Climate Corner: Let’s Collaborate to Address Climate Change

by Keith Reopelle, Director of the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change

Under County Executive Joe Parisi’s leadership, Dane County is a regional leader in clean energy investments and addressing climate change. We would love to collaborate with Door County on climate change mitigation and resiliency strategies. I am confident we could learn a lot from each other.

In the past several years Dane County has invested in more than enough renewable energy generation to offset 100 percent of the electricity used by our facilities and operations. We have generators at two landfills that produce electricity from the methane biogas. We have helped develop two anaerobic digesters that take manure from six farms and produce a combined 4 megawatts of renewable electricity, enough to power more than 4,000 homes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40,000 tons a year. We have solar arrays on 14 of our county buildings that together have the capacity to generate 600 kW of electricity, and we are in the process of choosing a developer to develop solar on 40 acres of county land near our airport. This project will generate approximately 8 megawatts of clean solar power. We have also put out a request for proposals to purchase renewable energy credits from solar and wind projects in order to create more incentives for these clean energy projects in and near Dane County.

Dane County was among the first places in the country fuel snow plows (among other heavy-duty trucks) with renewable compressed bio-gas from our landfill. To date, we have acquired more than 80 vehicles that run on compressed bio-gas including 19 heavy duty plows. Compressed bio-gas, has the lowest climate change emissions of any vehicle fuel being sold today. Its use as a transportation fuel represents a nearly 90 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline and diesel fuel.

Dane County and Cook County Illinois, were the first Counties in the Midwest to announce they would sign the “We Are Still In” pledge to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement.

A little more than a year ago, County Executive Parisi created the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change (OECC). Part of my job, as Director of the OECC, is to develop and implement a strong economy-wide Climate Action Plan (CAP) that makes Dane County a national leader in the fight to mitigate climate change. The OECC will accomplish this objective primarily by bringing together a very diverse group of organizations, governments and businesses with wide range of expertise, ideas and perspectives. The goal of the CAP will be to put Dane County on a path to “deep de-carbonization” within the next 10 years. Using the deep de-carbonization pathways report ( as a guide, we will come up with policies, programs and projects to drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions across all of the 28 cities and villages in Dane County as well as the entire private sector.

Most importantly, it is critical that we develop and implement our CAP through investments to achieve deep de-carbonization that will:  1) result in major economic benefits; 2) result in major health benefits; 3) address racial and economic equality; 4) bridge the urban and rural divide; and 5) lead to energy security and greater resilience.

In order to have a strong, defensible CAP, we need to have quality modeling of the power and transportation sectors that will tell us what level of carbon emissions our policies and programs will achieve and at what cost. To do this we have hired Sustainable Energy Economics, a consulting group that developed the Framework for Analysis of Climate-Energy-Technology Systems (FACETS) – a world-class model that will be used to model our CAP recommendations (policies and programs).

We look forward to sharing our modeling results with stakeholders and governmental officials in Door County and other cities and counties across Wisconsin. We recognize that Door County has many unique characteristics, such as extensive coastal areas, tremendous biodiversity and large numbers of threatened and endangered species, and an economy inextricably linked to the natural environment. These attributes make Door County more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than many other places. We greatly appreciate all the work that the Door County Climate Change Coalition is doing to raise these concerns and challenges and educate stakeholders about local climate change solutions. We look forward to any opportunities to coordinate and collaborate with opinion leaders, elected officials and other decision makers in Door County to identify and implement the most cost-effective beneficial climate solutions.

Don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected].

Keith Reopelle is Director of the Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change. Previously he was the Senior Policy Director for Clean Wisconsin. He has served on numerous energy and climate-related task forces and advisory committees. He was a member of Governor Doyle’s Task Force on Global Warming where he co-chaired the cap and trade working group. Reopelle also was a member of the Midwestern Governor’s Association Greenhouse Gas Accord advisory committee. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife ecology and a Master of Science degree in environmental communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Climate Change Coalition Fundraiser Hikes

Forest exploration hikes will be held at Newport State Park with Lee Frelich, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology. Hikes will be offered Aug. 18, beginning at 10 am at the Europe Bay Town Park. The hikes are a fundraiser for the Climate Change Coalition of Door County. The cost is $50 per person. Advance registration required; call Dick Smythe at 920.854.3330 or 920.421.0069.

The Climate Corner is a monthly column featuring a variety of writers from around the state and Door County addressing various aspects of the challenges and opportunities climate change presents. The Corner is sponsored by the Climate Change Coalition of Door County, which is dedicated to “helping to keep our planet a cool place to live.” The Coalition is always open to new members and ideas. Contact the Coalition at [email protected].

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