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Some Milwaukee and Waukesha homeowners in financial need to benefit from energy innovation grant

Woman speaking at press conference
Chuck Quirmbach
Public Service Commission Chair Rebecca Valcq spoke at Tuesday's news conference outside the West Allis office of Green Homeowners United.

Fifty low-income homeowners in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties will get financial help to upgrade their living spaces to be more energy efficient, thanks to a half-million dollar innovation grant from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.

PSC Chairperson Rebecca Valcq said the dollars are part of an ongoing agency effort to measure and reduce the energy burden utility customers face.

"For the first time in the history of our agency, in 2021, we required the state's seven largest investor-owned utilities to complete a customer energy burden analysis to help us understand what portion of every customer's household income is going to pay energy bill every month. Why does that matter? It matters because we need to make sure resources in this state are sent to the places they are needed the most," Valcq said Tuesday at a news conference in West Allis.

Valcq said the energy burden tends to be highest for lower income people who can't afford on their own to put in more insulation or take other steps for their homes to be more energy efficient.

And, she said climate change may increase the burden, especially for communities of color.

The $500,000 grant from the PSC will go to a partnership between the group Revitalize Milwaukee and the firmGreen Homeowners United.

Lynnea Katz-Petted, Chief Executive Officer of Revitalize Milwaukee, also spoke at Tuesday's event.
Chuck Quirmbach
Lynnea Katz-Petted, chief executive officer of Revitalize Milwaukee, also spoke at Tuesday's event.

Kevin Kane of Green Homeowners United said those interested should contact either partner. "This'll be specifically to help people over 60, people who are disabled or veterans below a certain income to help make sure people who often have homes that need the most help can get it," Kane told WUWM.

Kane said the amount of time before the energy efficiency investments fully pay back will vary. "Insulation may only take a couple years, if you just do it in your attic. Solar panels may take more, like 12-15 years. Windows might take a little longer. But there are other reasons to get things. I mean, we have a lot of lead paint problems in Milwaukee, and that's a great excuse to replace your windows for example in old homes. And just making [homes] more comfortable. It's hard to put a dollar figure on that," he said.

As to dollar figures, the PSC's Valcq told the news conference that there needs to be more of the innovation grants and local partnerships. "We need this type of programming a thousand times over in this state, in order to make a difference," she said.

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