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Wisconsin Clean Energy Plan lays out pathway to reduce dependence on fossil fuels

Katie Thoresen
The solar panels at the Hodag Solar Farm in Oneida County.

Governor Tony Evers wants Wisconsin to live up to the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement and put the state on a path for all electricity to be 100 percent carbon-free by 2050.

Last week, his administration laid out it’s Clean Energy Plan on how to reach those goals.

Right now, Wisconsin spends billions of dollars each year importing fossil fuels to provide electricity to homes and businesses.

Evers believes transitioning to clean energy will keep more money in the state, reduce carbon emissions, and create an estimated 40,000 jobs.

It’s all laid out in the Clean Energy Plan released by Evers and the state Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy.

Gary Radloff is co-chair of the energy working group with Wisconsin’s Greenfire and a former energy policy researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He’s wanted the state to come out with a Clean Energy Plan for more than a decade now.

Radloff says this plan is well thought out.

“I think actually this state energy plan is a clarion call for change in the energy system. I like how they broke down four key pathways, one being clean energy technology development, particularly in the electricity sector,” said Radloff.

The other three pathways are maximizing energy efficiency, modernizing buildings and industry, and invest in innovative transportation.

Radloff believes this plan will word if it’s followed through, but that’s a big if.

A lot of these ideas were included Governor Evers proposed budget and removed by Republican lawmakers.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest industry lobbying group, called the plan “unaffordable” and “unrealistic,” claiming it would lead to higher energy prices.

Radloff says the transition to clean energy will require a large financial investment but firmly believes the cost of doing nothing will be higher.

“Even though the plan does require some financial investment, the financial risks coming from climate change in terms of obviously damage to our homes, our buildings, and our lands,” said Radloff. “Don’t even want to get into the insurance of covering some of that as well as the high cost of carbon energy.”

Radloff also points out it is not just a financial or even environmental cost that comes with climate change.

According to the World Health Organization, between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250-thousand additional deaths per year.

Radloff hopes people will look at the plan as an opportunity.

“Some investments will have to be made in changing the energy system and the energy infrastructure, but it’s also an opportunity to create whole new businesses, products and services around clean energy technology,” he said.

On Friday, Governor Evers also announced the creation of the Office of Environmental Justice.

He created through an executive order.

The new office will work with the existing Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy.

The goal will be to facilitate collaboration across state agencies to promote environmentally just policies.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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