September/October 2019 Director’s Note

Clean energy is in the spotlight across the nation and in Wisconsin this fall. The week of September 23 was National Clean Energy Week and October 2, 2019 was annual Energy Efficiency Day.  The list of businesses and organizations affiliating with those events (see links above) confirms the momentum of the clean energy economy in job creation that will make US energy clean, affordable and secure.  Alone, the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) has a goal to reach $1 trillion by 2030 in US private sector investment in renewable energy and enabling grid technologies.

October 5 was the National Solar Tour with open houses at businesses and homes in cities and towns across the country (see MREA for Wisconsin Solar Tour sites).  These events all follow the backdrop of the youth climate strikes of September 20 when, over 4.4 million people of all ages in 2,500 events across the globe, demonstrated to make an urgent appeal for a transformation toward 100% renewable energy for all.

Wisconsin’s Governor Evers issued a proclamation designating October 2 as Energy Efficiency Day to celebrate the economic, environmental and health benefits driven by energy efficiency that help move the state toward a sustainable future.

Energy efficiency saves residents, businesses, industries, and organizations money on energy bills. It reduces pollution from power plants and their harmful health and environmental impacts, such as asthma, lung disease, mercury in fish, and greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.  As the Energy Efficiency Day slogan says” Save Money. Cut Carbon. Breathe Easier”.

Also, energy efficiency is a driver of local economic development and jobs, with 2.3 million Americans in the energy efficiency workforce. Of Wisconsin’s 76,383 clean energy jobs, 83 percent are in energy efficiency (see EnergyOnWI news, April 2019).

Energy efficiency reduces the amount of power required to run homes, hospitals, schools, manufacturing, etc. and could meet one third of expected power needs by 2030. UW Health, for example, which serves 600,000 patients in Wisconsin, reduced their energy use intensity (EUI) by 31 percent in their 4.7 million square feet of hospitals and clinics for an energy savings of $13 million between 2013 and 2017. American households save almost $500 each year just from standards for energy efficient appliances from water heaters to refrigerators (see Energy On WI news July 2019). And, Wisconsin schools are saving $40 million a year having decreased their energy use by 23 percent, according to a new Focus on Energy benchmarking study.

While Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy’s energy efficiency program was recognized as the best in the nation by providing $5.16 of benefits for every dollar invested, the state of Wisconsin ranked 25th nationally in energy efficiency policies and programs according to  ACEEE’s state scorecard just released. Energy policies and programs are slated to be addressed by Wisconsin’s new Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy (see EnergyOnWI news, August 2019). Such policies are delivering big results toward a rapid and equitable clean energy transition in our neighboring state of Minnesota. Wisconsin will have the opportunity to capitalize on the clean energy economy should it adopt policies and financing that support both the free-market and Wisconsin utilities.  

Sherrie Gruder