Eau Claire aims at becoming carbon neutral

Published: Apr. 19, 2018 at 6:22 PM CDT
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The City of Eau Claire is looking beyond recycling to reduce its carbon footprint, becoming the first municipality in Wisconsin to approve a sustainability plan pledging carbon neutrality.

The city is also the second in the state to focus on renewable energy efforts. In February 2018, the city council approved a plan for Eau Claire to become carbon neutral by the year 2050. The overall goal of carbon neutrality is to achieve a zero carbon footprint, making the environment cleaner and safer.

Kate Beaton, city council member says concerns of climate change became a topic of focus among herself and other council members after President Trump made announced the country would pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

"We decided that with a lack of leadership on the federal level, we needed to do more locally to do our part to reduce carbon emissions and kind of mitigate the effects of climate change locally," says Beaton.

The city established and approved a plan with a set of goals supporting carbon neutrality. "100 percent renewable energy used city wide by 2050, both the city operations like our city buses and the energy that we use to light our buildings, says Beaton” The city hopes to meet this goal both publically and privately among homes and business owners.

Tyler Huebner , Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin, is a nonprofit organization working to promote increased use of renewable energy. "Eau Claire is on the front end of looking at addressing their carbon emissions," said Huebner.

"Right now we get a lot of our electricity and our heating fuel through coal and natural gas and since we don’t have any of that in Wisconsin, we send a bunch of money out of state whereas if we can transition to wind and solar and bio energy that we're making here in Wisconsin, that’s a lot more revenue that goes to Wisconsin."

The city is still in the early stages of this plan but says they're receiving positive support, including from officials with Xcel Energy. "We were pleased to see what the city's new sustainability goals are, as they look to the future and as far as reducing carbon emissions and looking to other alternatives basically to power the city. It’s still very new for the city as well and we really look forward to working with them to help them accomplish their goals," says Chris Ouellette, Xcel Energy spokesperson.

Just as the city of Eau Claire, Xcel Energy has a similar goal. “We have a goal of being carbon free, 80 percent carbon free by 2030 as a company and to achieve those goals we’ve turned to wind, we’ve turned to solar,” said Ouellette.

Xcel Energy’s community solar garden is one of the efforts. “We have plans to build two more community solar gardens here in Wisconsin, one by lacrosse and we’re hoping to build one up by Ashland,” says Ouellette.

The city council says a recent survey showed that eighty-two percent of people in Eau Claire were willing to pay at least $10 more per month in their energy usage in order to switch over to renewables.