Last week I had the opportunity to speak to a group of local bankers about climate action. I talked about Dane County’s ambitious Climate Action Plan and the federal funding that can help individuals, businesses, local governments and nonprofits pursue clean energy solutions. And I suggested some ways that banks and credit unions could help us address climate change.
Asking the attendees to do their part is something I do a lot, with all kinds of audiences.
My first request for the bankers was that they offer loans and financing that can help others complete clean energy projects. Banks and credit unions can sign up to offer PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) loans for businesses and nonprofits and these financial institutions can also offer homeowners Energy-Efficient Mortgages to finance efficiency and rooftop solar projects. I also encouraged them to help create new innovative clean energy funding models via the Governor’s Green Ribbon Commission on Clean Energy & Environmental Innovation.
That first request was very specific to financial institutions. My subsequent two asks, though, were ones that I ask a lot of entities to fulfill.
I asked the bankers to lead by example—to benchmark their energy use, to pursue energy efficiency and solar power and clean fuel fleets too. In our smaller communities the local banks are important main street institutions, which means their actions can inspire others to act.
And, finally, I asked the bankers to help us increase public awareness around the financial incentives available through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The IRA offers unprecedented incentives for businesses, local governments, nonprofits and individuals. I encouraged the bankers to leverage the information about the IRA on our website to maximize clean energy projects in their communities.
Although my first ask of the bankers was specific to lending, the other two requests—to lead by example and to encourage others to act—are ones that apply to lots of entities. Local faith communities, for example, are doing a great job of leading by example in greening their own facilities and thereby inspiring members to pursue clean energy in their own homes. Many of our faith communities are also doing great work sharing out information about the IRA. And we are working with a few neighborhood associations who have hosted events to share out information about the IRA, demonstrating that even informal networks have a role here.
My goal, though, is to see a lot more of this. I would like to see local employers include links to our IRA webpages in communications to employees and I want to see local governments posting links on their websites too. I would like to see our IRA fact sheets at local libraries and I’d love to have our team doing IRA talks to groups across Dane County every week. We all know that repeated exposure to messaging helps make that message stick so I want to see all of us working together to get out this important message.
Everyone has a role in addressing our climate crisis. Our efforts matter. There are substantive federal incentives—in addition to rebates from Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy. Plus many clean energy technologies from electric vehicles to solar are more affordable than ever before. It is no wonder you see a variety of entities pursuing clean energy projects all across Dane County. This is the time for you to act too.
We can do this, Dane County. No matter your organization’s mission, we would like to partner with you to accelerate climate action. Reach out to us and let’s get started.
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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