Electric School Buses Arrive in Wisconsin

Electric School Buses Arrive in Wisconsin

The Palmyra-Eagle Area School District, in collaboration with Dousman Transport Company, has deployed Wisconsin’s first registered electric school buses. The new buses were funded through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean School Bus Program.

The community joined the district for a celebration on Wednesday, October 25, at the Irving L. Young Community Center on the Palmyra-Eagle Middle and High School campus. Palmyra-Eagle Area School District not only has the first registered electric school buses in Wisconsin but is the first district to switch over its entire fleet to electric.

Ryan Krohn, Palmyra-Eagle School District Superintendent, said, “As we look at where we’re going, in our mission statement we talk about the word innovation, and while our school district prides itself on performance excellence, there’s also a time for us to think about the future and sustainability.”

Krohn’s Full Comments:


The new superintendent also noted that the buses will help to keep district dollars in the classroom and support learning.

When considering whether to apply for the funding former Palmyra-Eagle School District Gray asked, “What do we save in fuel costs?”

Upon learning that number he determined quickly that it was a done deal.

“We’ve got to do this, we’re talking $50,000 – $60,000 on up in fuel savings and that’s a big number to our district here,” Gray said.

The district received $2.4 million through the Clean Bus Program to acquire all six electric school buses and install charging stations. The Clean Bus Program, which is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021, covered the full cost of the buses for the district.

Fourteen additional Wisconsin schools, which also received Clean Bus Program funding, will receive their buses over the next few months.

By giving districts the opportunity to acquire these buses without having to use district dollars they are able to immediately start saving on fuel costs.

During the celebration one bus driver noted that fully charging the bus they were driving only cost $4. For perspective that’s less than a single gallon of diesel at the time of writing.

The implementation of electric buses will lead to healthier communities and smoother, quieter rides for students. Fully charged, the electric buses, manufactured by IC Bus, can travel around 135 miles. This transition to electric school buses means healthier, quieter rides for the approximately 325 Palmyra-Eagle students who currently take the bus to school.

“In all my years of administration I’ve never seen such excitement over yellow buses,” Gray said.

RENEW Wisconsin Hosts Electric School Bus Events

RENEW Wisconsin Hosts Electric School Bus Events

On Wednesday, September 20, RENEW Wisconsin held multiple events focused on the benefits electric school buses (ESB) can bring to Wisconsin. The EPA’s Clean School Bus Program provides $5 billion over five years to replace existing school buses with zero-emission and low-emission models. RENEW worked with Lion Electric to bring an electric school bus to Wisconsin, promoting the health and financial benefits of clean transportation.

 To start the day, RENEW held private tours of a Lion Electric school bus for Republican Legislators in conjunction with the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum and private tours for Democratic Legislators in conjunction with Wisconsin Conservation Voters. Both events provided a platform for attendees to ask questions about the bus and program to Lion Electric and RENEW Staff.

After the private tours, RENEW and Lion Electric staff opened the electric bus tours to the public, inviting passersby and anyone interested to ride the bus around the Capitol and ask questions of the experts.

RENEW and Lion Electric ended the day at Forest Edge Elementary School, offering the opportunity to tour the bus, hear from students why they want to electrify their school’s transportation, and tour the Forest Edge facility, Wisconsin’s first net zero school!

RENEW was grateful for the opportunity to bring an electric school bus
to the public and private sectors. The EPA announced the opening of
its 2023 Clean School Bus Program on September 28, 2023, which will remain open until January 31, 2024. To learn more or ask questions about this
program, please reach out to RENEW Emerging Technologies Director
Francisco Sayu.

Speeches from Forest Edge: 

Why do fifth graders want Electric School Buses? 
Why do Seniors want Electric School Buses?

Why I Purchased a Used Plug-in Hybrid

Why I Purchased a Used Plug-in Hybrid

The transition to a clean and renewable economy includes many paths from all the economic sectors. Some of the transition decisions are made by government, some by business and NGOs, and some by individuals. When it comes to individuals, there are multiple options, such as where we live, our homes and how we live in them, what we eat, what we throw away, and how we travel, to name a few.

When it comes to getting around, the options are varied: walking, biking, ride-sharing, using public transportation, and driving a car, whether gas or electric. In most cases, it’s a combination of these options.

As a self-proclaimed energy geek, I take pride in regularly assessing my energy footprint. I’ve been doing this since the first Earth Day in 1970 when I was a junior in college (yes, I’m dating myself!). I’ve also been labeled as “frugal” by my friends and acquaintances, an apt label considering I still have some shirts from the 1970s. Both my educational training and work in the clean energy space over 40-plus years allow me to tackle both energy and financial impacts systematically.

This particular skill set came in handy when my 2010 Toyota Prius, with 135,000 miles, started to show signs of age and expense. It was time to use my energy assessment tools and frugal habits to select the best vehicle that fit my values. For me, the decision was based on current and future driving patterns, energy and environmental impact, and price ( incentives included).

I walk or bike for most of my short trips in Madison, WI, that are 5 miles or less. My partner of eight years lives almost 10 miles away, and I usually drive to her place three or four times each week. We are both retired and go on occasional daily or weekly road trips that can be hundreds of miles away.

The Inflation Reduction Act now offers up to $4,000 tax credit for qualified used plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that are at least two years old, are purchased after December 31, 2022, from a certified car dealer, cost less than $25,000, and have 7 KW or higher battery storage. To be eligible for the tax credit, an individual must have an Adjusted Gross Income of $75,000 or less and $150,000 or less for married couples for the current or previous tax year.

So, for me, the goal was to find a plug-in electric hybrid that delivered at least 25 miles on electric power, got good gas mileage, had less than 50,000 miles on the odometer, and would qualify for the federal tax credit.

The most likely candidates to fit these requirements were the Toyota Prius Prime, the Hyundai Ionic, and the Kia Niro. All three could be charged overnight using a standard 120-volt outlet, which I had next to my driveway. There are pros and cons for each of these, based on personal preferences and price. In total, my search lasted about six months.

Major online car retailers, like Carfax and Autotrader, helped to determine what was available within a reasonable distance from Madison. Unfortunately, I was unable to find eligible vehicles in the immediate Madison area during this time period. Locating an eligible vehicle for less than $25,000 was also a major limiting variable.

Eventually, I found and purchased a 2018 Toyota Prius Prime from a car dealership in Eau Claire, WI, that met my requirements. After almost three months of charging and driving, I’m pleased with my purchase. The car has been delivering a pretty standard 30-31 miles on pure electric power in town, and 54 to 58 miles per gallon.

After about 2,000 miles I’ve used just 15 gallons of gas. Depending on my final tax status, I’ll have a highly energy-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicle for about $20,000. This definitely meets my energy and frugality goals. I credit the Inflation Reduction Act as key in focusing my attention on a vehicle that allowed me to fulfill my goals.

– Don Wichert
Emeritus Board Member and Founder of RENEW Wisconsin

Energy Concepts Seeks to Waive Individual Electric Metering Requirements

Energy Concepts Seeks to Waive Individual Electric Metering Requirements

Energy Concepts LLC (Energy Concepts) has requested a waiver of individual electric metering requirements for the Prairie Heights Residences, a multifamily residence under development in Eau Claire. The petition presented to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) seeks this waiver to simplify the integration of high-performance building insulation, electrically powered Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) heat pump technology, and onsite solar into this new apartment building.

The development team—Gerrard Companies (developer), West CAP (property operator/manager) and Energy Concepts (energy system designer)—are collaborating to achieve significant reductions in overall building energy usage, minimizing tenant exposure to high energy costs. Meter consolidation is crucial to optimize the cost-effectiveness of these energy measures and pass these savings to tenants in the form of avoided utility payments.

The development team is specifically seeking to waive Wis. Admin. Code 113.0803 for the project. The Wis. Admin. Code 113.0803 states that any residential building constructed after March 1, 1980 with multiple units will be required to have a separate electric meter for each unit. This extends to any residential building with multiple units that undergoes renovations after March 1, 1980.

Allowing meter consolidation for this project is key for the implementation of the two solar arrays planned for the new apartment building. The grid-tied solar photovoltaic arrays will produce 350kW, and though it will be tied directly to the main electrical grid it’s likely only a small percent of the system’s output will be exported onto the grid, due to the relatively constant energy requirements of a building-wide VRF heat pump system

Electrically powered VRF heat pump technology is designed to provide both heating and cooling using the same equipment. Heat pumps also transfer heat rather than converting it from a fuel source, which allows properly installed systems to deliver as much as three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy it consumes. When paired with renewable energy, as in this case, heat pumps are a particularly effective solution for reaching decarbonizing goals.

The technologies planned for the affordable housing development are relatively new and were unavailable to developers when the individual electric metering requirements were created under Wis. Admin. Code 133.0803. These requirements are an economic hurdle for projects like the Prairie Heights Residences and removing this hurdle allows the developer to simplify the installation of their solar arrays. Rather than connecting an array, or in this case arrays, to 60 individual units the waiver will allow for the arrays to be connected to a single meter.

The array is expected to supply 20% of the electricity estimated to be consumed by residences in both their individual units and shared spaces. Pairing the array with the high-performance insulation and an electric heat pump, which will heat and cool the building, it is expected that tenants will experience an exceptionally efficient heating and cooling system that further insulates them from high energy bills commonly experienced with traditional heating and cooling systems.

The development team’s use of tax credits and incentives, combined with these energy-saving, CO2-reducing measures to build new affordable housing is particularly innovative. It will significantly reduce the energy burden on the low to moderate income residents the project is for. West CAP plans to reserve 85% of its 60 units for tenants at or below 60% of the median county income, with 12 units specifically reserved for homeless or disabled veterans.

RENEW Wisconsin believes the approach taken by the Prairie Heights project team to incorporate energy savings and CO2 emissions reductions in new multifamily housing is exemplary and should serve as a model for other development groups. We have submitted comments in support of the waiver and are watching the case closely. The comment period remains open to the public through July 25, 2023.

RENEW Wisconsin at the 32nd MREA Energy Fair

RENEW Wisconsin at the 32nd MREA Energy Fair

Last weekend, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) hosted the 32nd Annual Energy Fair, bringing people together to learn about sustainability and clean energy, connect with others, and take action toward a sustainable future. The Fair featured workshops, exhibitors, live music, inspiring keynote speakers, family fun, great local food, and more. 

RENEW staff presented some compelling workshops and you can download slides from their presentations below.

Zero Carbon by 2050—A Path for Wisconsin

Andrew Kell, RENEW Policy Director, discussed zero-carbon goals and ongoing planning efforts in Wisconsin. Andrew also was a guest on a live podcast, focused on Wisconsin’s Net Zero future. 

MadiSUN Workforce Training

Lauren Cohen, RENEW Program Coordinator, held a workshop regarding career growth opportunities within Wisconsin’s clean energy industry, focusing primarily on opportunities within the solar industry. 

Vehicle-to-Grid: Opportunities and Challenges

Francisco Sayu, RENEW Emerging Technology Director, discussed how Vehicle-to-Grid technology unlocks the energy stored in electric vehicles and opens opportunities for energy trading, energy management, and grid resiliency. 

Farming Sunshine: Solar and Ag Land Use 

Nolan Stumpf, one of RENEW’s Interns, presented a session regarding solar farms and the opportunities and challenges of using the land for farming purposes and advancing clean energy. 

Can Clean Energy Overcome Local Opposition? 

Michael Vickerman, RENEW Clean Energy Deployment Manager, discussed the opposition clean energy faces at the local level and how to overcome those barriers. 

Benefits and Costs of Meeting Clean Energy and Carbon Reduction Goals: New Report shows benefits of the energy transition in Wisconsin

Benefits and Costs of Meeting Clean Energy and Carbon Reduction Goals: New Report shows benefits of the energy transition in Wisconsin

In recent years, Wisconsin has set goals to expand clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At the state level, in 2019, Governor Evers set a goal for 100% carbon-free electricity in Wisconsin by 2050. Utilities across the state have also set carbon emissions reduction targets and have made plans to retire Wisconsin coal plants. These goals signal that Wisconsin is moving toward an energy transformation.

With growing momentum to meet ambitious clean energy and climate goals, RENEW Wisconsin partnered with Clean Wisconsin, GridLab, and Evolved Energy Research in 2022 to evaluate the economic impacts of Wisconsin meeting electricity and carbon dioxide reduction goals. This study resulted in the report Wisconsin’s Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050 (Evolved Report). The Evolved Report includes modeling energy system changes in two primary scenarios. The first scenario models 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050 (100% Clean Electricity), and the second scenario models net-zero carbon dioxide emissions economy-wide by 2050 in Wisconsin (Net Zero Economy-Wide).

The Evolved Report summarizes the benefits and costs associated with these scenarios. However, these summaries do not provide detailed ‘apples-to-apples’ analysis for economic comparisons. For example, the Evolved Report included annual infrastructure investment ‘system’ costs and benefits results over the 2022-2050 time period. Additionally, the Evolved Report provides health benefits using a separate modeling tool that captures benefits in snapshots in time at 2030 and 2050. However, from the perspective of climate change impacts, the Evolved Report does not monetize the benefits of carbon dioxide emissions reductions. To thoroughly compare the cost-effectiveness of these scenarios, RENEW set out to perform a supplementary analysis to bring together and compare the cost and benefits streams between now and 2050 in different modeled scenarios.

To combine the streams of benefits and costs, RENEW conducted a benefit-cost analysis of the cumulative benefits and costs of these scenarios titled Benefit and Cost Impacts of Reaching Clean Energy and Carbon Emissions Reduction Goals in Wisconsin (Benefit Cost Report). Benefit-Cost Analysis (also referred to as cost-benefit analysis) is a process that identifies, monetizes, and compares the effects of alternatives. This form of analysis is often used to compare different policies, programs, or projects. In a real-world example, The Public Service Commission often relies on intensive benefit-cost analysis to weigh a proposed utility project (such as a large solar or transmission facility) against other feasible alternatives. In short, RENEW’s Benefit Cost Report is intended for policymakers, government officials, business leaders, and those skeptical of the clean energy transition or concerned that the negative economic impacts of this transition will outweigh the benefits.

To complete this benefit-cost analysis, RENEW staff worked closely with the lead modeler to receive and understand all the data behind the many facts and figures in the Evolved Report. The RENEW team then analyzed the data by interpolating the time series data and discounting the data over time to accurately compare costs and benefits occuring at the different points over multiple decades. This process ensured value streams were accurately identified, separated, compared on common terms, and not double counted in total results. An additional description of the analytical process can be read in the Approach section of the Benefit Cost Report.

Reaching 100% Clean Electricity Yields High Benefits Compared to Costs, Achieves ¼ of Needed Emissions Reductions

Accomplishing 100% Clean Electricity by 2050 is a cost-effective target, as the benefits far outweigh the costs when all benefits are considered. Meeting 100% Clean Electricity by 2050 would cost an estimated $12 billion between 2023 and 2050 to build new renewable energy infrastructure. But the operation of these renewable energy facilities would avoid fossil infrastructure investments and ongoing fuel costs. The avoided costs of fossil fuels and associated infrastructure, which is an economic benefit of $8.75 billion, is somewhat less than the renewable energy investment alone. However, when considering additional benefits, this is clearly a cost-effective scenario.

The benefits of replacing fossil fuels with clean electricity go beyond the avoided infrastructure and fuel costs. When health benefits and avoided carbon dioxide emissions are also included, the benefits of clean electricity outweigh the costs five to one. For every dollar of investment spent to transition to 100% Clean Electricity, Wisconsin will see $5 in benefits. However, as the Evolved Report details, the 100% Clean Electricity scenario only achieves about ¼ of all carbon emission reductions compared to economy-wide decarbonization.

Economy-Wide Decarbonization in Wisconsin Results in Billions of Dollars of Benefits and Remains Cost-Effective

According to the modeling results, going beyond 100% Clean Electricity to decarbonize the entire economy would cost more money in direct investments but would yield hundreds of billions of net benefits. The estimated economic cost of the Net Zero Economy-Wide scenario is $111 billion from 2023 – 2050. The direct economic benefits from avoided fossil fuel costs will be $111 billion over that same period. The health and climate benefits are much higher in the Net Zero Economy-Wide scenario compared to the 100% Clean Electricity scenario. Including all health and environmental benefits, the benefits outweigh the costs in the Net Zero Economy-Wide scenario by $111 billion. Although net-zero transition requires more investment, the benefits are also higher for Wisconsinites. The more considerable investment associated with the Net Zero Economy-Wide scenario results in a more significant return on that investment for Wisconsin’s economy, as presented in the table below.

Transitioning to a Clean Economy Creates a Healthier Wisconsin

In both scenarios, Wisconsinites would see considerable health benefits by reducing fossil fuel use. These health benefits are measured through an air pollution model that estimates the changes in air pollutants called criteria air pollutants¹.

Reducing our use of fossil fuels will have significant health benefits in Wisconsin, resulting in fewer heart attacks, respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions, acute bronchitis and respiratory symptoms, and asthma emergencies. For our analysis, we monetized the low and high-range emissions reductions estimated by the COBRA model and included the monetized benefits in the final benefits calculation of the Benefit Cost Report. In the 100% Clean Electricity scenario, the modeled health benefits are estimated to be between $18 billion and $40 billion cumulatively through 2050. In the Net Zero Economy-Wide scenario, where fossil fuels are reduced further, the health impacts are estimated to be between $30 billion and $68 billion.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!

A related report by Cambridge Econometrics, titled The Economic Impacts of Decarbonization in Wisconsin (Cambridge Report), provided estimates of the job growth and Gross State Product (GSP) impacts of decarbonization. The table below summarizes these impacts.

Scenario Gross State Product Increase by 2050 Net Job Growth by 2050
Net Zero Economy-Wide 3.0% 68,500 additional jobs
100% Clean Electricity 0.5% 7,320 additional jobs

The results of the Cambridge Report further emphasize the differences in the volume of benefits between the 100% Clean Electricity scenario and the Net Zero Economy-Wide scenario. The Cambridge Report results are clear: full decarbonization will lead to massive job growth and economic development for Wisconsin.

Public-private partnerships and planning will help ensure Wisconsin benefits from the clean energy transition and attracts job creators to our state. An article from Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) describes the potential of the clean energy economy transition and the challenges ahead. The WPR article highlights a recent Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation report on Wisconsin’s potential for EV component production, and highlights the need to develop workforce training to ensure Wisconsin remains competitive and an attractive location for clean economy manufacturers.

Meeting Clean Energy and Carbon Reduction Goals: A Win-Win for Wisconsin

The analysis performed by RENEW Wisconsin shows that meeting either the 100% Clean Electricity goal by 2050 or the Net Zero Economy-Wide target by 2050 will result in more benefits than costs for the state. Meeting either goal by 2050 is cost-effective, as each dollar invested in energy system changes results in more than one dollar in total benefits. While the 100% Clean Electricity goal is more cost-effective from an incremental perspective, reaching the Net Zero Economy-Wide goal results in greater benefits and achieves economy-wide net zero carbon emissions. Decarbonizing the entire economy requires more investment but results in considerable advantages in terms of avoided fossil fuel costs, health benefits, and avoided carbon dioxide emissions.

Fully decarbonizing Wisconsin’s economy is also critical to meet climate change goals. While transitioning the electric grid to 100% clean electricity is important, focusing only on the electricity sector will not be enough to address the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that keeping global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels requires net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050². This goal is aligned with the 2015 Paris Agreement to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels³. The Net Zero Economy-Wide target for Wisconsin is most aligned with this goal and is an important target to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

Reaching either clean energy goals or broader emission reductions result in benefits, including extensive benefits to human health. RENEW Wisconsin is excited to support the development of clean energy in the state, supporting economic development, human health benefits, and the mitigation of climate change.


1. Analysts used a tool, COBRA (Co-Benefits Risk Assessment Health Impacts Screening and Mapping Tool), to model air pollution changes and the impact on human health. The tool was developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
2. https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2022/06/SPM_version_report_LR.pdf
3. https://unfccc.int/most-requested/key-aspects-of-the-paris-agreement