What is the Green Innovation Fund and Why You Should Care

Tony Evers

Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)

By Fiona Hatch

July 17, 2023

Everything you need to know about Gov. Tony Evers’ new environment initiative and what it means for the future of Wisconsin.

On June 22, Gov. Tony Evers announced the members of a group in charge of regulating a new essential fund in the Wisconsin budget that will help finance environmental innovation and clean energy initiatives.

The Green Ribbon Commission on Clean Energy and Environmental Innovation was signed into law by the Governor through an Executive Order in April. It will administer a Green Innovation Fund that will act as a “green bank” for Wisconsin innovators to dip into by using a mix of private and public investments, according to an Evers press release. This bank will help pay for new projects aimed at reducing energy costs for Wisconsin families, reducing pollution, and expanding access to energy that is both environmentally clean and affordable.

The creation of a Green Innovation Fund and the commission is a groundbreaking development in Wisconsin’s push for environmental sustainability that doesn’t break the bank of local businesses or households. Here’s what you need to know about Wisconsin’s energy sector and how this fund changes the game for the state’s transition to clean energy.

Wisconsin’s Energy Sector

The state’s energy sector was at the top of mind when Evers created the Green Innovation Fund – and for good reason. In 2021, Wisconsin’s energy came from three primary sources: coal, natural gas, and motor gasoline. For context, hydroelectric power was only responsible for 19 trillion Btu’s of energy consumption in 2021, compared to 286.8 trillion from coal – and this was after a 40% reduction in coal-related energy production since 1997.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, there is no way of combating climate change without changing where we source our energy. For Wisconsin’s part, Evers has paid the energy sector particular attention in the state’s transition toward environmental sustainability. In 2022, he released the state’s first clean energy plan, which maps the road toward a zero-carbon electric grid by 2050. One of the biggest complaints filed by opponents to Governor Evers’ clean energy plan, such as the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce lobbying group, was that carbon-free electricity would be too expensive and would hurt business and individual consumers in the form of higher energy prices.

This is where the Green Innovation Fund becomes a critical piece in determining the success of the clean energy plan. As the state pulls its funds out of the fossil fuel industry it is currently reliant upon, that money is instead directed toward investing in sustainable energy development and innovation.

Incentivizing creative energy solutions through increased government funding presents new opportunities to experiment with new energy technologies without the fear of losing money. The fund is also designed to make sure that Wisconsin families and businesses can afford to transition to these new technologies by helping front the costs. Financial incentives for companies and households to move toward renewable sources of power like solar, wind, or hydroelectric will be critical to reaching these clean energy goals by 2050.

The future of energy in Wisconsin

What does the Green Innovation Fund mean for the future of Wisconsin’s energy grid? To ease the minds of local business owners and low-to-middle-income households, this new initiative is dedicated to cleaning up Wisconsin’s energy sector without raising the price of energy production or consumption. The new commission assembled by Governor Evers includes representatives from the state’s Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. This means that the commission will have voices with stakes in promoting environmental sustainability and in economic growth as well as the future of the energy sector and the health of the planet in mind.

The Green Innovation Fund is not the only environmental initiative taking place across the state. Milwaukee just approved its own Climate and Equity Plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 45 percent by 2030 and zero by 2050 – a goal that will push the city’s energy economy toward cleaner energy alternatives while also opening employment opportunities to people of color, according to the Milwaukee Environmental Collaboration Office.

With these new financial investments into energy innovation and a common goal of reaching environmental sustainability, Wisconsin is on the path to becoming a national leader in a new energy economy.

(More information on the Green Innovation Fund will be made available in the coming months, according to the Governor)

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