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Could Milwaukee Become Energy Independent?

S Bence

Last year the City spent more than $16 million for heating and cooling. Milwaukee Alderman Robert Bauman wants to find out if cheaper options exist.
He’s calling for a comprehensive study.

"Will it be feasible, will it be cost effective; I frankly don’t have a level of expertise to know if building a gas-fired generating plant, state of the art, will allow us to generate kilowatts at a lower cost than what we’re paying We Energies."

Milwaukee has set sustainability goals: by 2020 it aims to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent; the city wants to build up renewably-sourced energy, solar and wind, to reach 25 percent by 2025. Bauman hopes Milwaukee digs deeper.

"At some point you’ve got to move in from the margins to changing relationships of how you buy power and that gets to the whole issue of competition and the regulatory environment; I mean the state legislature could probably reduce our energy costs overnight by simply relaxing the monopoly."

The alderman points to cities such as Seattle, Washington.

"The City of Seattle has a public electric utility; other smaller cities, even in Wisconsin generate public power. So this is not a new subject.”

Across Wisconsin, there are 82 municipal utilities; the last formed in 1946. We Energies powers half the state.

The Common Council is set to vote Wednesday on the proposal to explore energy independence.

Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.