Milwaukee's Leadership on Climate Change

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Why Climate Change Matters to Milwaukee

Global climate change presents seriouCars driving through a flooded streets threats to our environment, human health, economy and equality, biodiversity, and national security. The National Climate Assessment provides a good overview of the causes and effects of climate change. The report outlines the particular threats climate change poses to Wisconsin and the Midwest: "Extreme heat, heavy downpours, and flooding will affect infrastructure, health, agriculture, forestry, transportation, air and water quality, and more. Climate change will also exacerbate a range of risks to the Great Lakes." 

Acting on climate change means both reducing our use of fossil fuels that is one of the leading causes of climate change and proactively planning to adapt to it. The City of Milwaukee's Environmental Collaboration Office has implemented a broad range of energy efficiency and clean energy programs. Milwaukee is also leading in the use of green infrastructure to adapt and help manage the risk of extreme storms. The City also supports locally made clean technology that can reduce our carbon footprint while growing the local economy.

Yet, even with the City's action, more action is needed at both the state and federal levels. Citizens and businesses have a role to play in demanding effective action at all levels of government, using the climate action programs that are currently available, and making personal and business decisions that reduce energy waste.

Former Mayor Barrett has joined over 438 mayors to show that the City of Milwaukee remains committed to the principles of the Paris Climate Agreement. The Milwaukee City Council also unanimously passed Council resolution 170337 pledging Milwaukee support of the principles of the Paris Climate Accord.

The City of Milwaukee has also joined 13 other US cities to re-publish EPA Climate information that had been removed from the federal website. Information is available at

Milwaukee's 25% by 2025 Renewable Energy Goal

By 2025, Milwaukee aims to havFormer Mayor Barrett joined by elected officials to sign a documente 25% of its energy come from renewable sources. The City currently has 60 kilowatts of solar PV on three Milwaukee Public Library locations. The City gets 0.5% from on-site renewables. We Energies’ overall fuel mix is about 8% renewables of which about 3% is wind and solar. Additionally, the City established a goal to reduce community-wide net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 45% by the year 2030.

To reach 25% renewable energy for municipal operations, the City needs to install or purchase about 15 megawatts (MW) of renewable power. Achieving this goal will take hundreds of acres of land for wind turbines and solar panels. It will also need to involve collaboration with We Energies. In January of 2018, former Mayor Barrett and other local leaders asked We Energies to create new options for large customers to purchase renewable energy. In December 2018, the Public Service Commission approved two new pilot programs for We Energies to supply renewable energy. The City is actively exploring these programs.

Late 2017 marked the beginning of a project to install 1.1 MW of solar on six city buildings. The City of Milwaukee partnered with Eagle Point Solar to design, install, and co-finance 3,600 solar panels to reach 1.1 MW. We Energies denied the request to interconnect the system to the grid. 

In response, Eagle Point Solar is seeking to clarify the law around third-party financed and co-owned solar projects. ECO acknowledged the urgency of climate change and took initiative to still have solar installed on three public libraries. The City paid for and owns 100% of these three systems and We Energies is interconnecting these customer owned projects.

Thus, ECO is following an “all of the above” solar strategy that supports both a robust and competitive rooftop solar market as well as utility scale renewable projects in potential collaboration with We Energies.

The Milwaukee Shines program is also working to bring more affordable solar power to Milwaukee. It focuses on low-income neighborhoods and coordinates "group-buys" that provide homeowners with bulk savings for solar projects. Milwaukee Shines' emphasis on equity in their climate work has been demonstrated by supporting job training and demonstration projects at the Housing Authority, Fondy Farmers Market, Escuela Verde School, and Cream City Farms. The City's HOME GR/OWN program has also worked with Walnut Way and the Institute for Sustainable Communities on solar projects in the Lindsey Heights neighborhood. 

Benefits of the 209 Kilowatts of Solar Energy Installed on Three Milwaukee Public Libraries in 2019:

  • $35,000 of annual savings
  • 265,000 kilowatt hours per year are expected to be produced by the 710 solar panels on the libraries 
  • The equivalent of 458,600 miles worth of greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by these solar installations

2.25 MW Solar Landfill Project

In March of 2020, Mayor Barrett announced the City would partner with We Energies to build nine acres of new solar on a City-owned landfill next to General Mitchell International Airport. This will be the largest solar installation in the City of Milwaukee, with 7,200 solar panels. . 

This project will cost the City nothing to build, support grid resiliency and emergency preparedness for the Air National Guard's 128th Air Refueling Wing, generate about $96,000 in yearly revenue for the City that will go to support additional climate action, and help Milwaukee take a major step towards our renewable energy goals.



Mayors National Climate Action Agenda


Climate Mayors are U.S. mayors working together to strengthen local efforts for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to supporting efforts for binding federal and global-level policymaking.


Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & EnergyIn advance of the global climate talks in Paris, Mayor Barrett has joined the over 100 US Mayors in joining the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy. The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy is the world’s largest coalition of city leaders addressing climate change by pledging to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, tracking their progress and preparing for the impacts of climate change. Read more about Mayor Barrett being honored for his commitment to climate change


Powered by SunShot U.S. Department of EnergyThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Offices focuses on achieveing the goals of the SunShot Initiative, which seeks to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by the end of the decade. Milwaukee Shines has been involved in a number of SunShot grants as part of a coalition of Midwest cities and organizations. Milwaukee resources on streamlining permitting, planning and zoning as well as innovative financing options for solar can be found on Grow Solar website


Better Buildings Challenge LogoMilwaukee's participates in the Better Buildings Challenge with a goal of reducing energy use 20% over a decade in participate municipal and commercial buildings. The City provides comprehensive resources to help building owners identify and finance energy saving and clean energy projects.


Other actions the City has taken include:

  • Milwaukee formed a City-County Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity.
  • ECO developed a Comprehensive Energy Plan for municipal buildings and fleet. The summary is available here
  • The Milwaukee Energy Efficiency program provides affordable loans to homeowners to make energy efficient upgrades.
  • The Milwaukee Shines solar program provides group buys and affordable financing to make solar energy affordable.
  • The PACE financing program makes it affordable for commercial building owners to install energy efficient and renewable energy technologies. It has been designated a national implementation model by the US Department of Energy.
  • The City installed a wind turbine at the Port of Milwaukee to offset the entire electric load of the Port Administration building
  • The City installed solar panels on the Central library and a number of fire stations.
  • The City has facilitated transportation choice with Bublr bikes, Zipcar car sharing, electric vehicle charging stations, increased bike lanes, and the streetcar.
  • The City is adapting to a changing climate through increased use of green infrastructure.
  • The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District created a 2019 Resilience Plan 
  • The City installed LED traffic signals and have converted some streetlights to energy efficient LEDs.
  • The City of Milwaukee Health Department (MHD) has been awarded a grant from the Public Health Institute, with funding from the Kresge Foundation, to enhance regional awareness of climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience activities. MHD and ECO have partnered with Reflo – Sustainable Water Solutions (Reflo) to implement projects that simultaneously addresse climate change adaptation and promotes community health and health equity through sustainably improving food security, and decreasing storm-water runoff
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