On September 28, 2020 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the 2021 Green Power Leadership Awards. There were just five winners – Boston University, the University of California system, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Dane County, Wisconsin.
Yes, you got that right, Dane County is on that list with some really big players in renewable energy and climate action. Dane County is both the only local government and the only Midwest entity that earned EPA recognition this year.
“The 2021 Green Power Leadership Award winners are leaders in the transition to a clean energy future,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “We applaud their efforts to expand the use and availability of carbon pollution-free electricity and thank them for helping to protect the environment and improve air quality.”
We appreciate that applause. And less than 24 hours after receiving the EPA recognition, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced new climate and clean energy initiatives associated with his 2022 budget.
“The flooding, fires, and extreme temperatures gripping the globe year after year offer irrefutable, tangible evidence we are in the midst of a climate crisis. We all have a responsibility to act now, and that’s just what Dane County government is doing,” said County Executive Parisi. “By investing in clean fuel infrastructure and becoming net zero in carbon emissions for our buildings and fleet by 2030, Dane County will be a leading voice at what is possible for the public and private sectors to help combat the disturbing trends of climate change.”
Yes, folks are impressed with our efforts to pursue clean energy and yet we are well aware that there is a lot more to do relative to the climate crisis.
That is part of the tension of recognition. Recognition is both applause and a nudge. It is gratifying to have an outside entity recognize your efforts. We get that; it is the reason we established the Climate Champions program and an impetus for our Clean Energy map. At the same time, being recognized can feel like a nudge to do more, to re-earn that recognition.
Recognition also provides us with an opportunity to reflect on all the people who had a role in making this honor possible. The Dane County Waste & Renewables team has led the efforts to transition our county buildings to renewable electricity, while staff in Facilities and Public Works ensure that the new systems integrate smoothly. More, though, leadership from the County Executive and the County Board have made clean energy and climate action a priority for us. And then there are all of our partners, including the City of Madison staff who enabled us to grow their MadiSUN program countywide, the staff at RENEW Wisconsin who nudged us to join the Green Power Leadership program, and the hundreds of individuals and businesses involved in the implementation of our many clean energy projects.
The EPA issued the award to Dane County, Wisconsin, and it belongs to all of us. With more than 150 solar installations on local governments, schools and businesses, we are a clean energy leader in the Midwest. Really, I could cite numerous examples: the first carbon neutral dentist in the US, the first net zero energy school in Wisconsin, our unprecedented efforts to transform landfill methane into renewable natural gas—the list goes on and on.
So it is together that we won this recognition. You, me and all the others—we are all being recognized for our leadership. And we are all being nudged to do more.
Together, Dane County. We can do this and we will do this.
Kathy is the Director of the Dane County’s Office of Energy and Climate Change. In that role she's leading efforts to implement the Climate Action Plan. Prior to coming to Dane County, Kathy led Cool Choices and, prior to that, she led Wisconsin's Focus on Energy program.
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