Madison Weighs Pricey Plan for 100% Renewable Energy

Madison is poised to take a next big step to address climate change with an initiative that would require $95 million in up-front investments but promises to dramatically reduce emissions and deliver substantial savings over time.

After two years of study, the City Council on Tuesday will consider recommendations from a consultant and the city’s Sustainable Madison Committee on how to achieve 100 percent renewable energy and zero net carbon emissions by 2030 through an array of actions including energy-efficient buildings, solar power and electric buses.

To get to 100 percent renewable energy, all city government energy needs must be met through generation of power from solar panels on city facilities or from clean energy elsewhere by investing in large solar or wind farms. Zero net carbon means slashing the city’s 95,000 tons of annual emissions.

The proposed plan would require a $95 million investment over 12 years and deliver $78 million in cost savings and health and societal benefits of $21 million to $162 million by 2030, according to a report by Navigant Consulting of Chicago. It would reduce total carbon emissions by 426,000 tons by 2030, the report says.

The estimated $95 million in additional investments include:

  • $60 million to move from diesel to 232 electric buses, and changes to the vehicle fleet.
  • $16 million for solar installations in the area, plus $5 million for solar installations elsewhere.
  • $6 million for building efficiencies, largely through changing to LED lighting.
  • $5 million for more efficient LED streetlights.
  • $1.5 million to make water pumping more efficient.
  • $1.5 million to implement the program and other costs.