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Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change


How 2020 Climate Champions Worked
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In 2020 we recognized Climate Champions in seven categories:

Plus there was an “Other” category if efforts did not fit into one of our seven main categories.

Recognition was based on an organization's performance over 12 months (we accepted January-December 2019 or a more recent 12 month period if that was more convenient).

Applications were due November 9th; we announced the winners in early December. 

Each of the award categories is described below. 

Additional award guidelines are here.

Net Building Energy Use

This Climate Champions category recognizes buildings that use less energy per square foot than a typical building. (This metric, energy use per square foot, is often called energy use intensity or EUI.) Because different kinds of buildings have different levels of energy use intensity, we base the recognition level on the type of building. To earn 4 stars a building must be net zero energy while a building that is at least 25% more efficient than typical building of that type can earn 1 star. The chart below provides energy use intensity data for various building types.

Chart of various star levelsWe measure the EUI metric in kbtu/square foot where kbtu stands for thousands of British thermal units of energy; kbtu is total energy used--combining electric consumption with natural gas or other fuels. But don't worry about that - when you provide us with the building energy usage we calculate the kbtu.

Note that this category is net building energy usage, which means that if a facility has on-site solar, the calculation takes that into account, reducing the total electric consumption. This category does not recognize Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) or Carbon Offsets (you can claim credit for those efforts in the Net Emissions category). 

To compete in this category you need to provide:

  • Type of facility
  • Square footage
  • Annual electric usage (measured in kwh) 
  • Annual therms of natural gas
  • Annual usage of any other on-site fuel (e.g., propane)

The application was set up to apply for recognition of one building at a time.


Fleet Operations

If your organization owns one or more vehicles, you can get recognition for having a clean energy fleet. Right now the typical fleet is 100% gas and diesel. We want to recognize entities converting to electricity, renewable natural gas (RNG) and biodiesel because all of those options reduce emissions.

chart of star levels

For these awards we are defining clean energy vehicles to include:

  • Battery Electric Vehicles
  • Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles
  • Natural Gas Vehicles
  • Biodiesel vehicles

To apply for the Fleet category you had to provide the total number of vehicles in your fleet and the number of clean energy fuel vehicles by type.


Employee Commuting

Organizations can have a big role in influencing how their employees get to and from work.  At present in Dane County about 73% of people drive alone to work. 

In this category we have two ways to earn recognition. We are recognizing entities that have successfully encouraged employees to shift to cleaner commuting options AND we are recognizing entities that are making it easier for their employees to shift to clean and active modes of transit. The chart details the two ways you can earn recognition in this category.
chart detailing star levels

Here we are measuring the typical way an employee commutes. Acceptable alternatives to driving alone include:

  • Carpooling
  • Mass transit
  • Biking
  • Walking
  • Telecommuting

Entities also earn credit for offering amenities that encourage fewer single-occupancy vehicle miles. Entities indicate if they:

  • Provide employees with free or discounted bus passes
  • Offer emergency rides to employees who took bus/biked and have an issue at home
  • Offer on-site showers to make it easier for employees to bike or walk to work
  • Offer covered storage area for employees' bikes
  • Facilitate carpool arrangements
  • Encourage regular telecommuting for all feasible positions (at least one day per week)*
  • Other 

*If your organization started allowing employees to telecommute during COVID-19 and you intend to continue that practice after the pandemic ends, you can consider this amenity met.

To apply for the Employee Commuting category an entity had to report on the number of employees and their commuting patterns as well as the amenities offered to employees.


Water Saving Practices

Sustainably managing water resources is critical in mitigating and adapting climate change impacts: Moving water around Dane County and treating it requires a lot of energy, and protecting it as a basic right for all residents is a top priority. Entities are recognized in this category by completing two or more sustainable water actions. 

chart of star levels

Sustainable water actions are: 

Water is something that all people, all businesses touch in some way, and therefore everyone plays a role and has a responsibility to conserve it, protect it, and reflect the value of it in their actions. 

To apply for recognition in this category an entity had to report whether or not it does each of the activities listed above.


Agricultural Practices

We recognized farmers and land owners for climate-friendly practices associated with both dairy and crop farming.  Our focus in 2020 is on dairy operations that are transferring manure to digesters (which has a substantial impact on methane emissions as well as groundwater) and on croplands that are converted to continuous cover crops or grasslands.

chart detailing star levels

As is the case with other categories, we expect the practices recognized in this category to expand over time. If you have ideas for additional practices we should recognize, please email us




Net Carbon Emissions

We encourage all kinds of entities to think about their total greenhouse gas emissions. And we want to recognize entities that are making progress reducing their total greenhouse gas emissions.

For this category we again compare entities to peer organizations. To do that we use the Cool Carbon Network business calculator. When you enter basic information about your organization into the calculator it generates a ‘typical’ emission profile and enables you to compare your specifics--energy usage, fleet, employee commuting, supplies--against that typical.

In this category we’ll recognize entities that have lower emissions than their peers, either based on the Cool Climate Calculator or based on other sustainability reporting.
chart detailing star levels

The Cool Carbon tools are the most peer-reviewed carbon calculators in the US. Essentially a business can enter its location, kind of business (e.g., bakery or insurance company), annual revenues and number of employees to see a ‘typical’ carbon footprint for that business. That becomes the custom benchmark for that business. 

If your organization purchases renewable energy credits (RECs) or carbon offsets you will be able to document that in the calculator. 


Other Efforts

It is possible that your organization has achieved significant climate success in an area not covered by the six categories listed above. If that’s the case we invite you to describe what you’ve accomplished here.

In your description be sure to include:

  • What actions were taken
  • The estimated impact of the actions
  • When it happened
  • Any other details you think are relevant



Award Guidelines

The deadline for submitting an application is Monday, November 9 at 5 pm. (Deadline was extended!)

The Office of Energy & Climate Change will review all submitted applications and notify applicants of their status by mid-November. We anticipate announcing the champions in early December. 

The Office of Energy & Climate Change may contact applicants to verify data submitted. In some cases we might ask applicants to supply documentation for the data submitted.

Climate Champions will receive official recognition for their efforts, including signage they can post in their facility. We will also recognize Climate Champions on a map of successes in Dane County.

Entities that are out of compliance with Dane County regulations may be ineligible to receive the Climate Champion designation.

If you have questions, email 

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