The City of Milwaukee is Taking Bold Action on Climate Change 
portrait of mayor tom barrett Climate change is real and we know that it presents urgent threats to our planet and to our home right here in Wisconsin. We also know that the use of coal and other fossil fuels for electricity is a big contributor to the negative effects on our environment. I understand the stakes. That is why I have established renewable energy and energy efficiency goals. With the federal government retreating on climate change, it's more important than ever for cities to demonstrate leadership. Our   Climate Action website underscores the threats and highlights the actions we're taking as a city. The City of Milwaukee supports the Paris Climate Accord and offers programs in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and green infrastructure. And in 2018 and 2019, the City of Milwaukee through its Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO) is taking bold action to advance renewable energy.
Our Milwaukee Shines solar program has a long history of making it more affordable to install solar in Milwaukee. As part of the program, the City has drastically reduced permitting fees for solar, streamlined the permit process, developed an affordable solar loan program with Summit Credit Union, and helped coordinate "group-buys" so homeowners can work together to get bulk savings for solar projects. We plan to offer a group buy this summer, so watch for upcoming details. We also bring an "equity lens" to our climate work and have supported job training and demonstration projects at the  Housing Authority, Fondy Farmers Market, Escuela Verde School, and Cream City Farms. Our HOME GR/OWN program has also collaborated with Walnut Way and the Institute for Sustainable Communities on solar projects in the Lindsey Heights neighborhood.
While our work at the City is significant, we know we must do more to meet the urgency of climate threats. We need to dramatically accelerate construction of new renewable energy systems while making our buildings and transportation sector more energy efficient. The City has a 25% by 2025 renewable energy goal established by the Milwaukee Common Council in 2009. Other states give their local governments more tools and autonomy to advance clean energy. And given the City of Milwaukee's significant fiscal constraints and politics at the state and federal level, we need to be creative. So I directed ECO to develop strategies to meet our renewable energy goal as it relates to electric power for municipal buildings and streetlights. We're working to install solar on our own buildings
and working with We Energies on utility-scale solar.
City Projects
In late 2017, we embarked on a project to install a total of 1.1 megawatts (MW) of solar on six city buildings, or about 3,600 solar panels. After a competitive purchasing process, the City of Milwaukee entered into a solar services agreement with Eagle Point Solar to design, install and co-finance solar panels on six City-owned buildings. Unfortunately, We Energies denied Eagle Point Solar's application to interconnect the system to the grid. 
Eagle Point Solar is taking the issue to the Public Service Commission. We support a competitive market for roof-top solar, and third-party financing will make solar affordable for a lot more people. However, the project is indefinitely delayed while Eagle Point Solar seeks clarity on these types of financing agreements in Wisconsin.  
Because of the urgency of climate change, we want to see solar installed this year. So we decided to simply purchase the solar systems on three of the six buildings. By using conventional financing, the City will own 100% of these systems. Under the arrangement, three Milwaukee Public Libraries are expected to get 209kw of solar this year.
I'd like to thank Aldermen Murphy, Johnson, Kovac, Bauman, Lewis, Perez, Rainey, and Stamper for sponsoring the resolution to get solar built on our libraries. Last Wednesday, I was pleased to sign this resolution. I'd also like to thank City Librarian Paula Kiely, the Milwaukee Public Library Board of Trustees, and library staff for their support of the project.  
Utility Collaboration Needed to Meet Climate Goals
Solar Farm.  Photo Credit: RENEW Wisconsin
We cannot achieve our renewable energy goals with rooftop solar alone. The City needs  about 15 MW of additional renewable power to achieve our 25% renewable power goal. And that means we need hundreds of acres of land for wind turbines and solar panels. If we want that wind and solar energy to be built right here in Wisconsin, then we need to collaborate with We Energies. Not only are they our hometown utility, but we hope to show them that their customers want a transition to clean, renewable energy.
In early 2018 MATC President Dr. Vicki Martin, MMSD Executive Director Kevin Shafer,  County Executive Chris Abele and I sent a joint letter to We Energies outlining our respective climate change goals and asking the utility to provide our institutions with more renewable energy options. The sustainability directors from these institutions along with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Marquette University met with We Energies several times over the course of the year. In December of 2018, the Public Service Commission approved We Energies' request to create two new pilot tariffs: Solar Now and the Dedicated Renewable Energy Resource (DRER). We Energies' new programs provide the City with a clear pathway to meeting its renewable energy goals. Over the next few months, my Administration will work with the Common Council to carefully review and consider using We Energies' new programs.
We now have a realistic pathway for the City to meet and exceed its 25% renewable energy goal this year. We'd like your support as we work to advance affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy for Milwaukee. Making the transition to renewable energy is not easy, but I'm committed to leading by example in Wisconsin as we work to transition to a clean energy future.
Mayor Tom Barrett
City of Milwaukee

Mayor Barrett outlines his vision for clean energy with Aldermen Michael Murphy and Nik Kovac, City Librarian Paula Kiely, and ECO Director Erick Shambarger (not pictured)
Photo: Rick Wood / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The City has too many other important needs to invest in clean energy



The City of Milwaukee spends more than
$13 million dollars a year on electric bills to provide essential services like:
  • Street lights
  • Traffic lights
  • Water treatment and pumping
  • Municipal buildings like libraries, fire stations, and police stations.

By investing in renewable energy projects, the City is simply reallocating funds that would otherwise go into conventional energy sources to pay back the investments in wind and solar energy. This yields long-term savings that can support both environmental and fiscal sustainability for the City. The price of solar energy has come down more than 70% in recent years, making it a good time to invest in our clean energy future.


by the numbers
Solar Costs & Benefits
The City of Milwaukee currently has 60 kilowatts of solar PV on three City-owned buildings. The installations at the libraries will triple the amount of solar on City buildings.  
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kilowatt hours per year 
The 710 solar panels on the Milwaukee Public Libraries are expected to produce over 265,000 kWh per year.
icon of money
The 209 kW of solar on three Milwaukee Public Libraries will save the City $35,000 annually.   
icon of a car

The clean energy produced by the solar on Milwaukee Public Libraries is reducing the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 458,600 miles driven by a car.