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MI REDI Wins APA’s Excellence in Sustainability Award

MI REDI Wins APA’s Excellence in Sustainability Award

The MI REDI team at the Excellence in Sustainability Awards Ceremony

A SEAS capstone team (Sarah Dieck Wells, Sophie Farr, Zona Martin, Ian O’Leary, Kaitlyn Sledge, and Yingxin Wang) was named a winner of the American Planning Association’s 2024 Excellence in Sustainability Awards.  Their advisor was Sarah Mills, who directs the Center for EmPowering Communities at the Graham Sustainability Institute.

The Michigan Renewable Energy Development Initiative (MI REDI) team received the Student Award for Excellence in Sustainability on April 14 at the APA’s 2024 National Planning Conference in Minneapolis. This annual national award program honors projects, policies, plans, and individuals who demonstrate exemplary leadership and inspiration in sustainability planning and implementation.

The winning MI REDI project facilitates proactive zoning that incorporates community preferences while advancing decarbonization goals. The project was commissioned by Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to support the development of township-level renewable energy zoning ordinances, emphasizing equity and local empowerment. 

MI REDI offers an individually tailored approach informed by extensive interviews and a comprehensive toolkit of resources and engagement strategies, helping to streamline the zoning process and promote transparent decision-making. 

“The team’s success is a direct result of their commitment to engaging with local officials—together pinpointing bottlenecks and drawing on lessons learned from other programs and initiatives, within and beyond renewable energy,” said Mills. “Their approach holds great promise for replication.” 

Key components of the MI REDI program include: 

  • Community engagement: MI REDI facilitates transparent and inclusive community engagement processes to gather public opinion and ensure that township preferences are incorporated into zoning decisions. 
  • Resource assessment: The program conducts assessments of wind and solar resources within townships, helping stakeholders visualize potential developments. 
  • Zoning ordinance development: Based on community input and resource assessments, MI REDI assists townships in drafting zoning ordinances that reflect their preferences regarding renewable energy development. 

The MI REDI team conducted pilot programs in collaboration with two townships, gaining valuable insights and refining the program for broader implementation. These pilots facilitated public participation and left participating townships with updated zoning frameworks aligned with best practices. 

MI REDI demonstrates how state-level sustainability goals can align with local community preferences, offering a positive outcome for renewable energy deployment. Amid the global energy transition, initiatives like MI REDI demonstrate that decarbonization of the electricity sector is attainable through community empowerment and collaboration. Read the MI REDI report.