As Wisconsin’s administration builds a budget for 2021-2022, the Sierra Club is advocating for spending in four major areas of environmental impact. In Part 3 of this series we focus on Air, Clean Energy, and Climate.
Energy efficiency investments save customers money on energy bills and create thousands of local jobs for small businesses that insulate our homes, install better windows and doors, make more efficient appliances, and work with energy-efficient heating, cooling, and ventilation systems. Every dollar invested in energy efficiency programs saves customers $3 in reduced energy costs. The U.S. Department of Energy states that the average household can save 25% on utility bills with energy efficiency measures, amounting to over $2,200 annually. Investing in energy efficiency is one of the safest, cheapest, and most effective way to reduce the threat of climate change and air pollution caused by our reliance on burning fossil fuels. Not only that, but energy-efficient homes are also more comfortable than conventional homes in that they reduce the amount of noise, allergens, and insects that make it indoors.
Fortunately, efforts at improving energy efficiency have been ongoing in Wisconsin for years. Focus on Energy, founded in 2001 as Wisconsin’s utilities’ energy efficiency program, works with eligible Wisconsin residents and businesses to install cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects — providing information, resources, and financial incentives to implement projects that otherwise would not be completed. Its efforts help Wisconsin residents and businesses manage rising energy costs, promote in-state economic development, protect our environment, and control Wisconsin's growing demand for electricity and natural gas.
Specific budget solution:
Modifying current law to allow the commission to double the funds available to the Focus on Energy program to 2.4 percent of each utility's annual operating revenues, and create a dedicated Focus on Energy program targeted at helping low income energy customers.
Other Clean Energy and Climate Programs:
Governor Evers’ proposed budget offered several other programs that we support:
A pilot program to study the feasibility of carbon markets.
Consideration of the social cost of carbon by the Public Services Commission when evaluating construction.
Establishment of an Office of Environmental Justice
Modification several statutory provisions to expand low-cost debt financing of clean energy projects for residential, commercial and governmental customers
The way we use resources and interact with the natural world has rippling effects – clean energy will help improve our climate, our air quality, and public health. We need a budget that values clean air and clean energy. The state budget is a huge opportunity to ensure a sustainable, just future.