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      Regional leaders looking for input on energy survey

      The Grand Vision Energy Network is looking to gather community input on how regional leaders should pursue affordable, sustainable energy.

      Already, they are hearing several different opinions on the matter.

      It illustrates that electrical generation is a critical and complex topic, said Ed Bailey, director of technical academics at Northwest Michigan College (NMC) and convener of The Grand Vision Energy Network.

      Bailey and other members of the network are counting on the topic TMs recent visibility to spur citizen participation in an online regional energy survey.

      Residents in Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau and Wexford counties are encouraged to voice their opinions prior December 7.

      Participants in The Grand Vision TMs Energy Network range from utility companies to environmental groups. It TMs pretty safe to say members have different opinions on how we should address the region TMs energy needs, said Bailey. We do agree, however, that the residents of the region need to be informed about options and weigh in on solutions.

      Bailey indicated the region is currently connected to an aging power grid by only two lines. Right now, only ten percent of the region TMs electricity is generated within 170 miles of its end-use point. It TMs not a very secure or sustainable system, especially with the growth we TMre seeing in the region.

      The survey is one step in the development of a regional blueprint for action that will outline options for regional energy generation. In addition to the survey, Energy Network member-organization SEEDS is compiling baseline information on regional consumption. Currently, 65% of our electricity comes from large coal-burning plants, said SEEDS Executive Director Sarna Salzman. A lot of coal plants are aging and being taken off line, so we need to plan for the future.

      Funded through a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant, blueprints are also being developed for housing and transportation. Planners at the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments are facilitating the process in conjunction with The Grand Vision networks, including county-specific meetings to gain insight into the unique needs and assets of each community. Results will serve as a catalyst for further discussion and action among residents and others vested in the region TMs energy future.