Michigan Local Energy Survey (MiLES), a special wave of the Michigan Public Policy Survey.

Key findings

  •  Local leaders were asked about the relevance of five different sustainability-related issues in their jurisdiction. A majority of local officials say  regulating placement of energy infrastructure on private property (57%) and improving energy efficiency for local businesses or residents (53%)  are either somewhat or very relevant issues in their jurisdiction. Almost half say siting energy infrastructure on public property (45%) and reducing jurisdiction government’s use of fossil fuels (44%) are somewhat or very relevant. However, just 23% say planning for Electric Vehicles (EVs) is somewhat or very relevant. 
  • Statewide, 70% of Michigan jurisdictions report having at least considered developing plans or policies regarding energy issues, though fewer (59%) report having actually developed local policies, and fewer still (55%) say they have implemented such policies. 
  • Regarding staffing for energy policy, just 19% say their jurisdiction has someone specifically responsible for addressing energy issues, including employees, elected leaders, or external organizations/consultants. 
  • A majority (52%) say they rarely or never engage with their residents on energy issues. 
  • Few (15%) report collecting data about energy use in either public or private buildings, either on a voluntary or mandatory basis.
  • Approximately four in ten Michigan local governments statewide have had energy audits conducted for at least one type of government facility, most commonly the jurisdiction hall or county administration building.
    • Among jurisdictions that have not had audits conducted on any government facilities, more than half say such audits are just not a priority for the jurisdiction, while about one in five say they do not have sufficient funding to conduct an audit.

• Finally, among the approximately 30% of Michigan local governments that have not at least considered energy issues, officials cite a number of barriers to considering energy issues. About two-thirds say that lack of expertise to develop policies, costs associated with developing energy  policies, and having more important priorities are barriers to addressing energy issues locally.