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Stacie Reece

Stacie Reece, the first sustainability program coordinator for the city of Madison, shows off some of the city's efforts to embrace renewable energy at Fire Station No. 14, 3201 Dairy Drive, on the Southeast Side. The new building is equipped with solar thermal power, top right, for heating water, and has solar photovoltaic panels for electricity and uses geothermal energy, as well. 

Stacie Reece was working in the billing department of local law firm Godfrey & Kahn when her “aha” moment came.

Reece had watched the 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” about former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s campaign to raise awareness about climate change and the environment.

Seeing the film “was momentous,” Reece said. “I wanted to go out and help businesses and community members understand their impacts and how they could make a positive change.”

So the Janesville native — then 30 and armed with an associate degree in general studies from Madison Area Technical College — decided to go back to school to earn a bachelor of science in sustainable management at UW-Madison, online.

And her new career began.

Reece became director of sustainable business initiatives for Sustain Dane, a position she held for four years with the Madison nonprofit, and then was named sustainability coordinator for the city of Middleton.

Since last November, Reece has served as Madison’s first sustainability program coordinator, trying to move city government and the community toward ending the use of fossil fuels.

A resident of the Bay Creek neighborhood, Reece, 39, shares a home with her longtime partner, Madison native Jerod Keene, an athletic trainer for University Health Services, and their Boston terrier, Cleveland.

How do you define “sustainability”?

There are a lot of definitions. For me, it’s the idea that what we leave for the next generation is the same or better than we found it. That applies to the environment, the economy and society.

What do you want to accomplish? What is your mission?

The groundwork already has been laid. A city sustainability plan was adopted in 2011, with goals for planning design, education, health, the arts, etc., for the city to reach. It is one plan I will be looking to for guidance.

In 2017, the City Council passed a resolution to achieve 100 percent renewable energy and net-zero carbon, and authorized hiring a consulting firm that just released its draft plan, with a menu of recommendations for how the city, as a whole, can achieve 100 percent renewables.

The main points are promoting solar power, in the city and around the community; increasing the amount of renewables on the (electric transmission) grid; and promoting ways to reduce our consumption of energy. Another piece is transportation — converting from fossil fuel (engines) to electric vehicles and any sort of alternative-fuel vehicles, including biofuels and compressed natural gas, or future technologies.

The hope is with city operations, this is something we can control and take leadership on. Because this is a goal for the community as a whole, we really want to be that bridge to the community.

How realistic is it to think we can achieve 100 percent renewable energy? We are still partly dependent on coal-fired electricity here.

To date, more than 100 cities have passed similar resolutions. The draft consultant report listed three timelines: By 2020, 2023 or 2030. Our Sustainable Madison committee, in late January, approved the report and recommended the goal of 2030 for 100 percent renewable energy. This will give us time to make appropriate investments. We want to add renewables to the grid. The Madison City Council is expected to act on the report in March.

Won’t the city of Madison have to work with local utility companies to reach its goals?

We have a memorandum of understanding with Madison Gas & Electric supporting each other’s goals. We’ve been working with MGE to look at ways to electrify our bus fleet. We’re going to get three electric buses in 2020 with help from MGE. The project was delayed from 2019 because the bus barn needs to be updated first. We will work on adding opportunities for large, utility-scale renewable projects like solar and wind farms.

Beyond MGE, we are participating in five utility-scale solar projects by municipal utilities in rural Wisconsin. Those projects would not have gotten off the ground without Madison as an investor.

The city’s also been very interested in a Bus Rapid Transit system, and we’ll have more charging stations throughout the community.

What do you do at home? Do you conserve energy?

I do consciously think about my energy footprint, my conservation footprint.

Turning the lights off does make a difference. Just monitoring your electricity use can reduce consumption by 7 percent. It’s similar to stepping on the scale. If your consumption goes up, it gives you some awareness.

What do you like to do for fun?

I enjoy team sports — Frisbee, sand volleyball, and I was a member of the Mad Rollin’ Dolls of the Madison Roller Derby, skating as “Charlie Hustle,” from 2008-2016, and general manager for two years. I’m also a big horror movie fan.

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