Getting EV Charging Stations Installed in WI: Options Through Zoning and Building Codes

The number of electric vehicles (EVs) is increasing rapidly in the U.S. and worldwide. Wisconsin saw an increase from 319 EV registrations in 2013 to 9,039 EV registrations in 2021 and 13,893 EV registrations in 2022. The increase is driven by several factors, including advances in technology, cost savings for EV owners, decisions made by state policymakers, and commitments by automakers. By the year 2030, there may be as many as 19 million EVs on the road in the U.S. 

Adopting EV charging standards can save businesses and homeowners money because it’s much less expensive to install EV charging infrastructure during new construction than it is to retrofit buildings after they are built. Municipalities need to plan for the increasing number of EVs and the cost savings of installing EV charging infrastructure during new construction so that residents can access charging stations at businesses and their homes.

What Policies Help Ensure EV Readiness?

In Wisconsin, the two main tools that take advantage of building and parking infrastructure to move us toward EV readiness are zoning and building codes. The following offers a short explanation of each policy tool, its current status in Wisconsin, and examples.


More than fifty state and local governments in the U.S. have enacted zoning ordinance amendments or building code amendments to ensure EV readiness. Each local government decides individually which provisions to include in their general zoning ordinances. Zoning ordinance amendments for EV chargers typically have three components:

  1. EV charging definitions
  2. Designated zoning districts for EV charging stations
  3. Requirements for electrical wiring and other infrastructure for EV chargers in new construction (optional)

When deciding where EV charges will be permitted, it is important to keep in mind that, unlike gas stations, EV charging stations don’t create the risk of fuel spills, underground fuel leaks, or fumes. Example approaches include:

  1. Allowing Charging stations in all zoning districts as was done in Des Moines, IA
  2. Allowing level 1 and 2 charging stations in all districts and allowing level 3 fast chargers in industrial and highway commercial districts as was done in Chelan, WA

You can choose from the menu of zoning provisions for EV chargers in Ready for Electric Vehicles? Modifying Local Land Use Policies starting on page 8 to tailor ordinance provisions to fit your community.

State and Local Building Codes

Wisconsin has a state-level Uniform Dwelling Code (UDC) and a Commercial Code that are adopted by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Public Services. This does not include standards for wiring or other EV charging infrastructure. Municipalities cannot alter these building codes, so they are precluded from including EV charging station requirements. This is true for the state’s Uniform Dwelling Code for one and two-family dwellings and the state’s commercial building code. 

Many states and municipalities use the International Building Code as their base code and may add additional standards to tailor the code to their community. 

  • International Building Code. The International Building Code (IBC) is updated every three years, and the 2021 code went into effect in October 2021. The IBC is a set of voluntary guidelines used by many states. The 2021 IBC calls for one EV-ready parking space, which means installing panels, outlets, and conduits capable of charging at least one full-size EV in a single-family garage overnight. Multi-family buildings will need two EV-ready parking spaces, along with more that can be easily retrofitted, a standard known as EV-capable. The decision to install an EV charger is left to the property owner. 
  • State and local building codes:
    • In the central part of the U.S., Minnesota, Kansas, and North Dakota have adopted the 2018 IBC in their state building codes.
    • In contrast, Wisconsin has its own residential code, known as the Uniform Dwelling Code (UDC) for one and two-family dwellings based on the 2009 IBC, and a commercial building code based on the 2015 IBC.
    • On August 10, 2023, the Wisconsin Senate Housing, Rural Issues, and Forestry Committee rejected an update to bring the state’s commercial building codes up to date with the 2021 IBC.
  • A Wisconsin law passed in 2013 established a uniform statewide commercial building code and prohibits municipalities from adopting or enforcing their own standards, making Wisconsin one of only three states to restrict local control, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Similarly, the Wisconsin UDC does not allow municipalities to adopt more stringent standards. The current Wisconsin building codes do not include standards for EV charging standards, and communities cannot add these standards to their building code. Wisconsin is working on updating its building codes, which are outdated. Big EV infrastructure questions in these updates are as follows:
    • Will Wisconsin adopt a UDC and commercial code that includes current EV infrastructure standards?
    • Will Wisconsin change from one-size-fits-all UDC and commercial code to allow communities to choose to tailor their building codes, which could include requiring EV-ready parking spaces?


Driving electric has many benefits. The number of EVs and EV charging stations are increasing rapidly. While current EV drivers in the U.S. charge 80% of the time at home, one-third of Wisconsin households rent their home and do not get to decide if EV charging is available where they park. The installation of EV charging infrastructure is four to six times less expensive when included during new construction versus a building retrofit. Because of this, EV charging standards in building codes and zoning ordinances can save businesses and homeowners money. 

Each local government decides individually which provisions to include in their general zoning ordinances. Zoning ordinances are useful tools for local governments to indicate where public EV charging is allowed or prohibited. Local governments may also choose to require electrical wiring and other infrastructure for EV chargers in new construction.

EV charging standards are not included in the current statewide Wisconsin UDC or commercial building code. Current Wisconsin laws do not allow communities to voluntarily add EV charging standards to their building codes. When tailoring EV charging standards to fit communities, we can learn from the many states and communities that have already amended their zoning ordinances and building codes to ensure EV readiness.

Lynn MarkhamCenter for Land Use Education
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 us at

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.