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Friday, July 31, 2009

Too popular Cash for Clunkers suspended

From an article in the Wisconsin State Journal:

WASHINGTON — The government plans to suspend its popular "cash for clunkers" program amid concerns it could quickly use up the $1 billion in rebates for new car purchases, congressional officials said Thursday.

The Transportation Department called lawmakers’ offices to alert them to the decision to suspend the program at midnight Thursday. The program offers owners of old cars and trucks $3,500 or $4,500 toward a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle. . . .

A White House official said later that officials were assessing the situation facing the popular program but auto dealers and consumers should have confidence that transactions under the program that already have taken place would be honored. . . .

Congress last month approved the Car Allowance Rebate System program, known as CARS, to boost auto sales and remove some inefficient cars and trucks from the roads. The program kicked off July 24 and was heavily publicized by car companies and auto dealers.

Through late Wednesday, 22,782 vehicles had been purchased through the program and nearly $96 million had been spent. But dealers raised concerns about large backlogs in the processing of the deals in the government system, prompting the suspension.

Too popular Cash for Clunkers suspended

From an article in the Wisconsin State Journal:

WASHINGTON — The government plans to suspend its popular "cash for clunkers" program amid concerns it could quickly use up the $1 billion in rebates for new car purchases, congressional officials said Thursday.

The Transportation Department called lawmakers’ offices to alert them to the decision to suspend the program at midnight Thursday. The program offers owners of old cars and trucks $3,500 or $4,500 toward a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle. . . .

A White House official said later that officials were assessing the situation facing the popular program but auto dealers and consumers should have confidence that transactions under the program that already have taken place would be honored. . . .

Congress last month approved the Car Allowance Rebate System program, known as CARS, to boost auto sales and remove some inefficient cars and trucks from the roads. The program kicked off July 24 and was heavily publicized by car companies and auto dealers.

Through late Wednesday, 22,782 vehicles had been purchased through the program and nearly $96 million had been spent. But dealers raised concerns about large backlogs in the processing of the deals in the government system, prompting the suspension.

Too popular Cash for Clunkers suspended

From an article in the Wisconsin State Journal:

WASHINGTON — The government plans to suspend its popular "cash for clunkers" program amid concerns it could quickly use up the $1 billion in rebates for new car purchases, congressional officials said Thursday.

The Transportation Department called lawmakers’ offices to alert them to the decision to suspend the program at midnight Thursday. The program offers owners of old cars and trucks $3,500 or $4,500 toward a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle. . . .

A White House official said later that officials were assessing the situation facing the popular program but auto dealers and consumers should have confidence that transactions under the program that already have taken place would be honored. . . .

Congress last month approved the Car Allowance Rebate System program, known as CARS, to boost auto sales and remove some inefficient cars and trucks from the roads. The program kicked off July 24 and was heavily publicized by car companies and auto dealers.

Through late Wednesday, 22,782 vehicles had been purchased through the program and nearly $96 million had been spent. But dealers raised concerns about large backlogs in the processing of the deals in the government system, prompting the suspension.

Too popular Cash for Clunkers suspended

From an article in the Wisconsin State Journal:

WASHINGTON — The government plans to suspend its popular "cash for clunkers" program amid concerns it could quickly use up the $1 billion in rebates for new car purchases, congressional officials said Thursday.

The Transportation Department called lawmakers’ offices to alert them to the decision to suspend the program at midnight Thursday. The program offers owners of old cars and trucks $3,500 or $4,500 toward a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle. . . .

A White House official said later that officials were assessing the situation facing the popular program but auto dealers and consumers should have confidence that transactions under the program that already have taken place would be honored. . . .

Congress last month approved the Car Allowance Rebate System program, known as CARS, to boost auto sales and remove some inefficient cars and trucks from the roads. The program kicked off July 24 and was heavily publicized by car companies and auto dealers.

Through late Wednesday, 22,782 vehicles had been purchased through the program and nearly $96 million had been spent. But dealers raised concerns about large backlogs in the processing of the deals in the government system, prompting the suspension.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

New biomass crop assistance program

From a news release issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2009 – USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator Jonathan Coppess today announced that biomass conversion facilities can begin signing up to participate in the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which will help increase production of renewable energy. The program, authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, provides financial assistance to producers who deliver eligible material to biomass conversion facilities and FSA will provide financial assistance to collect, harvest, store and transport eligible materials.

"This program will benefit producers, the developing biomass industry, the general public and the environment as we continue working to expand production and availability of renewable energy," said Coppess. "Owners of eligible material can receive financial assistance for delivering qualified biomass to conversion facilities that use biomass for heat, power, bio-based products or advanced biofuels."

Biomass conversion facilities and material owners or producers should contact their FSA state offices or visit www.fsa.usda.gov for more information. FSA will begin accepting applications from biomass facilities interested in participating in the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP).

Cash for Clunkers kicks off

From a news release issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today kicked off a buyer incentive program designed to help consumers purchase new fuel efficient vehicles and boost the economy at the same time. The Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), commonly referred to as Cash for Clunkers, is a new federal program that gives buyers up to $4,500 towards a new, more environmentally-friendly vehicle when they trade-in their old gas guzzling cars or trucks.

“With this program, we are giving the auto industry a shot in the arm and struggling consumers can get rid of their gas-guzzlers and buy a more reliable, fuel-efficient vehicle,” Secretary LaHood said. “This is good news for our economy, the environment and consumers’ pocketbooks.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also released the final eligibility requirements to participate in the program. Under the CARS program, consumers receive a $3,500 or $4,500 discount from a car dealer when they trade in their old vehicle and purchase or lease a new, qualifying vehicle. In order to be eligible for the program, the trade-in passenger vehicle must: be manufactured less than 25 years before the date it is traded in; have a combined city/highway fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon or less; be in drivable condition; and be continuously insured and registered to the same owner for the full year before the trade-in. Transactions must be made between now and November 1, 2009 or until the money runs out.

The vehicle that is traded in will be scrapped. NHTSA estimates the program could take approximately 250,000 vehicles that are not fuel efficient off the road.

Ho-Chunk Tomah agency building switches to solar

From an article by Paul Medinger in the Jackson County Chronicle:

The Ho-Chunk Housing and Community Developing Agency building in Tomah has made a switch to solar power.

HHCDA Executive Director Mark Butterfield said that the solar power for the facility at 1116 E. Monowau St. was expected to be up and running Monday after 39 solar panels were installed on the roof of the building last Wednesday and Thursday.

“The switch will be thrown on Monday,” Butterfield said. “This is all part of a pilot project.”

The 39 solar panels were installed by H & H Solar of Madison, and will generate nearly enough electricity to power the entire building. The project is funded through grant money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Butterfield said that the project will also receive approximately a 25-percent rebate from Focus on Energy. The HHCDA will also be credited 25 cents per kilowatt hour through Alliant Energy, which will provide about $2,500 per year.

Butterfield said that the system likely will pay for itself in 12 years. The cost of the project before the rebate is $77,000. Butterfield said that the switch is also part of the green energy movement, and he hopes that four other HHCDA facilities in Nekoosa, Wisconsin Dells, Black River Falls and the Blue Wing Village will make the switch to solar power in the future.

“We hope to eventually reduce all of (the facilities) to zero net energy,” Butterfield said. “Part of the whole plan is to save money. If we don’t spend it on the annual (electricity) expenses, we can put more money into housing.”

Lawmakers urge train company to set up shop in Milwaukee

From blog post by Stacy Forster on JSOnline:

Madison – Lawmakers who represent the City of Milwaukee are appealing to a Spanish train company planning to make two trains for Wisconsin to locate their manufacturing facility in the state’s urban center.

The train maker, Talgo, is expected to make two 14-car train sets to be used on Amtrak's Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha Service, which will cost the state $47 million. The train sets include the cab car that powers the train. The order will create about 80 manufacturing and maintenance jobs, with the possibility the company could add more if other states buy its trains, Gov. Jim Doyle has said.

Talgo hasn’t chosen a location for its assembly and maintenance facility, but Doyle said it was likely to be located in south-central or southeastern Wisconsin. Antonio Perez, chief executive officer and president of Talgo Inc., the company's U.S. subsidiary, said it has scouted locations in Milwaukee and Janesville.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

$28 million available for state clean energy manufacturing projects

Dave Jenkins, mentioned in the news release issued by Governor Doyle, will speak in the Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing Pavilion at the Wisconsin Machine Tool Show:

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today announced that Wisconsin has been approved for $28 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act federal funds for its State Energy Program (SEP). The funds are the first part of the $55 million in Recovery Act funding the state is receiving for this program. . . .

Projects must create or retain jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce fossil fuel use, and/or deploy renewable energy.

Applications and program information will be available at the Commerce website: http://commerce.wi.gov/BD/BD-SEP-ARRA.html

For more information on the SEP, contact Amy Cumblad at Commerce, amy.cumblad@wisconsin.gov; or David Jenkins at the Office of Energy Independence, davidj.jenkins@wisconsin.gov

Rapids to get “green jobs” project employing young adults in home energy conservation

From a news release issued by the Department of Workforce Developing announcing a green jobs project in five Wisconsin cities, including Wisconsin Rapids:

. . .Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Roberta Gassman today announced a Wisconsin American Recovery and Reinvestment (ARRA) project employing young adults in “green jobs” to help homeowners cut utility bills, saving money and energy.

“With this Recovery-funded pilot, we are employing young adults in ‘green jobs,’ opening the door to career opportunities,” Secretary Gassman said. “We are helping homeowners save money and conserve energy while protecting our environment.”

On behalf of Governor Doyle, Secretary Gassman officially unveiled the ARRA-funded “Energy Advocate Youth Pilot” at the home of DeCarlos and Michelle Nora in Beloit’s Merrill Neighborhood. As part of the announcement, she accompanied five “energy advocates,” as they inspected the young couple’s home and suggested ways to make the house more energy efficient. . . .

With federal ARRA funds, Governor Doyle provided for the employment of 25 individuals, who are 18 to 24 years of age, from low-income households, and meet one of six other criteria for disadvantaged youth. The project is one of many ARRA-funded efforts that will employ approximately 4,000 Wisconsin young adults statewide through June 2011.

Besides Beloit, five energy advocates will work in each of the following cities: Green Bay, Racine, Superior and Wisconsin Rapids, communities with high unemployment, predominantly older homes, and many young people seeking jobs. In June, Beloit had the highest unemployment rate, 18.6 percent. Milwaukee has a similar, independent project.

For more information about Wisconsin ARRA efforts, visit: http://recovery.wisconsin.gov
For more information about WECC’s Focus on Energy initiative, visit: http://www.focusonenergy.com

Wisconsin offers new apartment weatherization program

From a special project description of HomeEnergy+:

As part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Wisconsin Department of Administration received $141 million for weatherization programs for low and moderate income families. These Recovery funds will help expand the current weatherization program as well as fund a new initiative to weatherize 3,000 units in large multifamily buildings.

Owners of residential multifamily buildings are encouraged to apply for the Large Multifamily Weatherization Recovery Project if their building meets the following criteria:

· Twenty or more residential dwelling units in one structure
· Two-thirds of the tenants have an income at or below 60% of the state median income

Buildings selected for the project could receive heating system replacement, ventilation, insulation, reduction of air leakage and refrigerator replacement.

New biomass crop assistance program

From a news release issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2009 – USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator Jonathan Coppess today announced that biomass conversion facilities can begin signing up to participate in the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which will help increase production of renewable energy. The program, authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, provides financial assistance to producers who deliver eligible material to biomass conversion facilities and FSA will provide financial assistance to collect, harvest, store and transport eligible materials.

"This program will benefit producers, the developing biomass industry, the general public and the environment as we continue working to expand production and availability of renewable energy," said Coppess. "Owners of eligible material can receive financial assistance for delivering qualified biomass to conversion facilities that use biomass for heat, power, bio-based products or advanced biofuels."

Biomass conversion facilities and material owners or producers should contact their FSA state offices or visit www.fsa.usda.gov for more information. FSA will begin accepting applications from biomass facilities interested in participating in the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cash for Clunkers kicks off

From a news release issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today kicked off a buyer incentive program designed to help consumers purchase new fuel efficient vehicles and boost the economy at the same time. The Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), commonly referred to as Cash for Clunkers, is a new federal program that gives buyers up to $4,500 towards a new, more environmentally-friendly vehicle when they trade-in their old gas guzzling cars or trucks.

“With this program, we are giving the auto industry a shot in the arm and struggling consumers can get rid of their gas-guzzlers and buy a more reliable, fuel-efficient vehicle,” Secretary LaHood said. “This is good news for our economy, the environment and consumers’ pocketbooks.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also released the final eligibility requirements to participate in the program. Under the CARS program, consumers receive a $3,500 or $4,500 discount from a car dealer when they trade in their old vehicle and purchase or lease a new, qualifying vehicle. In order to be eligible for the program, the trade-in passenger vehicle must: be manufactured less than 25 years before the date it is traded in; have a combined city/highway fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon or less; be in drivable condition; and be continuously insured and registered to the same owner for the full year before the trade-in. Transactions must be made between now and November 1, 2009 or until the money runs out.

The vehicle that is traded in will be scrapped. NHTSA estimates the program could take approximately 250,000 vehicles that are not fuel efficient off the road.

Cash for Clunkers kicks off

From a news release issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today kicked off a buyer incentive program designed to help consumers purchase new fuel efficient vehicles and boost the economy at the same time. The Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), commonly referred to as Cash for Clunkers, is a new federal program that gives buyers up to $4,500 towards a new, more environmentally-friendly vehicle when they trade-in their old gas guzzling cars or trucks.

“With this program, we are giving the auto industry a shot in the arm and struggling consumers can get rid of their gas-guzzlers and buy a more reliable, fuel-efficient vehicle,” Secretary LaHood said. “This is good news for our economy, the environment and consumers’ pocketbooks.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also released the final eligibility requirements to participate in the program. Under the CARS program, consumers receive a $3,500 or $4,500 discount from a car dealer when they trade in their old vehicle and purchase or lease a new, qualifying vehicle. In order to be eligible for the program, the trade-in passenger vehicle must: be manufactured less than 25 years before the date it is traded in; have a combined city/highway fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon or less; be in drivable condition; and be continuously insured and registered to the same owner for the full year before the trade-in. Transactions must be made between now and November 1, 2009 or until the money runs out.

The vehicle that is traded in will be scrapped. NHTSA estimates the program could take approximately 250,000 vehicles that are not fuel efficient off the road.

La Crosse County looks to save money on gas, go green

From a story on WEAU-TV:

La Crosse County leaders are trying to find ways to improve efficiency and save money.

They’re “going green” by replacing old gas-guzzling vehicles with electric options.

"There are a lot of jobs that electric vehicles can do just as good, if not better, and save the county money in the long run,” said Nick Nichols, La Crosse County Sustainability Coordinator.

Nichols says you can only drive the electric vehicles on city streets – and the speed limit has to be under 35-miles-per-hour.

"Gasoline is up around $2.30, $2.40 a gallon right now,” he said. “To charge up this vehicle with gasoline, gallon-equivalent is about 15-cents."

And with a tight budget, this move is something the county is excited about.

NewPage halts biofuel project in Michigan

From an article by Nathaniel Shuda in the Stevens Point Journal:

WISCONSIN RAPIDS -- Although NewPage has discontinued work on a biofuels gasification project in Michigan, the decision does not affect a similar project in Wisconsin Rapids, a company spokeswoman said.

The Miamisburg, Ohio-based papermaker announced July 17 its plans to discontinue work on the project at its Escanaba, Mich., pulp and paper mill, citing poor market conditions in North America.

"While this type of new technology is exciting to consider, unfortunately, the escalating cost ... and the lack of demand for these products in our country doesn't support the feasibility of this project," Rick Willett, NewPage's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

In January 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded NewPage a $30 million grant to build a small-scale biorefinery in Wisconsin Rapids. Stora Enso North America originally submitted the request for federal money, which NewPage inherited when it bought the former Wisconsin Rapids-based company in December 2007.
Since then, company leaders have been studying how to proceed with the project, spokeswoman Shannon Semmerling said.

"We remain on target to have those findings by the end of the year," Semmerling said.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Kulp's of Stratford pitches solar roof upgrades

From an article by D.J. Slater in the Wausau Daily Herald:

A Stratford-based roofing company hopes its new venture will help residents and businesses go green even as the economy continues to slide.

Since mid-May, Kulp's of Stratford has offered residents and businesses the chance to upgrade their properties with solar roofing. The systems allow property owners to generate electrical power from the sun, which they can use and sell to utility companies.

The roof panels can either replace conventional roofs or be placed over an existing roof, said Bob Kulp, co-owner of Kulp's. The panels are designed to collect energy for about 30 years and last about 50 to 60 years before needing to be replaced, he said.

"We definitely see a bright future ahead for this service," Kulp said.

Kulp's midrange solar system, which are applicable for most homeowners, ranges from $20,000 to $30,000, but those costs can be cut by as much as 55 percent through federal tax credits provided by the Internal Revenue Service and grants from Focus on Energy.

Those incentives were enough to convince Edgar resident Debby Kregenow to invest in her own solar roof, which was installed last week.

"We figured, if we're going to put new money into a roof, why not go solar?" she said. "We are very happy with it."

$28 million available for state clean energy manufacturing projects

Dave Jenkins, mentioned in the news release issued by Governor Doyle, will speak in the Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing Pavilion at the Wisconsin Machine Tool Show:

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today announced that Wisconsin has been approved for $28 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act federal funds for its State Energy Program (SEP). The funds are the first part of the $55 million in Recovery Act funding the state is receiving for this program. . . .

Projects must create or retain jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce fossil fuel use, and/or deploy renewable energy.

Applications and program information will be available at the Commerce website: http://commerce.wi.gov/BD/BD-SEP-ARRA.html

For more information on the SEP, contact Amy Cumblad at Commerce, amy.cumblad@wisconsin.gov; or David Jenkins at the Office of Energy Independence, davidj.jenkins@wisconsin.gov.

Ready for rail: La Crosse, Eau Claire on collision course

From an article by Samantha Marcus in the La Crosse Tribune:

Recent changes to a plan for high-speed rail in Wisconsin has set up a potential tug-of-war between La Crosse and Eau Claire to be on the Chicago-Twin Cities route.

La Crosse officials and train enthusiasts considered it a foregone conclusion the much-desired span would route through La Crosse and into Minnesota.

But a final version of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Connections 2030 plan puts the choice of which west-central Wisconsin city back into play.

“We have worked for years ensuring La Crosse’s place on the high-speed rail route, but Eau Claire certainly has had their efforts as well,” said La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce President Dick Granchalek.

The essentially parallel routes are referred to in the plan as “project alternatives ... to be determined during environmental and engineering studies.”

The studies have been done, argued Bob Fisher, a member of the Wisconsin Association of Rail Passengers. There’s a time for studies and there’s a time for moving dirt with a shovel, he added.

“The truth is the Midwest has a plan that was done 15 years ago, went through a whole scenario of economic studies and determined the route that Amtrak was currently operating on, and still does, was the most feasible route,” Fisher said. “This is the route that should logically be chosen.”

La Crosse has the infrastructure, the rail culture, the potential passenger load that should give it the edge, he added.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, whose district includes both La Crosse and Eau Claire, said it shouldn’t be an either-or proposition. Kind said the La Crosse route makes the most sense for the first connection and then the Chippewa Valley route could be brought in.

Ready for rail: La Crosse, Eau Claire on collision course

From an article by Samantha Marcus in the La Crosse Tribune:

Recent changes to a plan for high-speed rail in Wisconsin has set up a potential tug-of-war between La Crosse and Eau Claire to be on the Chicago-Twin Cities route.

La Crosse officials and train enthusiasts considered it a foregone conclusion the much-desired span would route through La Crosse and into Minnesota.

But a final version of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Connections 2030 plan puts the choice of which west-central Wisconsin city back into play.

“We have worked for years ensuring La Crosse’s place on the high-speed rail route, but Eau Claire certainly has had their efforts as well,” said La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce President Dick Granchalek.

The essentially parallel routes are referred to in the plan as “project alternatives ... to be determined during environmental and engineering studies.”

The studies have been done, argued Bob Fisher, a member of the Wisconsin Association of Rail Passengers. There’s a time for studies and there’s a time for moving dirt with a shovel, he added.

“The truth is the Midwest has a plan that was done 15 years ago, went through a whole scenario of economic studies and determined the route that Amtrak was currently operating on, and still does, was the most feasible route,” Fisher said. “This is the route that should logically be chosen.”

La Crosse has the infrastructure, the rail culture, the potential passenger load that should give it the edge, he added.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, whose district includes both La Crosse and Eau Claire, said it shouldn’t be an either-or proposition. Kind said the La Crosse route makes the most sense for the first connection and then the Chippewa Valley route could be brought in.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Solar panels: Lead by doing

From a letter to the editor of the River Falls Journal by River Falls mayor Don Richards:

Congratulations to James Freeman, a progressive Main Street building owner in River Falls.

Mr. Freeman has received a grant from Wisconsin Focus on Energy to help him put solar panels on the roof of the Whole Earth Grocery. He is the first building owner in downtown River Falls to do his part to join the switch to clean, renewable energy.

He also has secured a revolving loan from the city in this effort.

The panels will produce electricity that will be purchased by WPPI:Energy and will reduce his utility bill. The payback on his investment will be approximately 5-6 years.

We need other businesses to step forward in the same manner. It is only when solar panels are manufactured in great numbers because of great demand that economies of scale will drop the cost so it is competitive with that of coal, now commonly used to produce electricity (and carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas).

And just as was the case with computers and microchips, the efficiency of the panels will increase as research, spurred by demand, will develop improved versions of the panels.

Mr. Freeman, is helping the city “Lead By Example,” as we were asked to do by WPPI Energy.

New group to promote greenhouse gas reduction

From an article in the West Salem Coulee News:

MADISON - Gov. Jim Doyle recently announced the creation of a new nonprofit organization, the Wisconsin Climate Change Action Initiative to build on Wisconsin’s strong efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Formation of the nonprofit organization was recommended in the report from Doyle’s Task Force on Global Warming as a way to build upon Wisconsin’s national leadership on climate change.

“The Wisconsin Climate Change Action Initiative brings together leaders of business, government, non-governmental advocacy organizations and the research community to increase voluntary conservation practices that will save money and have positive environmental impacts,” Doyle said. “As we continue to move forward on the recommendations of my Global Warming Task Force we will be building our economy with clean and renewable energy, growing green jobs and finding savings through energy conservation.”

WCCAI will focus on providing education, practical advice and expertise to residents, communities and businesses on simple, effective steps to reduce our carbon footprint, without affecting comfort or productivity.

This effort will complement existing programs like the Focus on Energy Schools and Government Program and the Wisconsin Energy Independent Community Partnership, which are designed to achieve Doyle’s goal of getting 25 percent of our electricity and 25 percent of our transportation fuels from renewable sources by 2025.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

'Going green' more than catch phrase for Tosa residents

From an article by Stefanie Scott in Wauwatosa Now:

From commercial products to restaurant menus and government grants, campaigns of all kinds are using the ubiquitous phrase "going green."

But several local groups are embracing the concept at a deeper level, taking on projects that can help Wauwatosa residents live more environmentally friendly lives.

Energy conservation at home
Wauwatosa resident John Bahr [a member of RENEW Wisconisn's board of directors] is leading an effort to get neighborhoods citywide to reduce energy consumption. He is the home energy efficiency chairman for the city's Energy Committee, formed this year.

He is working with neighborhood associations to help them make their members aware of how household and daily activities impact the environment and local resources that can assist them in sustainable living.

Bahr is recruiting people in each association to form neighborhood energy conservation groups this fall, but Tosa East Towne will be the pilot group.

Bahr's subcommittee is creating course material for five sessions on topics including reducing trash and greenhouse gas emissions, conserving and protecting water and choosing healthy, sustainable foods. Participants will be given handouts with assignments and checklists they can use to mark off accomplished activities.

"They see what they can do within their own house using this course material and have to report back to their peers on what worked and what didn't," he said.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New panel aims to pressure Doyle, lawmakers on transit funding

From an article by Steve Schultze of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

A renewed effort aimed at pressuring Gov. Jim Doyle and state legislators to agree to sales tax funding for transit in the greater Milwaukee area was launched Wednesday with a new panel of regional government and business leaders.

The Milwaukee County Committee on Long-Range Transportation Planning, with representatives from six southeastern Wisconsin counties, was named by Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway to keep the sales tax idea alive this year, Holloway said.

Legislators included authority for a 0.065% sales tax for transit and public safety for Milwaukee County in the new state budget bill, but Doyle vetoed the provision, saying he wanted a regional solution for transit.

Holloway has been harshly critical of Doyle for the veto, but the County Board chairman said Wednesday he's hoping for a local transit sales tax recommendation from the panel can be delivered to Doyle and legislators by September, for action in the fall session.

Regional bus can connect central Wis.

From an editorial in the Wausau Daily Herald:

Ever since Lee Sherman Dreyfus came up with the term "ruralplex" to describe the way Marshfield, Stevens Point, Wausau and Wisconsin Rapids could work together, it's been apparent that central Wisconsin can be more than the sum of its parts.

Over the years, we've consistently been in favor of initiatives to connect central Wisconsin's cities, whether that meant establishing Central Wisconsin Airport as the region's hub, encouraging University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to expand its offerings throughout the area, or even exploring the possibility of a regional jail.

But one of the most fundamental ways for the cities of central Wisconsin to be connected is simply to make it easier for people to get from one city to another.

Several area mayors have begun exploring options for creating a commuter bus line that would connect the area -- a loop through the southern cities of Stevens Point, Marshfield and Wisconsin Rapids, heading north to CWA, Wausau, Marathon and Merrill. This is a project with the long-term potential to spur economic growth, and strengthen the cultural capital of central Wisconsin as a whole.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

RENEW testimony supports Excel conversion of generation plant to wood

From the direct testimony of Michael Vickerman on behalf of RENEW Wisconsin:

Q. What is the purpose of your testimony?
A. The purpose of my testimony is to communicate our organization’s support for the installation of a biomass gasification system that would produce biomass-derived synthetic gas (“syngas”) for serving Northern States Power’s Bay Front Unit #5.

Q. Why does RENEW support this particular application?
A. We note the following public policy objectives that would be advanced if the proposal submitted by Northern States Power Corporation (“NSPW”) were approved. These objectives include:
1) Meeting Wisconsin’s current Renewable Energy Standard;
2) Eliminating a source of coal-fired power from its system;
3) Using a locally available renewable energy resource;
4) Reducing carbon dioxide emissions and other gaseous pollutants;
5) Maintaining a strong generation source in northern Wisconsin; and
6) Investing Wisconsin capital in a renewable energy generating facility power plant within its borders.

High-speed train purchase first step in Madison-to-Milwaukee line

From an article by Mark Pitsch in The Capital Times:

In a first step toward building a Midwestern high-speed rail line connecting Madison with Chicago and the Twin Cities, Wisconsin is buying two passenger trains from a Spanish company that will hire state workers to assemble and maintain them.

The $47.5 million purchase is expected to create 80 jobs initially, and company officials said Friday they are considering assembling the trains at Janesville’s General Motors production plant, which closed in April idling 1,200 workers. Sites in Milwaukee are also under consideration.

Gov. Jim Doyle, local officials and transportation experts said the rail line would spur leisure travel to and from Madison and link the city, home to UW-Madison and its technology-related research, to the economies of Minneapolis-St. Paul and Chicago.

“It’s very exciting for our state, for the economic growth of our region,” said Teresa Adams, a UW-Madison engineering professor who runs the Midwest Regional University Transportation Center. “It’s certainly good for our economy. There are a lot of intellectual hubs to be connected.”

Monday, July 20, 2009

RENEW testimony supports Excel conversion of generation plant to wood

From the direct testimony of Michael Vickerman on behalf of RENEW Wisconsin:

Q. What is the purpose of your testimony?
A. The purpose of my testimony is to communicate our organization’s support for the installation of a biomass gasification system that would produce biomass-derived synthetic gas (“syngas”) for serving Northern States Power’s Bay Front Unit #5.

Q. Why does RENEW support this particular application?
A. We note the following public policy objectives that would be advanced if the proposal submitted by Northern States Power Corporation (“NSPW”) were approved. These objectives include:
1) Meeting Wisconsin’s current Renewable Energy Standard;
2) Eliminating a source of coal-fired power from its system;
3) Using a locally available renewable energy resource;
4) Reducing carbon dioxide emissions and other gaseous pollutants;
5) Maintaining a strong generation source in northern Wisconsin; and
6) Investing Wisconsin capital in a renewable energy generating facility power plant within its borders.

Central Rivers Farmshed

From the Web site of a new organization:

A farmshed is the network of people, businesses, organizations, and productive lands that create a local food economy.

Central Rivers Farmshed is a growing movement in Central Wisconsin to build and strengthen relationships between local farms, restaurants, retailers, and consumers.

To get involved, visit our wiki page at www.farmshed.pbwiki.com.


The site lists farmers' markets and other food related events.

6th Annual Kickapoo Country Fair

From the Web site of the 6th Annual Kickapoo Country Fair:

Saturday and Sunday, July 25-26, 2009
Live Music, Sustainability Workshops, Rural Heritage Exhibits, Beer and Dancing!

The 2009 Kickapoo Country Fair will be about hope, and a celebration of the simple things that make for a life rich in beauty, culture and connections, whether to the land, our past or the surrounding community. The 6th annual Kickapoo Country Fair will take place Saturday and Sunday, July 25-26, 2009 on the grounds of Organic Valley's headquarters in La Farge, Wisconsin, set in the ancient and beautiful hills of the Kickapoo River Valley. The all-weekend event will feature organic farm tours, farmers and farm animals, sustainability workshops, hiking, Butter Churn Bike Tour, food and artisan vendors, not-for-profit exhibitors, family "farm-friendly" activities, all-day music and entertainment, and dancing!

Fair schedule.

Xcel Energy customers can choose to have energy generated by wind farms

From a story on WEAU.com:

A power company says its customers can now choose to have their residential or commercial energy generated by wind farms.

Xcel Energy's Windsource program started in Wisconsin last month. Since then, Xcel says 200 customers have signed up. The wind farms that generate the power for the program are in Minnesota, North and South Dakota. Customers end up paying a $1.15 per 100-kilowatt hour block above the current electricity rate.

UWM gets grant to help make wind power flow continuously

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are trying to figure out ways to make power from wind keep flowing even when the wind isn't blowing.

One phase of that research received a $422,266 grant Thursday from the U.S. Department of Energy for a project that could boost the efficiency of wind turbines by relieving some of the wear and tear on turbine gear boxes.

The engineering school research is taking place in phases - with the final leg studying the use of batteries to capture wind power generated when demand for electricity is low, storing it and then sending it to the grid when demand for power rises.

"What happens is that the wind speed is very high and we have very good wind speed after midnight, and very early morning when there is not much load (demand) on the grid," said Adel Nasiri, an assistant professor in the electrical engineering department. "In the afternoon when there is high demand, there is no wind."

The UWM research is another example of efforts under way in the Milwaukee area to create an economic-development cluster centered on energy storage and advanced batteries. Others include partnerships between Eaton Corp. and ZBB Corp. of Menomonee Falls, and work by Johnson Controls Inc. in Glendale and its joint venture partner, Saft, to develop lithium-ion batteries for plug-in hybrid cars.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wisconsin utilities leave home for wind work

From an article by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

Wisconsin utilities have a track record of building, operating and maintaining their own wind farms, leaving independent producers little reason to build in the state.

But when those same utilities build wind farms in other states, Wisconsin’s economy and construction work force suffer, said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin.

“There’s quite a lot of construction going on in places like Illinois and Iowa where wind producers can sell their product to utilities,” he said. “But here, the market is controlled by utilities.”

And that keeps independent developers from considering Wisconsin, said Timothy Polz, senior project developer with Chicago-based Midwest Wind Energy.

“If utilities prefer to own the projects, it takes away some of the benefits developers can get from constructing or maintaining the farms while selling the power,” he said.

But more troubling, Vickerman said, is that even though utilities have the power to push new developments, they are building beyond state borders. The only major wind farm under development in Wisconsin is We Energies’ Glacier Hill Wind Farm in Columbia County, which will have about 90 turbines and produce 162 megawatts of electricity.

Rapids mayor tapped for board of new organization to reduce green house gases

From a news release issued by Governor Doyle:

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today announced the creation of a new nonprofit organization, the Wisconsin Climate Change Action Initiative, Inc. (WCCAI), to build on Wisconsin’s strong efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Formation of the nonprofit organization was recommended in the report from Governor Doyle’s Task Force on Global Warming as a way to build upon Wisconsin’s national leadership on climate change. . . .

WCCAI will focus on providing education, practical advice and expertise to residents, communities and businesses on simple, effective steps to reduce our carbon footprint, without affecting comfort or productivity. This effort will complement existing programs like the Focus on Energy Schools and Government Program and the Wisconsin Energy Independent Community Partnership which are designed to achieve Governor Doyle’s goal of getting 25 percent of our electricity and 25 percent of our transportation fuels from renewable sources by 2025.

Initial funding will be provided through a $5 million contribution from We Energies, Madison Gas & Electric and WPPI Energy under an agreement with Clean Wisconsin and Sierra Club to resolve outstanding permit issues related to the Elm Road power plants under construction in Oak Creek.

The initial members of the Board of Directors of the Initiative are:

Roy Thilly, WPPI Energy
Tia Nelson, BCPL
Gale Klappa, We Energies
Mark Redsten, Clean Wisconsin
Matt Frank, Secretary Department of Natural Resources
Judy Ziewacz, Director Office of Energy Independence
Paul Meier, UW Energy Institute
Clay Nessler, Johnson Controls
Roger Dower, The Johnson Foundation
Mary Jo Carson, Mayor, WI Rapids
Dave Gilles, Attorney, Godfrey & Kahn

Which is more energy efficient a dishwasher or hand washing

A question from AskFocusonEnergy:

Quesiton: Would I save more energy by replacing my old dishwasher or doing my dishes by hand?

Answer: Compared to washing dishes by hand, an ENERGY STAR qualified dishwasher:
+ Can lower utility bills
+ Uses half as much energy
+ Saves nearly 5,000 gallons of water per year

ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers:
+ Use 25% less energy than conventional models
+ Use less hot water, saving you $90 over their lifetime
+ Internal water heaters, which reduce water heating costs by 20%
+ Boost water temperatures to 140 degrees -- well above scalding temperatures. Washing dishes with hotter water allows for improved disinfection compared to washing by hand at much lower temperatures.
+ Run quieter than older models -- over 50% quieter than models produced 10 years ago!

We Energies helps fund nonprofit organization to promote greenhouse gas reduction efforts

From a news release issued by Governor Doyle:

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today announced the creation of a new nonprofit organization, the Wisconsin Climate Change Action Initiative, Inc. (WCCAI), to build on Wisconsin’s strong efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Formation of the nonprofit organization was recommended in the report from Governor Doyle’s Task Force on Global Warming as a way to build upon Wisconsin’s national leadership on climate change.

“The Wisconsin Climate Change Action Initiative brings together leaders of business, government, non-governmental advocacy organizations and the research community to increase voluntary conservation practices that will save money and have positive environmental impacts,” Governor Doyle said. “As we continue to move forward on the recommendations of my Global Warming Task Force will we be building our economy with clean and renewable energy, growing green jobs, and finding savings through energy conservation.”

WCCAI will focus on providing education, practical advice and expertise to residents, communities and businesses on simple, effective steps to reduce our carbon footprint, without affecting comfort or productivity. This effort will complement existing programs like the Focus on Energy Schools and Government Program and the Wisconsin Energy Independent Community Partnership which are designed to achieve Governor Doyle’s goal of getting 25 percent of our electricity and 25 percent of our transportation fuels from renewable sources by 2025.

"This is an exciting endeavor that will provide long term benefits to Wisconsin," said Roy Thilly, WPPI Energy CEO. "As a co-chair of the Governor's Task Force on Global Warming, I appreciate very much Governor Doyle's leadership on the issue of climate change and his commitment to this important initiative."

“Providing opportunities for environmental education informed citizens empowered with the info they need to make informed decisions about their future,” said Tia Nelson, co-chair of the Governor's Task Force on Global Warming.

Initial funding will be provided through a $5 million contribution from We Energies, Madison Gas & Electric and WPPI Energy under an agreement with Clean Wisconsin and Sierra Club to resolve outstanding permit issues related to the Elm Road power plants under construction in Oak Creek.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Chetek poised to legalize cheap ride















A low-speed vehicle made by Columbia ParCar in Reedsburg, Wisconsin.

From an article by Anita Zimmerman in The Chetek Alert:

If you're looking for a cheap cruise around town this summer, it'll cost you about 33cents to charge up a modified golf cart.

Regulation of neighborhood electric vehicles, as the street-legal carts are called, isn't currently in Chetek's code book, but forces-in the form of local man-about-town John Banks-are intent on securing their legality.

If Chetek wants to be a retirement-friendly community, officials need to enact retiree-oriented ordinances, Banks insists.

"My reason is, be proactive," he urges. "Let's get a jump on this."

Mike and Lynnette Leavens, owners of Bloomer NEV retailer Master Cart, can go for 100 miles on $1 of electricity. That's an inexpensive, and impressive, operating cost-but there's a catch. If you're not seeing models like E-MERGE out on the streets, it's probably because the lack of a gas bill doesn't make up for the other expenses.

Despite federal attempts to promote use of eco-friendly cars and electric- and battery-operated vehicles, Wisconsin's strict regulations offer little encouragement. In a number of states, uninsured golf carts can be legally driven through town, but not here.

To make NEVs street-legal, manufacturers have to add a host of extras: a parking brake, specially coated windshield, reflectors in the back, headlights, turn signals and stop lamps in the front, seat belts, exterior mirrors and a rearview mirror.

Those costs get passed on to consumers. Carts sell for nearly as much as a cheap car, from $6,000 to $7,000 apiece, and that's only going to increase. According to Lynnette Leavens, the 2009 E-merge runs $1,000 higher-and that's just to dealers.


Although NEVs are classified as low-speed vehicles-25 mph at top speed-drivers are required to have full insurance coverage. Leavens called around; average cost of a plan: $32 to upwards of $50 per month.

Wisconsin festival, July 25-26, is an organic Sturgis

From an article in the Rochester, MN, Post-Bulletin:

LA FARGE, WIS. -- Meet and celebrate your passion for organic food and local flavor at Organic Valley Family of Farm's Kickapoo Country Fair, the Midwest's largest organic food and sustainability festival of it's kind, July 25-26 in La Farge, Wis.

The two-day event features food, music, farm and bike tours, cooking demonstrations, theater, activities for kids, dancing, author readings and more.

Cost is $10 for adults, $8 for kids under 12, free for kids under 5.

This year's fair also has several artists scheduled to perform, including folk/rock singer/songwriter Brett Dennen. Dennen will perform songs from his newly released album, "Hope for the Hopeless," on July 26 at 8 p.m.

This year's keynote panel will feature a discussion among five industry pioneers including Tim LaSalle of Rodale Institute, Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group, Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association, and biologist and author Dr. Sandra Steingraber. The panel will be moderated by Theresa Marquez, Organic Valley's chief marketing executive and founder of Earth Dinner.

Marshfield green reputation growing

From an article by Liz Welter in the Marshfield News-Herald:

The Sustainable Marshfield Committee is well on its way to bringing the city to the fore of communities in Wisconsin developing environment-friendly initiatives and programs, said Brian Driscoll, community development director at the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence.

The amount accomplished and current plans of the committee is impressive for a city of Marshfield's size, Driscoll said at a recent meeting of the Sustainable Marshfield Committee.

Through the committee's efforts, Marshfield was awarded a state 25x25 grant in January. The city is one of 23 communities to begin developing plans demonstrating the potential to reduce fuel consumption and use alternative fuels to reach the governor's goal of generating 25 percent of the state's electricity and transportation fuels from renewable resources by the year 2025.

As a result of the grant and other work completed by the Sustainable Committee, a contingent from Waupaca toured the city in the spring as they formulate plans for their own sustainablity committee.

"It's impressive that Waupaca would come here to learn from Marshfield," Driscoll said.

Battery innovation thrives in area

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
As an energy producer, wind is fickle: Maybe it'll blow when you need it. Maybe not.

So the race is on to find more efficient ways to store the electricity wind produces when it's blowing, so the lights can stay on when it isn't. A Milwaukee company is smack in the middle of that race - a player in a high-tech sector that local economic strategists hope will become a growth engine for the region.

"Wind has incredible potential to be a significant portion of the nation's energy supply," said Kevin Dennis, vice president of sales and marketing for ZBB Energy Corp. "But to be a reliable resource, it ideally needs to be coupled with energy storage and to be flexible in how the power is managed and controlled out to the grid."

A joint venture between ZBB Energy and Eaton Corp. earlier this month shipped its first rechargeable energy storage system for the renewable power sector to Ireland, where it is being installed alongside a wind turbine that is already providing half the power needed by the Dundalk Institute of Technology.

While Milwaukee's highest-profile economic development strategy has centered on freshwater technology during the past year, a secondary effort seeks to make the seven-county Milwaukee area a center for advanced battery research, development and manufacturing - exactly the type of work already going on at ZBB and several other area companies.

In addition to the Ireland deal, the ZBB-Eaton partnership recently received an order from Oregon State University for a similar system that will be used as part of research by the engineering school into ways to compensate for the variability of wind power.

"Alternative energy has got everybody's attention. But part and parcel with that is batteries, because you have to have someplace to store energy, and the battery component is just critical," said Jim Paetsch of the Milwaukee 7, the regional economic development group.

The biggest local player in the field is Johnson Controls Inc. in Glendale, where research and development work is proceeding on lithium-ion batteries for hybrid-electric and plug-in hybrid cars, including those being developed by Mercedes, BMW and Ford.

In Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood, another company, C&D Technologies, is investing $26 million in upgrades to a battery factory once owned by Johnson.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Court rules against Calumet County wind restrictions

From the written decision of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District 2 in ruling against Calumet County's restrictive ordinances that blocked the Ecker Brothers from adding turbines to the one already on their farm:

To encourage the use of renewable sources of energy, the legislature resolved to remove legal impediments to such systems in four ways: (1) codifying the right of individuals to negotiate and establish renewable energy resource easements; (2) clarifying the authority of, and encouraging, political subdivisions to employ existing land use powers for protecting access rights to the wind and sun; (3) creating a procedure for issuing permits to owners and builders of active solar and wind energy systems; and (4) encouraging political subdivisions to grant special exceptions and variances for renewable energy resource systems. Numrich, 242 Wis. 2d 677, ¶18 (citing Laws of 1981, ch. 354, § 1(2)(b)). No. 2007AP210913

These strategies indicate that the legislature determined it appropriate to give political subdivisions the power to assist in the creation of renewable energy systems and thus become an integral and effective factor in the State’s renewable energy goal. But, this history does not indicate that the State intended to delegate the power of policymaking. Instead, the evidence is that the State delegated the authority to execute and administer its established policy of favoring wind energy systems, and the statutory scheme was intended to create avenues for political subdivisions to assist the State. If the County and other similarly situated localities believe that localities should be able to decide for themselves whether and to what extent wind systems are welcome in their geographical area, their argument is best made to the legislature.

Because the legislature did not delegate legislative powers to localities, the County cannot make findings of legislative fact. The County thus exceeded its authority under WIS. STAT. § 66.0401 when it created its wind energy ordinance. We therefore hold the ordinance to be [beyond the authority of the county].

We reverse and remand with directions that the circuit court reconsider the Ecker Brothers’ declaratory judgment action given that the ordinance is [beyond the authority of the county].

If It Is Broke Please Fix It; Wisconsin Needs Uniform Siting Standards

Date: July 15, 2009
Contact: Noah Seligman, 608-310-3338

Circuit Court decision affirms problems with wind energy regulatory framework

A Court of Appeals decision today (Ecker Brothers V. Calumet County) ruled that local units of government do not have the power to adopt siting standards of general applicability for wind energy systems. This decision eliminates several restrictive ordinances that purported to regulate wind energy, but merely served to block wind energy development.

“The ruling casts substantial uncertainty about wind energy regulation in Wisconsin. In order for the state to move forward with a balanced approach to renewable energy growth, the legislature must pass uniform siting standards,” said Curt Pawlisch, an attorney for RENEW Wisconsin, one of the sponsoring organizations for the Wind for Wisconsin coalition. “We urge the legislature to act quickly and pass uniform sitting standards when it returns in September.”

SB 185/AB 256 directs the Public Service Commission (PSC) to initiate an administrative rule-making process to establish statewide siting standards for wind energy projects. The PSC is an independent regulatory agency dedicated to serving the public interest. The bill draft requires the PSC to establish an advisory committee of diverse interests to advise the Commission on the rules. AB 256 was vote out of the Assembly Committee on Energy & Utilities on a 10-2 vote last month, and has strong bipartisan support like its Senate companion.

"The Court did more than simply declare Calumet County's wind ordinance to be unlawful," said Michael Vickerman, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin.

"The Court's decision also stripped away the legal foundation supporting all Wisconsin ordinances that contain blanket restrictions on wind projects. The decision erases unreasonable local ordinances that effectively prohibited any new wind development in this state for projects under 100 MW.

“A commitment to wind energy development will serve as an economic catalyst for Wisconsin, creating jobs in manufacturing, construction, transportation, and operation & maintenance of wind turbines,” Vickerman said. “SB 185/AB 256 makes our state more attractive to manufacturing and other supply chain businesses that create state jobs. By establishing statewide standards for siting small and medium sized wind farms, legislators can provide enduring economic opportunity for Wisconsin,” he said.

Wis. court limits local wind turbine regulations

From an Associated Press story on WXOW News, La Crosse:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A Wisconsin appeals court is limiting the restrictions that local municipalities can place on the installation of wind turbines.

The District 2 Court of Appeals says state law promotes alternative energy sources such as wind energy and discourages local policies that arbitrarily limit them.

The court says localities can restrict wind energy systems only when necessary to protect public health or where the regulations do not impact a system's cost or efficiency.

From the written decision of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District 2 in ruling against Calumet County's ordinances:

To encourage the use of renewable sources of energy, the legislature resolved to remove legal impediments to such systems in four ways: (1) codifying the right of individuals to negotiate and establish renewable energy resource easements; (2) clarifying the authority of, and encouraging, political subdivisions to employ existing land use powers for protecting access rights to the wind and sun; (3) creating a procedure for issuing permits to owners and builders of active solar and wind energy systems; and (4) encouraging political subdivisions to grant special exceptions and variances for renewable energy resource systems. Numrich, 242 Wis. 2d 677, ¶18 (citing Laws of 1981, ch. 354, § 1(2)(b)). No. 2007AP210913

These strategies indicate that the legislature determined it appropriate to give political subdivisions the power to assist in the creation of renewable energy systems and thus become an integral and effective factor in the State’s renewable energy goal. But, this history does not indicate that the State intended to delegate the power of policymaking. Instead, the evidence is that the State delegated the authority to execute and administer its established policy of favoring wind energy systems, and the statutory scheme was intended to create avenues for political subdivisions to assist the State. If the County and other similarly situated localities believe that localities should be able to decide for themselves whether and to what extent wind systems are welcome in their geographical area, their argument is best made to the legislature.

Because the legislature did not delegate legislative powers to localities, the County cannot make findings of legislative fact. The County thus exceeded its authority under WIS. STAT. § 66.0401 when it created its wind energy ordinance. We therefore hold the ordinance to be [beyond the authority of the county].

We reverse and remand with directions that the circuit court reconsider the Ecker Brothers’ declaratory judgment action given that the ordinance is [beyond the authority of the county].

Green Drinks, Eau Claire, July 15

From the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters (WLCV):

Just a reminder that tonight is Eau Claire's Green Drinks at the Haymarket Grill, downtown E.C. 101 Graham Ave.

We'll see everyone there at 6:30. The drink special tonight is 1/2 off your bottle of wine...bring a friend, enjoy a new wine, and find out what's going on in Eau Claire's "green" community!

See you there,
Tom Stolp

We Energies offers new grants for wind projects

Under a new program announced by We Energies, schools, nonprofits, and units of government can apply for grants equal to the amount awarded by Focus on Energy for a wind project over 20 kW and not more than 100 kW:

This program assists qualified We Energies electric customers (not-for-profit, schools and units of government) with the installation of a wind electric system over 20 kW and not more than 100 kW. Customer incentives are provided from We Energies Renewable Energy Development (RED) Program. The We Energies incentive amount for this limited program is a 100% match of the determined reward from the Focus on Energy 2009 Wind Electric Implementation Grant for Schools, Nonprofits and Units of Government to a maximum of $150,000.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Which is more energy efficient a dishwasher or hand washing?

A question from AskFocusonEnergy:

Quesiton: Would I save more energy by replacing my old dishwasher or doing my dishes by hand?

Answer: Compared to washing dishes by hand, an ENERGY STAR qualified dishwasher:
+ Can lower utility bills
+ Uses half as much energy
+ Saves nearly 5,000 gallons of water per year

ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers:
+ Use 25% less energy than conventional models
+ Use less hot water, saving you $90 over their lifetime
+ Internal water heaters, which reduce water heating costs by 20%
+ Boost water temperatures to 140 degrees -- well above scalding temperatures. Washing dishes with hotter water allows for improved disinfection compared to washing by hand at much lower temperatures.
+ Run quieter than older models -- over 50% quieter than models produced 10 years ago!

Which is more energy efficient a dishwasher or hand washing

A question from AskFocusonEnergy:

Quesiton: Would I save more energy by replacing my old dishwasher or doing my dishes by hand?

Answer: Compared to washing dishes by hand, an ENERGY STAR qualified dishwasher:
+ Can lower utility bills
+ Uses half as much energy
+ Saves nearly 5,000 gallons of water per year

ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers:
+ Use 25% less energy than conventional models
+ Use less hot water, saving you $90 over their lifetime
+ Internal water heaters, which reduce water heating costs by 20%
+ Boost water temperatures to 140 degrees -- well above scalding temperatures. Washing dishes with hotter water allows for improved disinfection compared to washing by hand at much lower temperatures.
+ Run quieter than older models -- over 50% quieter than models produced 10 years ago!

Dehumidifier and room air conditioner turn-in program in Point and Wausau

An announcement by Wisconsin Public Service:

Green Bay, WI – For seven days, from July 15 – July 22, the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation (WECC), in partnership with Wisconsin Public Service, will provide $25 as an incentive to turn-in an older, inefficient, working dehumidifier or room air conditioner, $40 toward the purchase of a new Energy Star dehumidifier or room air conditioner, or $75 for both the turn-in and new purchase at selected sites in Green Bay, Wausau and Stevens Point.

Participating Retailers (limit: three units per customer)
•Green Bay - Best Buy, Gmack, Martin Hardware, Sears and Van Vreedes
•Wausau - Best Buy and Grebes Appliance
•Stevens Point - Best Buy and Sears

Customer questions can be directed to WECC at (800) 875-1335.

The program could end early if supplies of qualifying units are exhausted or extended through July if targets are not met.

For More Information, contact:
•WECC
(800) 875-1335
•Wisconsin Public Service Customer Service
800-450-7260

Study to look at using waste wood as fuel

From an article by Steve Cahalan in the La Crosse Tribune:

WEST SALEM — A West Salem farm cooperative and others are looking at the possibility of providing and processing low-quality wood as fuel that could be burned at power plants, including Xcel Energy’s waste-to-energy plant on French Island.

Xcel and the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence each are providing a $25,000 grant to fund the biomass fuel study, which began a few weeks ago and is expected to be completed by November. The study is being done by the Energy Center of Wisconsin, an independent, nonprofit organization that explores energy ideas.
The Cooperative Network, a statewide association that provides various services to co-ops, also is involved in the study.

The project will evaluate the business potential for gathering and processing sustainably harvested waste wood for fuel and determining the market value of woody biomass, the groups involved in the study said Monday.

It will examine woody biomass availability within about 50 miles of West Salem, and look at possible benefits and costs to have agricultural cooperatives provide the biomass.

The study will look at such ideas as harvesting and chipping existing low-quality wood — such as box elder trees and even brush — and planting, harvesting and chipping low-quality trees that grow fast, such as poplar and black willow.

Monday, July 13, 2009

It’s Time to Bring Renewable Energy Home

From a commentary by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin, July 12, 2009:

In a unanimous vote, the Public Service Commission (PSC) recently cleared the way for Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin utility to construct a 200 megawatt (MW) windpower plant project in southern Minnesota. Once operational, the Bent Tree project, costing upwards of $450 million, will be a productive source of renewable energy that will provide lasting benefits to Minnesota’s economy and environment. Since it will be Alliant’s Wisconsin customers who foot the bill, however, it is reasonable to inquire whether the current utility practice of outsourcing renewable energy production to other states is a good thing for Wisconsin’s economy.

Because we can’t see it, taste it, hear it or smell it, we tend to lose sight of the fact that electricity is a manufactured product. To make it, capital is amassed and expended on machinery that convert raw resources like coal, flowing water, and wind into this highly useful form of energy. The electricity is then transported via networks of wires to power factories, illuminate residences and streets, propel commuter trains, and energize the complex communications systems that allows to store vast quantities of instantly retrievable information. It is hard to name a manufactured product that adds more value to an industrialized society than electricity.

Yet electricity’s impact on the economy is not defined solely by the activities it supports. There is as well the intense amount of economic activity that goes into building the power plants themselves. In the case of Bent Tree, the capital used to manufacture, transport and erect 122 wind turbines will unleash a year-long burst of construction work in Freeborn County employing hundreds of skilled laborers and technicians. The work will also ripple through nearby component manufacturers involved with the project, as well as ports and other transfer points where components are unloaded and loaded onto special vehicles and hauled to the project zone. . . .

If Wisconsin truly desires to provide a home to a viable renewable energy economy, it will have to redefine the public interest standards that govern the expenditure of ratepayer dollars. This means giving such economic benefits as job creation, component manufacturing, workforce participation, increased tax receipts to local and state government, and reduced dependence on future transmission upgrades as much due consideration as cost per megawatt-hour. Granted, this is a form of industrial policy. However, if state policymakers don’t take steps to build a solid market structure for generating more renewable electricity here at home, Wisconsin’s ability to compete for good jobs and business opportunities could become hopelessly compromised.

It’s Time to Bring Renewable Energy Home

From a commentary by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin, July 12, 2009:

In a unanimous vote, the Public Service Commission (PSC) recently cleared the way for Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin utility to construct a 200 megawatt (MW) windpower plant project in southern Minnesota. Once operational, the Bent Tree project, costing upwards of $450 million, will be a productive source of renewable energy that will provide lasting benefits to Minnesota’s economy and environment. Since it will be Alliant’s Wisconsin customers who foot the bill, however, it is reasonable to inquire whether the current utility practice of outsourcing renewable energy production to other states is a good thing for Wisconsin’s economy.

Because we can’t see it, taste it, hear it or smell it, we tend to lose sight of the fact that electricity is a manufactured product. To make it, capital is amassed and expended on machinery that convert raw resources like coal, flowing water, and wind into this highly useful form of energy. The electricity is then transported via networks of wires to power factories, illuminate residences and streets, propel commuter trains, and energize the complex communications systems that allows to store vast quantities of instantly retrievable information. It is hard to name a manufactured product that adds more value to an industrialized society than electricity.

Yet electricity’s impact on the economy is not defined solely by the activities it supports. There is as well the intense amount of economic activity that goes into building the power plants themselves. In the case of Bent Tree, the capital used to manufacture, transport and erect 122 wind turbines will unleash a year-long burst of construction work in Freeborn County employing hundreds of skilled laborers and technicians. The work will also ripple through nearby component manufacturers involved with the project, as well as ports and other transfer points where components are unloaded and loaded onto special vehicles and hauled to the project zone. . . .

If Wisconsin truly desires to provide a home to a viable renewable energy economy, it will have to redefine the public interest standards that govern the expenditure of ratepayer dollars. This means giving such economic benefits as job creation, component manufacturing, workforce participation, increased tax receipts to local and state government, and reduced dependence on future transmission upgrades as much due consideration as cost per megawatt-hour. Granted, this is a form of industrial policy. However, if state policymakers don’t take steps to build a solid market structure for generating more renewable electricity here at home, Wisconsin’s ability to compete for good jobs and business opportunities could become hopelessly compromised.

It’s Time to Bring Renewable Energy Home

From a commentary by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin, July 12, 2009:

In a unanimous vote, the Public Service Commission (PSC) recently cleared the way for Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin utility to construct a 200 megawatt (MW) windpower plant project in southern Minnesota. Once operational, the Bent Tree project, costing upwards of $450 million, will be a productive source of renewable energy that will provide lasting benefits to Minnesota’s economy and environment. Since it will be Alliant’s Wisconsin customers who foot the bill, however, it is reasonable to inquire whether the current utility practice of outsourcing renewable energy production to other states is a good thing for Wisconsin’s economy.

Because we can’t see it, taste it, hear it or smell it, we tend to lose sight of the fact that electricity is a manufactured product. To make it, capital is amassed and expended on machinery that convert raw resources like coal, flowing water, and wind into this highly useful form of energy. The electricity is then transported via networks of wires to power factories, illuminate residences and streets, propel commuter trains, and energize the complex communications systems that allows to store vast quantities of instantly retrievable information. It is hard to name a manufactured product that adds more value to an industrialized society than electricity.

Yet electricity’s impact on the economy is not defined solely by the activities it supports. There is as well the intense amount of economic activity that goes into building the power plants themselves. In the case of Bent Tree, the capital used to manufacture, transport and erect 122 wind turbines will unleash a year-long burst of construction work in Freeborn County employing hundreds of skilled laborers and technicians. The work will also ripple through nearby component manufacturers involved with the project, as well as ports and other transfer points where components are unloaded and loaded onto special vehicles and hauled to the project zone. . . .

If Wisconsin truly desires to provide a home to a viable renewable energy economy, it will have to redefine the public interest standards that govern the expenditure of ratepayer dollars. This means giving such economic benefits as job creation, component manufacturing, workforce participation, increased tax receipts to local and state government, and reduced dependence on future transmission upgrades as much due consideration as cost per megawatt-hour. Granted, this is a form of industrial policy. However, if state policymakers don’t take steps to build a solid market structure for generating more renewable electricity here at home, Wisconsin’s ability to compete for good jobs and business opportunities could become hopelessly compromised.

It’s Time to Bring Renewable Energy Home

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 12, 2009 (Updated August 24, 2009)

MORE INFORMATION
Michael Vickerman, Executive Director
608.255.4044
mvickerman@renewwisconsin.org

It’s Time to Bring Renewable Energy Home
by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
July 12, 2009

In a unanimous vote, the Public Service Commission (PSC) recently cleared the way for Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin utility to construct a 200 megawatt (MW) windpower plant project in southern Minnesota. Once operational, the Bent Tree project, costing upwards of $450 million, will be a productive source of renewable energy that will provide lasting benefits to Minnesota’s economy and environment. Since it will be Alliant’s Wisconsin customers who foot the bill, however, it is reasonable to inquire whether the current utility practice of outsourcing renewable energy production to other states is a good thing for Wisconsin’s economy.

Because we can’t see it, taste it, hear it or smell it, we tend to lose sight of the fact that electricity is a manufactured product. To make it, capital is amassed and expended on machinery that convert raw resources like coal, flowing water, and wind into this highly useful form of energy. The electricity is then transported via networks of wires to power factories, illuminate residences and streets, propel commuter trains, and energize the complex communications systems that allows to store vast quantities of instantly retrievable information. It is hard to name a manufactured product that adds more value to an industrialized society than electricity.

Yet electricity’s impact on the economy is not defined solely by the activities it supports. There is as well the intense amount of economic activity that goes into building the power plants themselves. In the case of Bent Tree, the capital used to manufacture, transport and erect 122 wind turbines will unleash a year-long burst of construction work in Freeborn County employing hundreds of skilled laborers and technicians. The work will also ripple through nearby component manufacturers involved with the project, as well as ports and other transfer points where components are unloaded and loaded onto special vehicles and hauled to the project zone.

But the economic stimulus doesn’t end there. The Bent Tree turbines, once operational, will produce a stream of revenues to local governments over the life of the project. These dollars will be used to support police and fire protection, recycling and emergency medical services in the host communities. Area landowners will also receive payments that will supplement their existing income. In times of distress, these payments enable farmers to stay current on their taxes and keep their farms going. Last, the turbines will also support a crew of technicians and windsmiths to operate the facility and maintain it over a minimum of three decades.

There is no question that this project will energize Freeborn County’s economy for many years to come. But it also begs the question: how much of Bent Tree’s first-order and second-order economic benefits will trickle into Wisconsin? Answer: Virtually none.

Alliant’s decision to invest in a Minnesota wind project comes at a time when Wisconsin is struggling to keep its manufacturing sector intact. In light of the ongoing economic contraction, now would not be a propitious time to outsource energy production to neighboring states and export Wisconsin capital and skilled labor to build valuable infrastructure that could easily be located in our own state.

Imagine, if you will, the uproar that would surely erupt if citizens learned that federal stimulus dollars were going over into Canada to build factories owned by U.S. companies. However, what Alliant received permission to do--dedicate nearly $500 million in Wisconsin ratepayer dollars to build a brand-new windpower plant in Minnesota--is, at bottom, no different.

Granted, Bent Tree is the not the first wind project owned by a Wisconsin utility to be located in another state. This trend began with Madison Gas & Electric’s 30 MW Top of Iowa facility, costing $62 million, which started operation in early 2008. Also in Iowa, construction is underway on Wisconsin Public Service’s 99 MW Crane Creek project, which is expected to tally about $250 million when completed. But with the approval of Bent Tree, what started out as a trickle has turned into an outright flood of utility capital flowing out-of-state. Keep in mind too that Bent Tree will be three times the size of Cedar Ridge, the only Alliant-owned windpower facility in Wisconsin.

It is true that windpower projects in Iowa and Minnesota are lower-cost sources of electricity than those in Wisconsin. But shouldn’t there be more to the decision calculus than just the unit price of electricity? For example, locating a Bent Tree-sized facility in Wisconsin would generate $800,000 a year in local government revenues and about $600,000 a year in lease payments to landowners. Building it here would also create hundreds of jobs for operating engineers, ironworkers, electricians, specialty haulers, wind energy technicians, and other skilled laborers. What is the basis for giving these impacts so little weight in a power plant proceeding?

Regrettably, under today’s standards of review for permitting utility-owned power plants, the PSC had no choice but to approve Alliant’s application. Alliant had adequately demonstrated that it needed another source of renewable energy to comply with Wisconsin energy policy, and that Bent Tree was the least expensive option on a per-megawatt-hour basis.

It’s worth noting that there are several independently owned prospects that don’t require PSC approval could be up and running in 18 to 24 months, and two of them—Horizon’s in Lafayette County and Iberdrola’s in Columbia County--are in Alliant’s Wisconsin territory. Yet they languish for want of a power purchase agreement with an electric provider. Furthermore, given the current utility preference to own wind generating assets rather than buying wind electricity, there is no assurance that these prospects will ever get built.

True, the current economic contraction has taken a bite out of the wind industry, but that hasn’t put the brakes on wind development elsewhere in the Midwest (see table below). And while local opposition to wind energy has stalled a half-dozen proposed wind plants across the state, that doesn’t explain why fully permitted projects are not proceeding to construction.

No, there is another reason why wind development in Wisconsin is at a complete standstill, and it’s the double whammy described above—the utility preference for out-of-state wind energy coupled with their unwillingness to buy wind energy from independent developers.

In a weakening economy, we can ill-afford to let utilities continue investing Wisconsin capital in out-of-state renewable energy production while simultaneously throwing up barriers to companies seeking to situate renewable generation sources in Wisconsin. The longer utilities go on building projects that benefit the host state more than their home state, the greater the risk of seeing Wisconsin’s construction and manufacturing prowess, along with our highly skilled workforce, migrate to those states with the most viable renewable energy markets. Beyond a certain point, such utility preferences and practices will also cause harm to their customer base. How would that serve the public interest?

If Wisconsin truly desires to provide a home to a viable renewable energy economy, it will have to redefine the public interest standards that govern the expenditure of ratepayer dollars. This means giving such economic benefits as job creation, component manufacturing, workforce participation, increased tax receipts to local and state government, and reduced dependence on future transmission upgrades as much due consideration as cost per megawatt-hour. Granted, this is a form of industrial policy. However, if state policymakers don’t take steps to build a solid market structure for generating more renewable electricity here at home, Wisconsin’s ability to compete for good jobs and business opportunities could become hopelessly compromised.

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Snapshot
Midwest Windpower Development Activity (all figures in MW)
July 2009

Iowa
Operating capacity -- 3043
Under construction -- 409*
Minnesota
Operating capacity -- 1937
Under construction -- 40
Illinois
Operating capacity -- 1016**
Under construction -- 92**
Indiana
Operating capacity -- 531
Under construction -- 505
Wisconsin
Operating capacity -- 449
Under construction -- None
Michigan
Operating capacity -- 129
Under construction -- 14

* Total includes WPS’s 99 MW Crane Creek project
** Total includes EcoEnergy’s 100.5 MW EcoGrove project
*** Total includes Iberdrola’s 300 MW Streator Cayuga Ridge South project

Source: American Wind Energy Association, RENEW

RENEW Wisconsin (www.renewwisconsin.org) is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization based in Madison that acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives.

Doyle to offer bus funding plan soon

From an article by Patrick Marley and Larry Sandler in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Gov. Jim Doyle will offer a plan to fund buses in Milwaukee County and elsewhere in a couple of weeks, according to legislators who have met with his staff.

Legislative Democrats said Doyle aides told them he would unveil a plan to address regional transit soon - but Doyle's team didn't provide any details. The meetings occurred Thursday.

The talks follow the collapse of efforts to forge a deal in the 2009-'11 budget.

Doyle had proposed a single regional transit authority for southeastern Wisconsin, wielding power over both public buses and proposed commuter trains, funded by a 0.5% sales tax in Milwaukee, Kenosha and western Racine counties. That followed the recommendations of the interim Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority.

But when the budget came out of the Legislature, lawmakers had limited the three-county RTA to overseeing the proposed KRM train line and had changed its funding to an $18 rental car fee, up from $2 a car. They also sought a Milwaukee County transit authority that would levy a 0.65% sales tax, with 0.5% for the financially troubled Milwaukee County bus system and 0.15% for municipal public safety agencies.

Doyle vetoed the Milwaukee County authority but kept the three-county body, saying he wanted to see a truly regional transit solution. That veto enraged Doyle's fellow Democrats, who control the Legislature and who retaliated by cutting $35,000 for a KRM study. Also furious was Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway, who vowed to appoint himself to the new RTA board and vote against KRM consistently.

Milwaukee Democrats support the rail line but said they would prevent it from advancing until the county bus system was improved.

"My bottom line is I'm not going to entertain further KRM discussion until we fix Milwaukee's transit system," Rep. Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee) said.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wisconsin loses economic boost from Alliant's Bent Tree wind project

Statement by Michael Vickerman, Executive Director, RENEW Wisconsin, on Public Service Commission approval of the Bent Tree Windpower Plant:

The Public Service Commission today cleared the way for Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin utility to construct a 200 MW windpower plant project in southern Minnesota. Once operational, the Bent Tree project will be a productive source of renewable energy that will provide lasting benefits to Minnesota’s economy and environment. Since it will be Alliant’s Wisconsin customers who foot the bill, however, it is reasonable to inquire whether the current utility practice of outsourcing renewable energy production to other states is a good thing for Wisconsin’s economy.

It is true that windpower projects in Iowa and Minnesota are lower-cost sources of electricity than those in Wisconsin. However, when a Wisconsin utility locates a renewable energy project in another state, Wisconsin loses the economic boost from building and operating that project—construction and maintenance jobs, component manufacturing, tax receipts to local governments, landowner payments, etc.

In a weakening economy, we should question the wisdom of outsourcing renewable energy production to other states. A Bent Tree-sized facility in Wisconsin would generate $800,000 a year in local government revenues and about $700,000 a year in lease payments to landowners. It would also create hundreds of jobs for operating engineers, ironworkers, electricians, specialty haulers, and wind energy technicians. Is cheaper electricity from distant sources a reasonable trade-off for lost employment opportunities and revenues to state and local governments? RENEW does not believe so.

Legislative approval of state-wide uniform siting standards for wind energy projects would certainly help reduce the regulatory risks involved in utility development of projects in Wisconsin.

Kickapoo Country Fair, La Farge, July 26

From the brochure about the Kickapoo Country Fair:

Let’s go to the Kickapoo Country Fair, located at the world headquarters of Organic Valley in La Farge, Wisconsin. The theme for the 6th annual event is Celebrating a Sustainable Future, which fair organizers say will be “a celebration of the simple things that make for a life rich in beauty, culture and connections, whether to the land, our past or the surrounding community.”

When people think of a “fair” they usually envision carnival rides and midway games, cotton candy, deep-fried food and corn dogs. The Kickapoo Country Fair, however, is not your typical fair! Although it does have a festive atmosphere, the fair features a variety of workshops in sustainable living, a venue for “green” organizations and businesses, includes several food tents with natural, organic, local, and sustainable foods, plus farm tours, all-day music and entertainment, many child-friendly activities and much, much more. The whole family will experience a day filled with fun activities, stimulating workshops, panel discussions, and great food—all amidst the beautiful hills of the Kickapoo River Valley!

Stimulus funds would help residents, city, businesses save energy

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Milwaukee businesses and residents would benefit from loan programs the city is proposing to develop over the next year to help reduce energy bills.

The City of Milwaukee submitted its proposals for spending $5.8 million in energy-efficiency block grants as part of the federal stimulus package.

The city was given an indication of how much money it will receive but needed to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Energy detailing how the funds would be spent, said Jodie Tabak, spokeswoman for Mayor Tom Barrett.

In an application submitted late last month, the city unveiled plans to boost energy efficiency of city-owned buildings and launch a revolving loan fund to help homeowners and businesses reduce energy use and save on utility bills. The city could also use some funds to add more hybrids to the city fleet, the city's application says.

Nearly $1.5 million would be spent on the residential program, known as Milwaukee Energy Efficiency or ME2, to help homeowners afford the upfront costs of energy-saving upgrades.

Under the city's plan, the revolving loan fund would help finance projects to replace old furnaces or make homes airtight through air sealing and insulation. Homeowners would then pay back the fund through regular installments.