A letter to the editor of the Vernon Broadcaster by Todd Ossman:

Thanks for covering the E3 Coalition’s work with Viola and other communities to help southwest Wisconsin achieve energy independence.

In addition to the $65,000 planning grant we were awarded, we have applied for more than $1.1 million in efficiency upgrades and renewable energy projects for seven communities in the region, including Viroqua. This EECBG award should be made public within days or weeks and our prospects are very encouraging.

What “energy independence” means, in this case, is getting 25 percent of our electricity, heating and transportation fuels from renewable sources by 2025. That may seem idealistic, but it’s an achievable goal. More importantly, each step towards that goal reduces our energy costs, which means more resources stay with our families and in our communities.

The state Office of Energy Independence grant allows us to start down that road. We’ve already begun collecting data on communities’ current energy and fuel use. Then we can determine which energy efficiency measures allow us to meet all our needs while reducing our electricity and fuel use. The last step in our energy planning process will be to explore potential sources of renewable, home-grown power. Each step along the implementation path from efficiency to biomass or solar power generation spells more local jobs and income.

It’s true that having an energy independence plan will help Viola and other Driftless Region communities secure other stimulus funding, but that’s not the only—or even the main—benefit. We’re building a stronger and self-sufficient local energy economy that will serve the Driftless Region for decades to come.