Genrich celebrates Earth Day with grant news
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – The City of Green Bay had reason to celebrate this Earth Day, April 22, as it announced it received an $87,000 comprehensive energy planning grant from The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC).
“I think we were the second highest scoring grant application in this category,” Genrich said. “So a real credit to Resiliency Coordinator Melissa Schmitz and the sustainability commission for winning this grant for the City of Green Bay and putting us on that realistic path to 100% renewable energy by 2050.”
The PSC awarded $10 million in funding from the Energy Innovation Grant Program ranging in size from $26,136 to $1 million in three different categories Renewable Energy and Energy Storage, Comprehensive Energy Planning and Energy Efficiency and Demand Response.
The grants went to 46 projects.
“This grant will really allow us to be much more strategic and take things to another level in terms of bringing much more renewable energy to the City of Green Bay and the community at large,” Genrich said.
He said the city made the grant announcement at Green Bay Metro Fire Station No. 5 because of its recently-installed solar panels.
“We have five solar panels on the roof,” Genrich said. “They were done last summer. The council at that time made a commitment to devote some of those (excess stadium tax) resources toward renewable energy upgrades… And so that is kind of a demonstration of some of the work we’ve been doing.”
The grant announcement came just days after the city’s Sustainability Committee presented a long-term plan of attack toward reaching the goal of 100% clean energy by 2050.
“I was really happy to be one of the first presentations before our newly-sworn-in City Council,” Sustainability Commission Chair Seth Hoffmeister said. “And I was even more happy to be well-received and to have our work plan passed unanimously. On today’s Earth Day, this is an important step forward and the work that we’ve been doing for years in the city of Green Bay, We set out to address… very impactful things that we can do as a community. One of them is on climate resilience. We know that if we switch to 100% clean energy today we’re still going to feel the impacts of climate change… There has to be a better way, and by figuring it out now before it’s too late, we can do just that… It’s gonna take all of us, but the work that we’ve been doing in the last four years shows me that we’re just getting started. And I can’t wait to keep moving forward with all of you on creating this climate action plan.”
Schmitz said the grant money will be used toward creating a community-wide energy and decarbonisation plan.
“It’ll have actionable steps on how we can get to our clean energy goals by 2050,” she said. “As three of the largest energy users – Green Bay Water Utility, the city as a whole and Green Bay Metro Transit, we feel that taking this collaborative approach to increase our community success and really implementing a plan going forward. We recognize that energy planning and environmental justice have to be addressed together.”
Schmitz said the first phase of the project will focus on seeking community input and soliciting community outreach.
“We’ve identified a variety of ways to be able to do that,” she said. “We’ll also be working with our consultant partners who were also on a grant with us, Slipstream (Group, Inc.), who have vast amounts of experience with public outreach and developing educational materials and working with municipalities all over Wisconsin and doing comprehensive energy planning.”
Schmitz said the next phase will include baseline energy compilation.
“So, we’ll be engaging with Wisconsin Public Service with that, to really get a full picture of what our community’s energy usage is from the business sector to the residential sector as well,” she said. “And after we do that, we’re going to be doing a series of really deep dive energy audits at different city facilities including our water utility, and we will be identifying major energy and decarbonisation opportunities, including transit opportunities for electrification.”
Schmitz said an end report will be created to serve as a roadmap going forward to implement change over the next 10 to 20 years.
She said so far, the city’s efforts toward clean energy have received tremendous community support from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UWGB) and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC).
“As partners with us, UWGB and NWTC students will have hands-on learning opportunities from this project with doing energy audits, solar site assessments and helping the city with some of the data compilation, which is very labor intensive. So we really thank our partners with those educational institutions,” Schmitz said.
She said her department will be taking the lead in implementing and management of the grant project.