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Madison Central Library roof

Madison's City Council approved spending up to $250,000 on a consultant to assist city staff develop a plan that would move the city toward 100 percent renewable energy use. The downtown Central Library's roof features a green roof, solar panels and a small outdoor patio area.

With a commitment of up to $250,000, the city of Madison set a goal of reaching 100 percent renewable energy use with a resolution passed by the City Council Tuesday night.

The resolution calls for hiring an expert to assist city staff in developing a plan that would move the city toward using only renewable energy and achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Madison’s 2017 capital budget already includes $750,000 for sustainability improvements, including renewable energy installations and energy efficiency upgrades.

“I’m really excited what this means for our city facilities and our community as a whole,” Ald. Zach Wood, District 8, said.

The city began reviewing its climate goals after approving an energy work plan in June 2016. The Sustainable Madison Committee and Board of Estimates previously supported the resolution.

The resolution approved Tuesday calls for city staff to develop a plan by January 2018 that would include target dates to meet goals, interim milestones, budget estimates and estimated financial impacts. 

Proponents stressed the importance of local government taking the lead on promoting clean energy goals, citing failures at the state and national level.

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“In a time of inaction at the state and federal levels, cities need to lead,” Ald. Denise DeMarb said in a statement. “Cities need to continue to move towards a sustainable future, creating good jobs and a future we are proud to hand over to our kids.”

Though the resolution is aimed at improving city operations, it also sets a general community-wide expectation to rally around clean energy goals. Madison is the first city in Wisconsin to make a community-wide 100 percent clean energy commitment, according to the Sierra Club. 

The Council chambers were filled with resolution supporters who applauded the unanimous approval. Among those was Sierra Club Organizer Devin Martin who said the city’s new goal of using renewable energy is especially important to him as a father looking toward his family’s future.

“We can transform an economy from one that requires fossil fuels … to one that is transformed into a clean energy future,” Martin said.

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.