Energy Fair Begins With Calls For Locals To Take Control Of Power

Advocates Argue Feds, State Won't Act On Renewables

Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

The Midwest Renewable Energy Association, or MREA, kicked off its 28th annual Clean Energy Fair, near Stevens Point on Friday.

At some of the workshops, local governments are being urged to take the lead on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Renewable energy advocates say with the federal government pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord and, the advocates contend, insufficient action by the state of Wisconsin, it’s up local officials to move ahead on green initiatives.

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Michael Vickerman, of the group RENEW, said about a decade ago, dozens of Wisconsin communities or school districts pledged to get 25 percent of their power from cleaner sources by the year 2025.

“Now we’re starting to see communities aim higher. With Madison being the most notable example of that, with its 100 percent renewable energy net-zero carbon policy,” Vickerman said.

That recently approved target covering city operations will take a while to reach.

But Vickerman said the theory is the city will lead by example, and the transition to more use of clean energy will spill into the broader community.

Sherrie Gruder, of the University of Wisconsin-Extension, also spoke at an Energy Fair workshop Friday.

She said local agencies could start planning where to develop projects such as large solar energy farms.

“Think now, in your communities, what land should we save? What rooftops should we use for solar? But especially the land, because there are parcels of land in municipalities that would be great,” Gruder said, citing airport land away from runways.

Gruder said local governments can also streamline permit applications and inspections for renewable energy projects.

MREA’s Energy Fair continues through Sunday.