Doyle proposes energy conservation plan
September 28, 2006
During his campus visit Wednesday, Gov. Jim Doyle announced UW-River Falls would be one of the four UW-System campuses in a pilot program, dubbed UW Off the Grid Initiative, to make the state more energy efficient.
“The real heart of this program that depends on the state moving forward has the university at the center of it,” Doyle said.
The goal of the initiative is aiming to have all four UW campuses, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Green Bay and UW-RF, completely energy independent within the next five years.
“With ongoing increases in the cost of energy, now is the time for Wisconsin to take control of our energy future,” he said. “By committing four of our campuses to energy independence by 2012, we are tapping into the ingenuity of the UW System and laying the groundwork for a cleaner, more energy independent future in Wisconsin.”
UW-RF was selected because of its environmental and energy conservations already in place and practice, like the Residence Hall Energy Conservation Contest that saved seven percent at the end of spring semester, and the new Student Center, opening in January.
“I’m pleased to be standing in front of the new Student Center, and I have worked a lot with the process through the Building Commission and budgets,” Doyle said. “I’m sure that when it opens it will be very energy efficient to the students on campus.”
Students were also kept in mind when Doyle issued the plan.
“I want this to be driven by the students as well, and not just the administration,” he said. “This is an opportunity for the students. This is really their chance to get involved.”
He said he hopes students will take the time in classes, discussions and in their organization to talk, plan and organize other ways to make UW-RF completely sustainable on renewable energy resources.
The campus is already on its way, Doyle said.
A crowd of students, faculty, staff and community members listened to the hour-long announcement with speeches from Gov. Doyle, Provost Charles Hurt and UW-System President Kevin P. Reilly.
Livia Johnson, a sophomore majoring in elementary education, said even though she is a Minnesota resident, she still finds the issue of energy conservation important because she attends school at UW-RF and anticipates the money she can save with the program.
“I am interested in the energy initiative,” Johnson said. “I think it is a good plan, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Melissa Murphy, a sophomore majoring in English education, said she also is a Minnesota resident, but she is encouraged that the campus can contribute to all the little things, like making a conscious effort to shut off the lights and limiting unnecessary water use.
With the conservative estimates, the four campuses combined using renewable fuels will save about 260,000 tons of coal over a decade, which is equivalent to a train, 30 miles in length, loaded with coal, he said. Greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by 676,000 tons, improving the efficiency of energy on campuses.
By saving numerous amounts of fossil fuels, it will ultimately put money back into the taxpayer’s pockets.
Another broad goal for the state is capturing about 10 percent of the return income from the production of renewable energy sources. By achieving this goal, $13.5 billion would extend into Wisconsin’s economy annually by 2030.
Tens of thousands of jobs will be offered to graduating students at UW-RF, Doyle said, keeping them permanent residents of Wisconsin and bringing Minnesota residents into Wisconsin for job opportunities.
Doyle did not talk about any costs the University will have to pay for any changes or additions the campus will have to make, but did say the federal funding should be available for those additional needs if any arise. For some of the initial, up front costs, some bonds will also be available for the costs.
“The challenge will be finding a way to make this the least amount of capital up front,” he said.
Gov. Doyle said the individual campuses must start their own planning as soon as possible to make the desired goal of becoming completely dependent of renewable energy sources by 2012.
Each campus will have many highlights that the state can use to focus the transformation from fossil fuels to renewable sources. The highlights UW-RF offers to the System as a whole adds to the process of getting each one to work together to make the process achievable.
“It’s going to take some real coordination of all the campuses,” Doyle said. “But when we get it done, we can brag to the world that it is a showpiece of a broader cooperation of renewable resources.”