Electric School Buses – the Clean and Cost-Effective Transportation Solution for Your Community and School District.

Electric School Buses – the Clean and Cost-Effective Transportation Solution for Your Community and School District.

Electric school buses have zero tailpipe emissions, offering clean and healthy rides and reducing operating expenses. However, the upfront cost of $375,000 is a significant barrier. Fortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Clean School Bus Program allows school districts in all 50 states to replace old diesel buses with new electric buses at no cost.

Last month, I drove a school bus for the first time. Despite not having much experience driving large vehicles, I was pleasantly surprised by how similar it felt to driving my 2020 Chevy Bolt EV. The ride was smooth and quiet, and the regenerative braking system made it easy to control the large bus without needing to use the brakes too often. Overall, it was a comfortable and enjoyable experience.

The electric bus I drove – a LionC electric school bus – can carry 77 students for up to 155 miles on a single charge. This bus was fresh off the assembly line at the new LION assembly plant in Joliet, IL. The plant is located about 90 miles south of the Wisconsin border and is North America’s largest electric school bus assembly plant. The plant opened earlier this year and will support 1,400 Clean Energy Jobs and produce 20,000 fully electric school buses and electric trucks per year.  

Why Clean School Buses? 

Every day, more than 25 million American children rely on school buses for safe transport to and from school, collectively covering over three billion miles each year. However, the exhaust from these buses can harm human health, particularly for children whose lungs are still developing. To address this issue, the Clean School Bus Program provides rebates and grants to replace existing diesel and gas-powered buses with cleaner models. This initiative aims to improve air quality as well as the safety and well-being of our students, their bus drivers, and the surrounding communities.

Electric school buses are both cleaner and cheaper to operate than diesel buses. On average, diesel buses use 6 miles per gallon [mpg], while electric buses boost that efficiency to an equivalent of 17 mpg. Electric school buses can save more than $170,000 on fuel and maintenance throughout their lifespan. Furthermore, Wisconsin’s lack of petroleum production means that switching to electric buses can keep our energy dollars in the state, support local jobs, and contribute to the state’s general economic growth.

Wisconsin Schools are Going Electric!

Last fall, 15 school districts in Wisconsin took advantage of the Clean School Bus Program and were awarded 65 electric school buses scheduled to be delivered by October 2024. The EPA is now preparing for a second round of rebates, which will be announced this fall. Schools and transportation contractors can apply online for Clean School Bus rebates, which are awarded through a lottery system. Priority is given to rural, tribal, and high-need school districts. Those that qualify can receive up to $395,000 to purchase a bus and charging station in exchange for an older diesel bus for up to 25 buses. The list of prioritized school districts can be found here.

You can sign up for updates on the Clean School Bus Program and see the list of 2022 award recipients. For more information on electric school buses, route planning assistance, and applying to the EPA’s program, contact Francisco Sayu, Director of Emerging Technology at RENEW Wisconsin, at francisco@renewwisconsin.org.

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. 

RENEW Wisconsin Celebrates Memorial Day

RENEW Wisconsin Celebrates Memorial Day

RENEW Wisconsin was honored to participate in the Monona (WI) Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 29. Emerging Technology Director Francisco Sayu, his family, and RENEW Intern Julia Herkert attended this community celebration to honor U.S. veterans and spread awareness about electric vehicles (EVs) and Wisconsin’s clean energy future. 

“To participate in an event where staff members were able to connect with the community, but also able to honor the Americans who have given their lives serving their country, was an uplifting and memorable experience,” said Herkert. “RENEW hopes the information shared with parade attendees helps Wisconsin families understand the benefits of transitioning to EVs.”

RENEW staff walked alongside Geoff Hoffman; The owner of Hoffman Manufacturing and an advocate of clean energy, who provided a Tesla Roadster —Tesla’s first production car— to use as a parade vehicle. 

Decorated with a RENEW Wisconsin banner, the car was immediately recognized by many as Hoffman’s Tesla is a popular sight among members of the community of all ages. RENEW staff members were happy to answer questions ranging from “Are electric vehicles convenient for owners with families?” to “Woah, is that a Tesla?”. 

RENEW staff addressed many questions about EV operation and charging infrastructure. They were also able to communicate the benefits of a decarbonized Wisconsin economy. 

RENEW is grateful to Hoffman Manufacturing and the City of Monona for the opportunity to participate in this event and discuss renewable energy and electric vehicles with the Monona community.

RENEW and MREA Host MadiSun “Solar 100” Workforce Training  Courses

RENEW and MREA Host MadiSun “Solar 100” Workforce Training Courses

On February 7, 2023, and March 2, 2023, RENEW Wisconsin and Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) hosted two Solar Workforce Training Courses at Madison Technical College as part of the MadiSUN Solar Energy Program. MadiSUN is the City of Madison’s solar program administered by RENEW Wisconsin.

Solar installer is one of the fastest-growing jobs in the United States. Madison has a robust solar market, and solar installers struggle to find enough qualified employees. In response to this need, RENEW Wisconsin crafted a solar workforce initiative that had two primary goals:

1. To increase the number of qualified, trained workers in our community that local solar contractors could utilize to expand the total solar capacity installed in Madison.
2. To increase family-supporting careers within communities of color and low-income communities in the City of Madison.

To fulfill these goals, RENEW Wisconsin partnered with MREA instructors to host two “Solar 100” training sessions. These classes were each a one-day (8-hour) course that introduced participants to solar photovoltaic (PV) technology and workplace safety.

The course catered to those interested in a career in solar but unsure where to begin. It provided participants with many basic skills necessary for a career in the solar industry, making them more appealing to solar installation companies.

In the future, RENEW is working to find additional opportunities for participants of the Solar 100 class to take advanced training to obtain full North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certification. While NABCEP certification is not needed to become a solar energy professional, it gives individuals more opportunities to further their careers.

Thank you to the City of Madison, MREA, and the students who made this initiative a success. We hope to provide more training opportunities in the future to advance clean energy in Wisconsin.

RENEW Kicks Off 2023 with Largest Energy Summit To Date!

RENEW Kicks Off 2023 with Largest Energy Summit To Date!

On Thursday, January 26th, RENEW held our 12th annual Renewable Energy Summit. Attendees from across Wisconsin, the Midwest, and even around the globe gathered to learn more about the clean energy transition taking place in our state. With over 600 attendees and dozens of exhibitors, this year’s Summit was our most successful to date!

Our amazing cast of panelists, presenters, and guest speakers highlighted how new federal legislation will help drive clean energy deployment in Wisconsin. As renewable energy sources continue to grow in our state, the tools available from the Inflation Reduction Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and other bills will increase the speed at which we phase out fossil fuels.

Each year our Summit continues to grow in size and scope. The energy and excitement at this year’s event were absolutely palpable. Thank you to the sponsors, volunteers, staff, attendees, and everyone else that helped make this an amazing Summit!

RENEW Wisconsin 2023 Summit Honors Clean Energy Leaders

RENEW Wisconsin 2023 Summit Honors Clean Energy Leaders

During its twelfth annual Renewable Energy Summit, RENEW Wisconsin, with presenting sponsors greenpenny and Invenergy, will honor individuals and businesses who have made significant and lasting advances in clean energy development in Wisconsin. The Summit will take place Thursday, January 26, 2023, at Monona Terrace in Madison.

RENEW’s 2023 Summit, titled “Sizing Up the Clean Energy Transformation,” will take a close look at the forces unleashed by the Inflation Reduction Act, the most important climate action ever undertaken by the federal government, and assess the impact of this landmark law on Wisconsin’s energy landscape. Featured speakers include Michelle Moore, CEO of Groundswell; Jennifer Bumgarner, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs; and Wisconsin Public Service Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq.

The awards are grouped under four categories:

Clean Energy Policymaker:
State Senator Robert Cowles

Clean Energy Pioneer:
City of Madison

Clean Energy Warriors:
Will Kenworthy, Vote Solar
Tim Lindl, Keyes and Fox
Denny Wroblewski, Northwind Solar
Josh Stolzenburg, Northwind Soar
Jim Pullen, Eagle Point Solar
Erick Shambarger, City of Milwaukee
Amy Heart, Sunrun
David Bender, EarthJustice
Nick Hylla, Midwest Renewable Energy Association

Clean Energy Honor Roll:
EnTech Solutions, Middleton
Solar-powered renewable natural gas (RNG) production facility
UW-Platteville, Platteville
Solar-powered school campus
Bad River Tribe (Ishkinoge Nawadide), Odanah
Solar-powered microgrid – resiliency for the reservation
Dominion Properties/Arch Solar, Shorewood
Vertical solar installation serving an office building
Dynamic Renewables/BC Organics, Greenleaf
Large-scale RNG production facility
Friends Meeting House, Madison
All-electric building tapping into onsite energy
Alliant Energy – Wood County Solar Farm, Nekoosa
Utility-scale solar  generation

Clean Energy Policymaker: Senator Robert Cowles
Representing the 2nd Senate district in the Green Bay and Fox Valley area since 1987, Sen. Robert Cowles has been a dedicated and productive champion of clean energy policy throughout his Senate career. Over the years, Sen. Cowles has sought to advance energy efficiency and renewable energy through legislation that balances economic and environmental interests. Among Sen. Cowles’ accomplishments are several comprehensive bills that (1) established Wisconsin’s energy resource priorities (1994), (2) expanded the state’s utility local aids law to promote in-state renewable power (2003), and (3) safeguarded the statewide Focus on Energy program from harmful budget raids (2006). Ongoing clean energy initiatives championed by Sen. Cowles include those to allow convenience store operators to sell electricity for electric vehicle charging purposes and to clarify the legality of third-party-owned renewable energy systems built on a customer’s property to serve that customer.

Clean Energy Pioneer: City of Madison
In March 2017, Madison adopted an ambitious climate goal: to achieve 100% renewable energy and net zero carbon emissions for city operations by 2030 and communitywide by 2050. The award salutes the City for its conscientious and systematic approach to advancing local clean energy and ensuring that its investments and programs benefit the entire community. By the end of 2022, the City’s accomplishments encompassed the following:

  • Installing more than 1,800 kilowatts (kW) of solar generation on its own facilities, including approximately 500 kW in 2022. Unlike other local governments, the City designs and installs most of its solar installations. This initiative also provides a platform for a solar training program aimed at underemployed and unemployed residents to better prepare them for future job opportunities in the solar marketplace.
  • Partnering with Madison Gas & Electric to purchase the output from the Hermsdorf solar farm in southeast Madison. The 8 MW array went live in April 2022 and now offsets 22% of the City’s electricity usage.
  • Leveraging the installation of more than 300 solar PV systems on homes and multifamily buildings through its MadiSUN program, including 64 in 2022.
  • Acquiring, by the end of 2022, 85 electric vehicles, more than 150 hybrid-electric vehicles, and the first all-electric fire truck operating in the United States. The City is also testing three all-electric buses.


Clean Energy Pioneer – Warriors
The recognition ceremony will also honor businesses and individuals who, at various times, led the campaign to enable Wisconsin electricity customers to access third-party-financed renewable energy systems installed on their property. This has been a long-standing policy priority for RENEW, stretching back to 2012. After years of being stalemated at the Public Service Commission, Wisconsin’s solar industry finally received some good news. In December 2022, the Commission affirmed the legality of a private contract between a utility customer and a solar energy provider. This will allow, on a limited basis, electricity customers to access solar energy onsite through leases or service agreements, so long as the contract meets certain criteria.

The ceremony will conclude with the 2022 Clean Energy Honor Roll, in which RENEW will recognize seven clean energy projects in Wisconsin that recently commenced operation. Whether on the basis of their productivity, innovativeness, attention to detail, scale, resourcefulness, or efficacy in reducing carbon emissions, these seven projects showcase the skills and know-how Wisconsin stakeholders bring to the clean energy marketplace in the Badger State.

This annual event features an exposition hall, breakout sessions, and industry professionals discussing current and future opportunities for advancing clean energy in Wisconsin.
Click here for more information on the 2023 Summit program agenda, speakers, and registration. For press passes, please email Jodi Jean Amble (jodi@renewwisconsin.org).