This March, Madison, Wisconsin joined 24 other cities nationwide, who have all committed to working towards 100 percent renewable energy use.
By making this transition, the city aims to reach net-zero carbon emissions before 2050 and cut total energy use in half by 2030. This is a community-wide goal which encompasses all sectors.
To achieve this objective, $250,000 dollars have been designated to hire a consultant to create a plan by January 2018.
Anna Haines, professor of natural resources planning and director of the Center for Land Use Education, said the resolution is a move in the right direction but the difficulty will be in the details.
Haines said that achieving net-zero carbon emission from all sectors is quite complex since there are many factors to consider.
One sector Haines mentioned is transportation, since many city services like garbage pickup, and snow removal relies on fossil fuel powered vehicles.
If the city aims for the sole use of sustainable energy across all sectors, transitioning their vehicles to sustainable fuel is something they must address.
Haines said that energy should be approached from both the supply and demand side, by first reducing the amount of energy we are using and then looking towards sustainable energy production.
“If they want to really get down to net-zero carbon emissions, they are going to have to follow their supply chain, and that gets very difficult but it can be done,” Haines said.
Lynn Markham, shore land and land use specialist for the Center for Land Use Education, pointed out that one reason to move towards renewable energy sources is that Wisconsin does not have fossil fuel resources.
The fossil fuels consumed in Wisconsin are imported from outside of the state. In 2012, the Wisconsin State Energy Office reported that 15.7 billion dollars left the state to pay for energy.
One of these fossil fuels is coal which, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, powered 52 percent of Wisconsin’s electricity in 2016. While renewables made up just 8.3 percent of state electricity production that same year.
Wisconsin’s reliance on fossil fuels makes Madison’s commitment seem even more ambitious. Yet, the capital city’s leadership could lead the way for change in the region, since it is the largest city in the Midwest and first in Wisconsin to set this goal.
The Sierra Club has launched a campaign “Ready For 100,” with hopes that 100 cities across the nation will commit to 100 percent renewable energy use.
Although 25 cities may seem insignificant from a national level, this includes major cities like San Diego, which could have a great influence on energy production in their regions.
Of these 25, only six cities have reached their goals so far.
The Sierra Club encourages citizens to contact their mayor and representatives to encourage their city to make a commitment to clean energy.