The Energy On Wisconsin newsletter every month is full of items that document the clean energy transformation underway in Wisconsin, nationally and globally. Cities and businesses are adopting 100 percent renewable energy goals, utilities are closing coal plants and acquiring large scale wind and solar farms, municipalities, organizations, schools, businesses and homeowners are installing solar arrays, participating in community solar groups buys or buying shares of solar gardens, and people are earning good wages in the renewable energy industry. The electric vehicle market is growing, charging infrastructure is beginning to be installed and biogas from landfills, wastewater treatment plants and farm biodigesters is being captured to run equipment, fuel fleets and provide cogeneration, etc.
The other necessary part of a clean energy economy but less reported on revolves around energy efficiency. Energy efficiency can be the lowest cost means to save money and meet demand for new clean energy while safeguarding public health and the environment. It’s important that all sectors continue to make energy efficiency upgrades to facilities, infrastructure and fleets even as they install renewable energy systems, and that they design and build highly energy efficient additions and new buildings. The State finally upgraded its building codes, and while not to the most recent national code standards, this should help raise the bar. The US Green Building Council Wisconsin and its members can assist further.
PACE Wisconsin, now offered in 32 counties across the state, has started to finance millions of dollars of energy and water saving projects (see below) in the commercial sector. Focus on Energy continues to provide design assistance that includes energy modeling and on-site assessments as well as financial incentives for energy efficiency improvements for all sectors.
Energy efficiency makes up the largest share of Wisconsin’s clean energy workforce or nearly 70 percent of our more than 26,400 jobs in 2016,. Currently, there are over 2,800 solar jobs in Wisconsin as well. There’s plenty of room for growth according to the Clean Jobs Midwest 2017 study that showed Wisconsin has the smallest clean energy workforce in the region as a percentage of the state’s workforce. As Wisconsin advances its clean energy economy and municipalities, organizations and businesses move to meet greenhouse emissions reduction targets, energy efficiency will likely need to account for almost half of the efforts to be successful.