Most cities Ann Arbor's size do not have an energy office. But Brix's predecessor, Dave Konkle, proved its value through energy efficiency programs that, by the office's calculation, have already saved $8 million. Its initiatives--including converting part of the city's vehicle fleet to alternative fuels and replacing conventional street lamps with super-efficient light-emitting diodes--have helped Ann Arbor win national acclaim, including its selection as one of thirteen cities participating in the 2007-2008 federal Solar America Initiative. Ann Arbor received over $400,000 in Department of Energy funds and technical assistance, plus matching funds to help business owners and homeowners adopt solar energy.
On the job two years, Brix is ambitious to make the program bigger and better. In November, he was excited to find himself in Washington, briefing the House Research & Development Caucus on Ann Arbor's energy-efficient lighting initiative, which includes replacing more than 1,000 streetlights with LEDs.
Brix says he has a lot of latitude in his job: "I get to go forth and do good things and bring ideas back to management on what we should pursue." He gets some ideas for energy efficiency projects from Ann Arbor residents, but more often he'll be inspired by something another city or larger institution is doing. For instance, the idea for a revolving loan fund for the city's internal energy projects came from the utilities department at the University of Michigan. The city established a separate energy fund that loans money to different departments to pay for energy projects, and the fund is repaid out of the savings in energy spending.