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Traverse City Can Be A LeaderPrint

Clean Energy | September 26, 2013 | By Jim Dulzo

Community members and future residents break ground on new, energy-efficient affordable housing in Traverse City.  

TCSaves showed that a well done, public-private, residential energy efficiency program can reach many homeowners, make them more comfortable and lower their utility bills, produce good-paying jobs, keep more cash in the local economy, increase home values, and make financial sense.

With more than 550 TCSaves participants feeling cozier at home and reassured about their energy costs—and with some local businesses boosting profits thanks to their own, locally financed efficiency investments—Traverse City has proven itself an “efficiency ready” community. It now has enough happy homeowners, smart businesspeople, skilled efficiency entrepreneurs, and forward-thinking officials to crystallize support for a communitywide energy efficiency project that enables most of the region’s homeowners and businesses to reap efficiency’s rich rewards.

So it’s time to take the next step: combining modest, local-government action with significant private investment and employment to make the region a paragon of sustainable economic growth. Traverse City Light & Power agrees: In partnership with MLUI and SEEDS, it is launching another phase of TCSaves, available to all homeowners the utility serves, in early October. And, more broadly, the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, in concert with The Grand Vision’s Energy Network, will release its Framework for the Future, looking at community approaches to energy efficiency throughout the entire region. Clearly, northern Michigan is beginning to plug into the power of energy efficiency.

With some leadership from local civic, business, government, and utility leaders we can design and implement a program that allows participants to cut their energy use by at least 25 percent over 15 years—without making individual, upfront investments. Our 2012 study, Energy Efficiency and Economic Opportunity in Grand Traverse County, indicates that reaching all homeowner and half of the city’s businesses and institutions would annually employ about 76 people and, over 30 years, save $212 million on local energy bills while also entirely paying for itself.

Of course, launching such an endeavor will require creative thinking and doing. But its rich rewards—and the model it would provide to the rest of the state—make communitywide energy efficiency an idea whose time has come.