Genrich celebrates Earth Day with grant news

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – The City of Green Bay has reason to celebrate Earth Day, April 22, because it announced it received an $87,000 comprehensive energy planning grant from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC).

“I think we are the second highest scoring grant application in this category,” said Genrich. “So a real tribute to Resilience Coordinator Melissa Schmitz and the sustainability commission for winning this grant for the City of Green Bay and putting us on a realistic path towards 100% renewable energy by 2050.”

PSC provides $10 million in funding from the Energy Innovation Grant Program ranging from $26,136 to $1 million in three different categories Renewable Energy and Energy Storage, Comprehensive Energy Planning and Energy Efficiency and Demand Response.

Grants were awarded to 46 projects.

“This grant will really allow us to be a lot more strategic and take things to a higher level in terms of bringing more renewable energy to Green Bay City and society at large,” said Genrich.

He said the city made the grant announcement at No. Green Bay Metro Fire Station. 5 because of the recently installed solar panels.

“We have five solar panels on the roof,” says Genrich. “They finished last summer. The board at the time made a commitment to devote some of those resources (excess stadium taxes) to renewable energy upgrades… And that was kind of a demonstration of some of the work we had done.”

The grant announcement comes just days after the city’s Sustainability Committee presented a long-term strike plan to achieve its 100% clean energy goal by 2050.

“I am thrilled to be one of the first presentations before our newly inaugurated City Council,” said Sustainability Commission Chair Seth Hoffmeister. “And I am even more pleased that it was well received and that our work plan was unanimously endorsed. On Earth Day today, it’s an important step forward and the work we’ve been doing over the years in the city of Green Bay, We’re starting to talk about… the very impactful things we can do as a community. One of them is about climate resilience. We know that if we switch to 100% clean energy today we will still feel the effects of climate change… There has to be a better way, and by finding out now before it’s too late, we can do it… It will take all of us, but the work that has been done we’ve done in the last four years shows me that we’re just getting started. And I can’t wait to move forward with all of you on this climate action plan.”

Schmitz said the grant money would be used to create community-wide energy and decarbonization plans.

“It will have actionable steps on how we can achieve our clean energy goals by 2050,” he said. “As three of the biggest energy users – Green Bay Water Utility, the city as a whole and Green Bay Metro Transit, we feel that taking this collaborative approach is to increase the success of our community and really put the plan forward. We recognize that energy planning and environmental justice must be tackled together.”

Schmitz said the first phase of the project will focus on seeking community input and community outreach.

“We’ve identified different ways to be able to do that,” he said. “We will also be working with our consulting partner with whom we also received grants, Slipstream (Group, Inc.), who has a wealth of experience with public outreach and developing educational materials and working with cities throughout Wisconsin and doing comprehensive energy planning.”

Schmitz said the next phase would include compiling the basic energy.

“So we’re going to be engaging with the Wisconsin Public Service with that, to really get a complete picture of our community’s energy use from the business sector to the residential sector as well,” he said. “And once we do, we will conduct a series of very in-depth energy audits of various city facilities including our water utility, and we will identify key energy and decarbonization opportunities, including transit opportunities for electrification.”

Schmitz said the final report would serve as a roadmap for implementing changes over the next 10 to 20 years.

He said so far, the city’s efforts towards clean energy have received tremendous community support from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UWGB) and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC).

“As our partners, UWGB and NWTC students will have the opportunity to learn firsthand from this project by conducting energy audits, solar site assessments and assisting the city with some data compilation, which is very labor intensive. So we are very grateful to our partners with those educational institutions,” said Schmitz.

He said his department would take the lead in the implementation and management of the grant project.

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