Climate Action Spotlight – 15 Ways Madison is Leading on Climate
Climate action is currently receiving even more attention than usual, in part due to recent passage of both the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that will provide unprecedented federal support for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, advancing environmental justice and improving resilience to the impacts of climate change.
So, many folks might be wondering what the City of Madison is up to on climate. I’m happy to share that we’re taking action across the board and making big strides in reaching our goal of 100% renewable energy and net zero carbon emissions for City operations by 2030 and community-wide by 2050. Here’s a roundup of just some of our climate-focused work.
Top Madison Climate Actions:
- Using clean energy for City operations. Nearly 75% of electricity for City operations comes from renewable sources, putting us well on the way to our goal of 100% clean energy by 2030. To achieve success, we are taking an innovative and multifaceted approach that has so far included producing our own renewable energy, participating in Madison Gas and Electric’s Renewable Energy Rider program and purchasing renewable energy credits.
- Installing solar at City facilities. We have installed more than 1.3 MW of behind-the-meter solar at City facilities, and we plan to install another 8 MW by 2030.
- Providing green workforce training through our GreenPower program. The GreenPower program prepares young people for careers in clean energy and the trades. Trainees work alongside electricians from the city’s Engineering Division on solar and energy efficiency upgrades at city facilities.
- Spreading solar in the community. Our MadiSUN program, administered by local nonprofit partner RENEW Wisconsin, works to expand solar energy for homes, businesses and nonprofit organizations in the community through grants and group purchasing. So far, the program has supported development of more than 2 MW of solar in our community.
- Leading on green buildings. Since 2008, we have committed to reaching LEED Silver certification or better for all new and renovated City buildings. We now have 14 LEED certified buildings, including 5 with Platinum certification, with 6 more in progress. We were proud to receive a 2022 Energy Efficiency Excellence Award from Focus on Energy in recognition of our work to maximize energy efficiency.
- Investing in energy efficiency for naturally occurring affordable housing. We are collaborating with Sustain Dane and Elevate Energy to provide clean energy and energy efficiency upgrades to 100 units of affordable, multi-family rental housing through a new pilot program. The program will reduce energy and water use by 10-20%, which could save tenants and building owners $400 a year or more.
- Decarbonizing our Fleet. We’re transitioning our fleet to low and no-carbon fuels. So far, we have over 60 electric vehicles, more than 100 hybrid-electric vehicles, 3 all-electric buses and we use a mix of Wisconsin-made biodiesel for all trucking. And the Madison Fire Department is running North America’s first and only operational electric fire engine – the Volterra made by Wisconsin-based Pierce Manufacturing.
- Providing all-electric Bus Rapid Transit. The new BRT system will expand access to low-cost, reliable transportation using zero-emissions electric buses, making it easier for folks to from point A to point B without the expense of owning a car.
- Growing sustainable transportation options. Through Complete Green Streets and Vision Zero, we are updating and expanding our transportation network to support walking, biking and other active transportation and expanding green infrastructure and other solutions to grow resilience. In 2021, we passed an ordinance that requires EV charging for new multifamily residential and some commercial development to enable more folks to switch to an electric vehicle.
- Partnering for regional, statewide and national action. Collaboration is key to reducing carbon emissions at the pace and scale needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. To leverage local action for greater impact, Madison, along with Dane County, convenes the Sustainability Leaders Collaborative, a group of elected leaders and staff from Dane County municipalities that share information and lessons learned on solar installation, green fleets and more. I also use my voice representing Madison to collaborate with other cities and represent our needs at the national level as a Vice Chair of Climate Mayors and Chair of the EPA’s Local Government Advisory Committee Air and Climate Workgroup.
- Growing our climate capacity. In 2021, we hired Madison’s first Sustainability and Resilience Manager to lead our work to reduce emissions and grow resilience to the impacts of climate change.
- Reducing flood risk across Madison neighborhoods. Since the 2018 floods, we are going all in on flood resilience by updating Madison’s stormwater ordinance in 2020, embarked on detailed watershed studies, upgrading our stormwater infrastructure to better handle large rain events and investigating ways to expand our use of green infrastructure.
- Prioritizing climate and equity in City purchasing. In July, we issued the first-ever citywide RFI to help identify and do business with a diverse pool of vendors, business owners, local businesses and entrepreneurs, especially those that can assist in reducing carbon emissions for City operations.
- Converting our streetlights to LEDs. The City’s Traffic Engineering team is undergoing a multi-year effort to convert all of the City’s nearly 6,000 streetlights to efficient LED bulbs, saving us energy and money and reducing carbon emissions in the process.
- Requiring sustainability features in our affordable housing funding. The City Affordable Housing Fund helps the private sector develop long-term affordable housing in Madison. We require applicants for these funds to reduce energy use by 20% based on a Focus on Energy analysis and install at least 30 kW of solar on site.
And we have more in the works. For example, we’re working to develop the new Building Energy Savings Program to cut carbon emissions from the built environment while reducing energy costs for commercial building owners and tenants. And an updated, city-wide Transportation Demand Management program will help to further expand sustainable transportation options. We’re also exploring the use of low carbon concrete.New and expanded federal support provided through the BIL and IRA will help us accelerate and grow our current climate successes. We have a strong track record of securing state and federal funding to support our work – the City typically receives and manages $50-75 million in federal and state grant awards annually – and are prepared to make sure Madison benefits from these federal climate investments.
Don’t forget the Inflation Reduction Act provides funding directly to local households and businesses to take actions that reduces their energy costs and carbon footprints. Check out this tool by Rewiring America to calculate how much money you could get from the IRA. And visit Cleanenergy.gov to sign up for updates about when IRA tax credits and rebates become available.