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Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change

 

                                Kathy Kuntz

 

New Year, New Challenges

Kathy Kuntz

The cold days of early January spur all of us to take stock of what was accomplished during the last year and look ahead to the challenges of the new year. We – and I’m including here all of the folks committed to climate action across Dane County – had some substantial wins in 2021. For example:

     • The Oregon School District achieved the first net-zero energy school in Wisconsin; in its first year of operations Forest Edge Elementary’s solar panels created about 24,000 kwh more than all the systems at the school used. The school demonstrates what is possible and inspires other projects across the county.

     • In his 2022 budget, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi committed that the County’s buildings and fleet will be carbon neutral by 2030. County buildings are already powered by electricity that is 45% green and we expect to achieve 100% in 2022 when the Dane County Yahara Solar project is completed. That is well ahead of our 2025 target.

     • Dane County businesses, local governments, schools, nonprofits and households installed more than 25 MW of additional solar power across the County. With those installations the total solar installed in Dane County is more than 55 MW. That’s enough energy to power about 10,000 Dane County homes! (Visit our Clean Energy Map to learn more about the installations at local governments, businesses and schools.)

     • Dane County’s efforts were recognized, first with an EPA Green Power Leadership Award and then by CDP, who named Dane County one of its A List communities for our climate efforts. These recognitions affirm that we are on the right track and will spur us to do even more in 2022.

We also had some amazing, inspirational moments—like the high school climate conference organized by local UNA-USA Dane County members, the formation of Wisconsin Creation Care Ambassadors to help faith communities go green, and the outreach by several Girl Scout troops to increase awareness around embodied carbon. Our Office works closely with a variety of citizen-led climate action initiatives across the county and we are inspired and awed by the climate warriors in our midst.

Still, there is a lot left to do and the work is increasingly urgent. In 2021 we saw unprecedented natural disasters across the globe, many of which were exacerbated or amplified by climate change. So what we will accomplish in 2022? We aim to make progress on a number of fronts:

     • We will continue to showcase local leadership on climate action through our Climate Champions program, through our Clean Energy Map and through the success stories we profile on our website. If you are doing something noteworthy around climate action you should let us know so that we can celebrate you too. 

     • We will continue to work with local governments and school districts through the Sustainable Leadership Collaborative to accelerate action across Dane County communities. In 2022 we will remain focused on potential state and federal funding that can enhance our local efforts.

     • Our Office is leading a comprehensive energy assessment of county facilities, which will help us identify the opportunities to achieve carbon neutrality. 

     • We are collaborating with Operation Fresh Start on a Civilian Climate Corp planning project. Addressing climate change will create numerous new green jobs and we want to ensure that all of the young people in our communities have access to those opportunities. 

     • We will continue to make progress on the goals and recommendations outlined in the Climate Action Plan. Our Office is involved in collaborative efforts addressing numerous Climate Action Plan priorities, ranging from Dane County’s tree canopy to building electrification. Much of this work is in collaboration with other partners, aiming to leverage resources so that we maximize the results achieved.  

     • We will remain responsive to the opportunities raised by our community partners like you. One of our priorities is to help local groups connect to resources (and each other) so that everyone’s climate efforts are successful. 

Bottom line? We aim to make substantive progress on our climate goals so that, in January 2023, we can share an even more inspiring message about what we’ve achieved together and the work left to be done. Sustainability is a journey, not a destination. I feel very lucky to be taking this journey with the people of Dane County – because with your support we can do this.

 

Kathy Kuntz

Kathy Kuntz

Director

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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