The Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change’s enthusiasm for the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is well known. We have created a webpage to help locals access the various IRA benefits (e.g., Tax credits for home energy upgrades! Tax credits for EVs! Tax credits for solar and geothermal on homes, businesses AND nonprofits!) In addition to the online resources we are staffing tables at Earth Day events, speaking at events hosted by local communities, and responding to email and phone queries on a regular basis.
We are devoting substantial resources to making sure you hear about the IRA because it is a big deal. In fact, the IRA is the biggest climate action deal in history. This federal legislation aims to make clean energy cheaper and more accessible than dirty fossil fuels. In my view state and local officials have a responsibility to ensure the IRA benefits flow to their communities.
That responsibility to leverage the IRA looms large in a state like Wisconsin. Although 7 in 10 Wisconsin residents acknowledge that climate change is happening and support regulating CO2 as a pollutant, the state is not a leader on climate action. Other states have increased their investment in energy efficiency, for example, but leadership in our legislature resisted efforts to increase funding for Focus on Energy—even though every dollar invested in Focus on Energy yields more than $4 in benefits. That meant that, before the IRA, individuals and businesses located in other states like Massachusetts, New York, California and even Minnesota had more help transitioning to a clean energy economy than those in Wisconsin.
But the IRA changed that by providing federal resources available to everyone. As long as we use the federal resources available we can accelerate our transition too.
On IRA resources we received terrific news last week. The IRA includes funding for two home energy rebate programs—one focused on electrification and one on energy efficiency. This new funding will help residents, especially low-to-moderate income households, access new money-saving technologies. These new IRA funds will flow to state energy offices that are accountable for administering the rebates and, here in Wisconsin, the Public Service Commission decided unanimously last week that the Wisconsin funds will be administered through Focus on Energy.
Focus on Energy is well-suited to administer this program. As outlined in the staff memo, Focus on Energy already has the infrastructure in place to administer these rebates. By leveraging Focus on Energy, Wisconsin will expedite the delivery of the new federal incentives, maximizing benefits for households across the state.
Soon the US Department of Energy (DOE) will issue guidance to states and then states will develop plans that require DOE approval. I expect the new programs to be available here in Wisconsin in early 2024. Other states that lack a statewide energy efficiency program might take much longer to set up a structure. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed about the status of these new programs.
And, in the meantime, join me in leveraging the IRA to make change happen locally.
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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