This is a recording and transcript of a presentation from Kate Beaton, the Western Wisconsin organizer of Wisconsin Conservation Voters, and the Environmental Action Team (HEAT) of Health Dunn Right. In the presentation Kate discusses the Clean Energy Resolution that has been passed by a few government organizations in Western Wisconsin. 

Machine-aided Transcript:

Cheryl: City Council in 2017, she led the charge to make Auclair carbon neutral by 2050. And she has since worked with nine other municipalities across western Wisconsin to help local governments lead the movement for an equitable transition to clean energy. So welcome, Kate. We're glad to have you here. Yes, thank  you.

Kate Beaton 2:27
Okay, so um, so like Cheryl said, I wanted to talk to you all about on local governments leading the Clean Energy movement in Wisconsin, there is an opportunity in Dunn County, to take take the lead on clean energy, similar to what Menominee did earlier this year. And so, but I wanted to start just by talking about generally, local governments and why they're doing this. Currently, in the United States, one in three Americans are represented by governments that have made commitments to achieve 100% clean energy by 2050, or sooner. So that would include, you know, cities like Menominee cities, like oh, Claire, and Eau Claire County. And it would also include, you know, people in entire states that have made this commitment. So actually, in the state of Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers has made this commitment as well. And so it's, it's really become not an uncommon thing. And when you think about, you know, one in three Americans, that's quite a lot. And, and I, I think that the, the real inspiring thing is that governments of all levels are really committing to, to do their part, and recognizing that it's going to take all of us in order to to achieve that. here in Wisconsin, the we've had a lot of communities, a lot of municipalities make this commitment. Here in western Wisconsin, we have the city of Eau Claire, the city of Menominee, the city of El cross, Oakland County, and La Crosse County, and the Eau Claire Area School District. There are this is not an exhaustive list, and there are lots of communities that have have made this commitment as well. And there are lots of communities that are sort of in the process of making this commitment to so just recognize this is not an exhaustive list. And there are lots of reasons why local communities are doing this. Obviously, you know, not burning fossil fuels, results in cleaner air and water and it's good for our health. Climate Change and the effects of climate change are costing our communities primarily in Wisconsin, we see flooding really impacting our communities and costing, you know small communities and rural communities a lot of money to replace infrastructure public and private that has been damaged by flooding. So it's it's it's a matter of, you know, we can't afford it. Not to address these issues. But to make things even the deal even sweeter, clean energy is actually a really good investment for communities, especially communities, like many in Wisconsin that are facing budget shortfalls, the average cost of energy in North America has actually the Clean Energy has actually dipped below dirty energy that happened around 2015. And so to invest in solar and wind in our local communities, is going to be a great financial investment for for the future, over investing in you know, gas or coal powered plants. Clean Energy, the the clean energy jobs sector has also been growing in massively in the last decade or so, and actually is, is growing at a large a greater rate than the general job market, and certainly far exceeding the rate of growth in the dirty energy sector. So the number of jobs in clean energy actually exceeds the number of jobs in oil and gas, and coal. And and and obviously, you can see in the graph on the bottom there that those jobs in oil, gas and coal are actually decreasing while jobs in the clean energy sector are increasing. And lastly, especially I think this one is especially important for rural communities like in Dunn County, clean energy can bring new revenue options to farmers that are really struggling financially. Right now, I've read statistics that show that farmers can make three to four times more per acre, when they're, you know, creating energy with wind and solar than they would with crop farming. And often, they can do both, and really like double dip and and raise revenue that way. And so that's for a lot of those reasons. Eau Claire made the choice to commit to 100% clean energy. We are our journey with sustainability really started back in 2017. But we've made steady and incremental changes to eventually come to the place where we're passing, completing and passing our renewable energy action plan earlier this year. We've also, I think, a couple of really key

key points and key moments was also the creation of the Advisory Committee on sustainability back in 2014, that has really led the charge to make our city more sustainable since then, and is taking on the responsibility of ensuring that this renewable energy action plan is coming to fruition. So the renewable energy action plan comes in four parts. It was funded with the with a grant of 100 180,000 grant from the Public Service Commission, our process was facilitated by Xcel Energy, which, as you all may know, Xcel Energy is one of the leading energy utilities in the country in terms of clean energy and have set their own carbon neutral electricity goal. And so we are really lucky to have Xcel Energy as a partner to help build a plan that's, you know, feasible and fits in with what they have planned as well. There were 46 community members that met over seven months, all representing lots of different diverse sectors of our community that all have a stake in our clean energy future. We use three guiding principles, the first and my, you know, in my belief, the most important was our equity and inclusiveness principle, the idea that we should never be driving forward with these plans for clean energy in a way that's actually going to hurt people. There are, you know, there are ways to do it, where we're addressing climate change, but we're actually furthering the divide between people with resources and people who are under resourced. So we want to make sure that we're making equitable transitions to clean energy. We want to make sure that our our, our energy transition is smart economically, that it actually grows our economy and our and our budgets. And of course, that we're being stewards to our ecosystem. The outcome was a 10 year plan. So it'll take us until it'll take us to 2030. And then the idea is that the plan will be updated after that. And I think that's a really important piece because, you know, when we think about achieving 100%, clean energy, I think that there's technology that doesn't even exist yet in order to allow us to reach that goal. And so to have a 10 year plan that is updated gives us the flexibility to update the plan with those new technologies that will surely be created in the next 10 years. The plan is 351 pages in total and have has three parts. And they the policy categories, it's sort of broken up into different policy categories that are important and key to the plan. This is sort of a projection of how much based on the policies that were recommended, how much energy we can cut in the next 10 years. And then on the top there, you'll see sort of our benchmarks for the whole 30 year process up until 2050, you can see that we're planning to really, to ramp up a lot more significantly, as the years go on. And hopefully as we get better at what we're doing, and as the technology empowers us to be more aggressive. So I like to pick out a couple of policy samples because I think that's a big question. So these are all found within the renewable energy action plan. But if you're curious, the plan is available on the city website. And so you can see you can see what you know what other policy recommendations have been made, but So, based on those five categories and the biodiversity callate category, a policy recommendation is to require naturalized spaces and each new development 5% for residential and 10 for percent for non residential in the residential policy category to pass a home energy rating ordinance to to give homeowners and renters an idea of how energy efficient their home is and where where improvements can be made. In the transportation category to pass an ordinance requiring Eevee parking in you know, maybe city lots or even private lots in the waste category, working with haulers to create composting programs which in Eau Claire, we have one hauler who does offer composting services, but we think we have like eight haulers in in Eau Claire. And so working with the rest of the haulers to make that an option for their customers. And then finally in the commercial, industrial and institutional category, increasing education and use of the city's net zero building Guide, which is one of the three documents that were created out of this plan.

So like I said, here in Dunn County, we do have an opportunity to do something similar, I should say and backup that the city of Eau Claire passed our our goal to set 100% clean energy by 2050 back in 2018. And actually the Eau Claire county followed suit and passed a similar commitment in 2019. And so Auclair County, La Crosse County and Dane County have all passed these commitments. And so this is not the first time that I Wisconsin county is considering this. And actually Brown County is very close to setting a goal as well. So we are sort of, in here in the Chippewa Valley, we're a sort of a clean energy hub, I would say. And so we're looking to Dunn county to follow suit of those, you know, communities in Eau Claire County, as well as Menominee, that are also passed a resolution in 2020. So I've been working with Don keator, who sits on the county board, and as on the Facilities Committee, we are working to hopefully pass a resolution to set a goal of 100% clean energy by 2015. So far, the Facilities Committee has heard a presentation from me and had a discussion about this idea. And and it went very well. There were a lot of questions. And I think a lot of learning that was happening. But generally, I think the committee saw that it was a good financial investment and and a good a good and moral thing to do for our future generations. So so I think that that discussion went well there at this meeting in this month on February 24. They're having a follow up discussion to really nail down exactly what they want to do. I am recommending that they pass a resolution to set that vision to sort of give give the consent of the county board for the city staff and other county board members to really start to chip away at those steps like creating a plan or creating a committee. And so our recommendation is to pass the resolution but of course the the Facilities Committee is still sort of deciding what their next step is. We're hoping that in the at the March meeting, they will have something written to vote on and to hopefully vote in favor of and then the whatever that is, hopefully or Resolution, that resolution would go on to the administrative committee and then on to the full county board for a for a vote. And so, you know, if if this is successful, and the county does indeed make a commitment to clean energy, our recommendations, as the next step would be to create an official county committee dedicated to sustainability. Just like this, the city of Eau Claire has sort of a committee of may potentially both county board members and community members to to continually be thinking about what is the next, the next step and really keeping the county accountable to the plan that they would hopefully create,

Unknown Speaker 15:44
as well.

Kate Beaton 15:46
So my asks for you, as the heat committee is to individually, contact the Facilities Committee before February 24, you can call them or you can attend their virtual meeting. And it's, it's over zoom. So it's pretty easy to attend, just from the safety of your own home. But basically, we want to, we want to sort of gently show that the committee that there is community support for this residence, this idea, ideally for resolution, and to let the committee know that, you know, the community has an eye on this and really is expecting and hoping that they'll that they'll pass a strong resolution. My second ask is for heat to consider writing a letter of support to the county board. I know that that heat is sort of a branch of the county. And I think that given that heat is a, you know, the primary group that is focused on sustainability for the county, I think it would be great for for heat to weigh in. And to show support for for this initiative to the full county board. I think that it's it would probably be it would be most effective, going to the full county board rather than, you know, a couple of committee members. So that's sort of my ask for you to consider. I will stop there a little early and open it up for questions

Unknown Speaker 17:14
if you have them. Great questions,

Steve Hogseth 17:19
people have some questions up. It was kind of like drinking out of a firehose of information there. Do you mean, I have several questions, but I'll take them one at a time. You, you made a comment about renewable energy better for farmers financially. And I was wondering if you could just elaborate on that a little bit more, Cade? And explain what you mean. And give us some examples, because that is an important element here. And Connie is our farming community, and we want to get those people on board. So if you could tell us.

Unknown Speaker 18:09

Unknown Speaker 18:10
yeah, absolutely.

Steve Hogseth 18:11
You support that a little bit?

Kate Beaton 18:14
Sure. Um, so the idea behind this is, I guess, to start, we all know that crop yield is is, is providing less and less revenue for farmers, and that farmers are going out of business at an unprecedented rate. And so I think that that's really like the key point here, and why we should be looking at clean energy as an alternative revenue source for our farmers. I think the idea is to look at developing either solar or wind on farmland. And the idea is that you could, you know, you could have an acre of land and have a bunch of solar panels and also, you know, crop that that land as well maybe do a half and half, I think ideally, a farmer could put up a windmill, and that that land underneath the windmill could be farmed almost exactly like if it had in the past. And so in that instance, you could be creating clean energy and yielding a crop for both for two different revenue sources on that one acre of land. And so, so that's, that's sort of the idea behind why it's a good, you know, good financial situation for farmers. And the fact that that clean energy is it just, it provides more revenue generally per acre for for farmers as the revenue for cropland is decreasing. And so I think that that is that's really the the key there. I do know, as well that the Farmers Union has taken up, clean energy and climate changes. One of their primary like issues, I think they have four or five issues that they take on every year. And it's one of them. And I've also started working with the Dunn county Farmers Union as well here in in Dunn County. So I, I recognize I have a strong belief that farmers have the most to lose in climate change as their, you know, their farm land is flooded, and droughts are occurring at a higher rate as well. And they also have the most to gain with energy, clean energy development. And so I think, especially in a county like Dunn County, it's really critical that we are pulling in farmers and, and allowing them to really lead this process. Like I said, in Eau Claire County, we've, we had a committee of or in the city of Eau Claire, we had a committee of stakeholders. Since we're a city, we that that list of stakeholders did not include farmers. But for a county like done County. If there was a stakeholder led process to create a plan or even carry out a plan. I strongly believe that that that, you know, committee needs to be well represented with farmers. So

Lindsey 21:16
a couple questions. Lindsay with landmark Conservancy, we are doing some resiliency work, we work in 20 counties, I think we've met. So it's a pretty I'm very passionate about resiliency and climate. A couple questions. So and I'm a little worried one around our ability over the next 35 years to truly impact weather systems.

Unknown Speaker 21:39
I question

Lindsey 21:41
that just between you and me. So when I'm up in bayfield, trying to convince them to do land protection and protect forestry. I'm also saying I can't guarantee you you're not going to have floods either, because we I don't think it's clear in the climate models. How how much energy work we're going to do will slow down or shift weather systems. Do you run into those issues? Because I do feel like that is a tricky messaging point. Because on some level, it sounds great, because we're going to solve all these big expenses, all this flooding. But I have not seen a model yet that says that that will actually happen.

Unknown Speaker 22:19
So we can put the genie back in the bottle. Does that make sense?

Kate Beaton 22:22
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that I think that can't science can't guarantee any of that. Right? I think science has proven that, you know, the the increased flooding and droughts is a result of human caused climate change. And it certainly and i think that i think there's agreement that like if we if we do nothing, that's only going to get worse. And so the best we can do is do something and hope for the best. And I do know, too, that the international Panel on Climate Change, has put out reports that if we if we don't pursue 100%, clean energy by 2050, that that's really a benchmark for irreversible damage, that there's still time now to reverse something. And I think what that is we don't know. But we do have sort of a benchmark where like, if we do nothing, then we're not going back. We're not putting the genie back in the bottle. But I think that there's, there's there, I think that there's a consensus in the science community that there's it's not too late to like at least reverse some of the damage that we've done.

Lindsey 23:33
And I agree with you there. And the other real quick question or two other so so I don't mean to take up too much time. But when we do talk about under resourced communities, and this has been a huge issue that we're all trying to wrap our arms around, we tend to forget that a lot of these small white rural towns are equally depressed financially with women averaging 20 to 23,000 a year annually, trying to raise a family. And I'm a little worried because the body politics now there are Trump signs everywhere I live in Dunn county out in the rural area there Trump signs everywhere, we're still in a huge political, you know, is occurring in in rural areas, not in Menominee. Menominee is the progressive part. But if you get out there, it's still the NX is still very real. So anyway, I just feel like sometimes we'll go and use the word Oh, we need to be more diversified. And I'm a queer woman. I lived through AIDS epidemic. I know what it's like to be a minority. But we have to be super careful right now that we don't create a dynamic where they their needs aren't seen as underserved, if that makes sense. And I'm struggling politically to have these conversations because a lot of times it's the urban people and it's all about Black Lives ladder, and I'm all there. I'm all there but we have a huge amount of white people getting screwed in rural America. That said, I've done my little preaching and I really apologize, but I do think we have to be very careful when we use Those words, and then around biodiversity we actually

Kate Beaton 25:05
I think this is a really, really important piece. And and i think i think that you're right that underserved and under resourced. It means different things in different communities. Yeah, I think often I think the the lowest hanging fruit that we can make in terms of these goals and making sure that we're not leaving anybody behind is actually with housing, and making sure that our housing is brought up to a level where, like sufficient energy efficiency standards, both so that people aren't burning energy and using energy and contributing to climate change, but also because so that they're not spending $500 a month on to heat their home, right. I live in a house in Eau Claire, Third Ward, it's 100 years old, and I had an energy audit and found that there is literally almost no insulation in the entire house, the R value was five in the attic, which is supposed to be 50. There's no insulation in the walls, and no insulation in my crawlspace is in the basement. And so, you know, this is a pretty nice house. And I can only imagine what kind of energy efficiency hoarders are existing in some of the the lower standard housing, and that in Eau Claire, that housing those housing stocks are, are serving people of low income, often disproportionately people of color in Eau Claire. But that meant that population might look differently, and you know, rural white, Wisconsin, and so I think my point about not leaving people behind is, is really is really like meeting the needs of the community, whatever that means. Whether it's it means a racial needs or income meet needs or whatever, what have you.

Lindsey 26:54
But a lot of people are hearing those words and just going to color it's just happening right now. I mean, people didn't want to watch the Super Bowl because of racial issues being discussed politically. I mean, I so I just want to be super careful. In this heated, heated, heated and then last but not least, I question the biodiversity strategy that you're using an Eau Claire. We know random acts of conservation are not going to retain biodiversity. We've done enormous amount of analysis we've identified where we need to do land protection to ensure in 30 to 50 years, we actually have some kind of biodiversity we are under huge crisis. So yours is a little bit more like a random act of Oh, we have a housing developments we want to protect a little bit. The truth is that's not going to work long term. So I'd love to chat longer. Because if we do some sort of conservation strategy and done, I want to make sure landmarks engaged, and we're protecting biodiversity for 50 years, and I shut up I apologize. I got a lot. You guys are used to me. Sorry.

Unknown Speaker 27:57
Yeah, I

Kate Beaton 27:59
remember in low care plan, and not saying that is perfect. But remember, it's, it's addressing the whole city of Eau Claire, where there's just less opportunity to protect like large swaths of land. And so I think that's why local action on climate change and clean energy is so powerful because a local community like Dunn county can recognize like, we have a lot more opportunity to conserve land and biodiversity in the county. And so, you know, if we're creating our plan, we want to make sure that conservancies are represented and experts in Land Conservancy are at the table and giving those recommendations so that, you know, it's as powerful as it can be, and intentional as it can be. Like it for example,

Lindsey 28:44
we're we're in the process of purchasing property property from Excel that were used when they were originally going to be a nuclear power plant built. And it is held up in Joint Finance right now. It's probably I don't know, 600 acres, it's beautiful land to be protected. And if we could find ways for people to find political muscle to push the people up above. And Catherine Catholic Brenner, Kathleen Brenner, I think is a senator from around above you. She's on joy finance now, and will be a power broker. I think we're going to try to get together with her. But Kate, I think that's it, you know, this more than any, you know, we build that swell of interest on the grass that help move people like her in a positive direction. And you do a great job. I'm so impressed, so impressed.

Kathy 29:30
And I guess this is I think there's a message here that it's important for us to get out to all of our conservation groups. And, you know, Kate, what, what I'd like to see if possible, I've tried to took a copious notes and when you're talking is to get those notes out to all of our conservation groups. There are so many things happening right now in Dunn County, for instance, the land division ordinance is being considered and they are talking they you know, the members of the PRD are talking about what be the most conservation and ag protected a way of dividing the land. So we need to, you know, we need to get your points out to all of the groups that, you know, we're, you know, we communicate with, I'd like to get a couple of questions. And I think Steve hawks have had some questions to several several things. You know, Kate, when you talked about it talked about the the plan that you put together or not you but the group put together in what you certainly, but the group put together and Eau Claire, there's a lot of technical information in there, how do how do we get that kind of powerful information do so that the done county can make those kinds of decisions? And that's one question. And secondly, how do we deal with the pushback that wind energy is getting from farmers and neighbors? So two questions?

Kate Beaton 31:00
Yeah, so I think so like you, like I said in the presentation, our plan costs at $180,000. To create that was funded, though, by the Public Service Commission. And those grants are still available, and actually, Wisconsin Conservation Voters is really, that's one of our highest priorities is to create new resources for cities to both plan and support staff planning staff were tasked with carrying out these plans. So there are some resources, we're hoping for more. I think that as, as we continue to see communities taking these steps, and being the first to invest in these plans, my hope is that there can be, you know, communities like done county that maybe have a smaller planning staff a smaller budget, that can can see plans created from other counties and just sort of, maybe still have to invest them into creating a plan, but use a lot less money, because those plans are already created, there's no reason to recreate the wheel, you can just sort of like, tailor your plan based on the other plans that are created and tailor it to the needs of your community. So,

Unknown Speaker 32:09

Kate Beaton 32:10
so that's, that's, I would say, that's my hope. But I think that, you know, we should all be clear that, you know, it's going to take some work, and it's going to take some money and creativity to create plans and actually make the investments that needs to be made.

Unknown Speaker 32:27
But, you know,

Kate Beaton 32:28
I think my argument is that it's well worth it. The the wind issue is certainly, I think, probably one of our biggest hurdles in our transition to clean energy. There's a lot of concern about wind. And, but I think that we have also seen models and in other states that bring people together in a really authentic conversation to really learn about what's, what it is, what the real concerns are, and, and debunk the untrue concerns of wind, and really get the community bought in together around that idea. I think that in Wisconsin, we've seen winds developments like industrial level wind developments, done in a way that is not not effective in bringing along the community. And so I think that's something that we really need to work on and, and find a way to do it. I, truthfully, I think it's a big challenge. And it's something I'm still puzzling over too.

Unknown Speaker 33:36
We have a few more minutes or any other

Steve Hogseth 33:40
comment or two. And then the first one is, you mentioned the zoom meeting on February 24. Could you send us all an invite to that?

Unknown Speaker 33:56
Yeah, I

Kathy 33:57
believe I can do I can do that, too. You know, the facility. So you know, Kate? Kate doesn't have to do one more detail. Okay.

Steve Hogseth 34:04
All right.

Unknown Speaker 34:07
I did check the agenda this morning to see if I could provide you with the agenda and the link, but it's not available yet. So it's typically available like a week ahead of time. So I'll be looking out for it too. And so, Kathy, or I will, we'll send it to you

Steve Hogseth 34:21
know, and then I wanted to make a comment you mentioned your Third Ward house with our five in the attic. When we moved to Menominee back in mid 2018. within nine months, we did a thorough energy audit of our condominium and we ended up really doing energy efficiency things are new windows was one of them but don't know we went to we went to look at insulation. And we also looked at we pressurize the house to see where all the air leaks. infiltration was, and we had worked on there, and we had the installation. And we we got a very significant rebate on that. And I do not recall what that rebate is. But that needs to be known more by the public. And I don't even know if it's still going on. Maybe you do.

Kate Beaton 35:22
Yeah, actually, I, I now have an R values 50. In my attic, I didn't I did the work, you'll have a lot of energy efficiency work to do. But there were rebates available from focus on energy and and I believe there's also a tax credit that I haven't received yet, but will this year for that work. So the the rebates are not insignificant. And I actually worked through the brand new green homeowners united program to help me fund the project through a mortgage refinancing program. So I am now using a third less energy in my home this this winter compared to last winter, and I'm very happy with the results. And so would be glad to talk to you more about any of you more about that.

Steve Hogseth 36:13
Sure. And then you add another slide. That was a, you mentioned equity and inclusiveness. And you were going down it was kind of quickly. I was wondering, I've kind of caught my attention. Could you comment on that just a little more depth? Um, yeah,

Kate Beaton 36:34
I mean, I think so to use an example of a good a good idea to move forward with the Clean Energy movement in an equitable way. I think I would use the the energy efficiency idea that I mentioned earlier, that, that helps people save money, while also, you know, contributing to a solution to climate change to increase that efficiency and not burn as much fossil fuels. I think an idea that is inequitable, inequitable would be, you know, perhaps requiring solar on every new every new building and every existing building in the city. I think that you know, that's a, that's certainly a big ask that I think that we would probably wouldn't consider at this time. But you can you can see how to, to put solar on every single residential house would be a great a great thing in terms of reducing our fossil fuel usage. But it really increases it would increase housing prices, and a time when a lot of people in our community can't afford a safe and affordable house, even now. And so that would be sort of a an example of of how our good intention to actions that do are a solution to climate change would actually end up hurting a population of people. Did you have any other specific questions to that, though?

Steve Hogseth 37:59

Sandy White 38:00
Okay. I know, Sandy, this will be the last question, guys, because we're running a little bit over. And Sandra, I know that you had a question for? Well, I wanted to make a couple comments. Okay, first of all, I sit on the executive board for the Dunn county Democrats, we have a meeting tonight. So I am going to take forward about the Facilities Committee contacting those individuals, and then also working on writing letters of support for the county board. And also to and on the resolution committee. And we're writing up some resolutions for the third congressional district to submit in March. So I can help you know, move some of that board. And I we did have like five climate change on there, as some of this underneath, you know, your presentation. I also would like to ask you, kay to if I could submit your name tonight as to present before our Denton County Democrats, we have a P, we meet the fourth Wednesday of the month, and we have a presentation, we always ask, you know, one or two individuals to present on some topic, and I think this would be an excellent presentation to take to them. And because we need to get our members all involved in helping and and from a political perspective, writing our congressman and written representatives on, you know, to emphasize how important this is to residents in the state of Wisconsin, and how can we help move this forward not only on a state level, but then also underneath Biden's plan on a federal level?

Unknown Speaker 39:40
Yeah, absolutely. I would be more than happy to speak to the Dunn county Democrats. Just you know, my email address. So just follow up with me about the details. Um, I am pleased to hear that it might come up tonight as well and I could be available for that meeting as well. So if you

Sandy White 40:00
wouldn't need you tonight. But I was thinking maybe we're looking for a speaker for the fourth Wednesday the 27th. Okay.

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