Sidewalk cafe

Patrons spend time at the outdoor seating area at Colectivo Coffee on Capitol Square. Under a proposed ordinance, Madison could prevent commercial establishments from keeping windows and doors open longer than is reasonably necessary if the adjacent space is air conditioned.

Under a proposed ordinance meant to reduce the amount of energy used by the city and rein in greenhouse gas emissions, Madison would be able to limit the use of certain air conditioners in commercial establishments.

Particularly during the summer months, the overuse of air conditioners contributes to wasted energy, stresses the city’s electrical grid and releases greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, according to the ordinance that will be introduced at the City Council meeting Tuesday.

Ald. Ledell Zellers, District 2, who is sponsoring the measure, said it is time for the city to “step it up.”

“We need to do a lot more related to climate change,” Zellers said. “This is a relatively small thing, but it’s a piece of the overall puzzle of trying to reduce our negative impact on climate change and to help meet the city’s renewable energy goal and in general, protecting health, safety and welfare.”

The air conditioning measure is also meant to assist the city meet its goal of using 100 percent renewable energy sources.

The ordinance would prevent commercial establishments from keeping windows and doors open longer than is reasonably necessary if the adjacent space is air conditioned. Madison’s Public Health, Building Inspection and Police departments would enforce the the ordinance, and violators would be subjected to a fine between $50 and $250.

Zellers was also a proponent of the city’s anti-idling ordinance, enacted in 2017, which restricts drivers from idling for more than five minutes. This measure was also meant to reduce the damaging health effects of emissions and their contributions to climate change.  

“As a city, as a county, as a state, as a country and the world, we need to step it up because things are going downhill pretty rapidly in terms of climate change,” Zellers said.  

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