Columbus: An Energy Sustainability Leader

The City of Columbus has made a commitment to energy sustainability that results in better use of resources, reduced expenses and an enhanced quality of life for residents.

This collective effort began when Columbus Water and Light (CWL) worked with city leaders to put energy-use policies in place and apply for a Leading By Example grant from WPPI Energy, the utility’s wholesale electric provider. That funding helped Columbus create the Greater Columbus Energy Commission (GCEC) and hire Steve Sobiek as the city’s 1st economic development and energy sustainability director.

As a locally owned, not-for-profit utility, CWL staff have been able to work closely with members of the commission to make decisions and implement changes based on their long-term benefits to the city’s residents and business owners.

The GCEC’s first task was to establish an energy-use baseline for the city and benchmark its municipal energy usage. Columbus was among the first generation of communities in the state to adopt Wisconsin’s 25 by 25 goals, pledging to reduce its non-renewable energy usage by 25% by 2025. As a result, the city earned the Energy Independence Community designation and received a $50,000 State Energy Independence Grant.

Completed Projects
Since then the utility and the commission have completed several other projects, including:
  • Converting Columbus streetlights to LED technology with the help of a $159,000 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant. The city became the first in Wisconsin to convert its street lights to LED.
  • Installing electric power plug-in charging stations for electric and hybrid vehicles and LED lighting at three public parking lots.
  • Generating up to 8,000 kWh in electricity per year through the Columbus High School Solar Demonstration Project, which is used in the school’s science curricula.
  • Converting the city’s vehicle fleet to electric vehicles or hybrids: an electric truck for Public Works, a hybrid high-efficiency bucket truck, a Chevy Volt, an electric-powered Prius and a Ford hybrid.
  • Participating in the 25% Energy Efficiency Home Project, a community and regional public education initiative to build energy-efficient homes. The homes, built in the Highland Ridge subdivision, are solar ready, Energy Star rated and Green Built certified, with solar hot water heating and other features that use 27% less energy compared to a home with the floor plan.
  • Sponsored the annual Columbus Energy Fair on the first Saturday in October to educate residents on energy efficiency, renewable power options and new technologies.
  • Used solar-powered lighting for the new Columbus welcome sign on West James Street.
  • Assisted with several energy-efficiency projects for city facilities, including the public works department, water and light department, senior center, police station, fire department, scout cabin, city hall and library.
E3P Enhanced Energy Efficiency Program
Recently Columbus Water and Light introduced its new E3P Enhanced Energy Efficiency Program to provide the following energy-saving opportunities to Columbus residents:
  • The Home Performance with Energy Star program from Focus on Energy, which gives homeowners up to $250 toward the cost of a comprehensive home energy analysis and improvement plan.
  • The High Power Floor Lamp Exchange, which allows CWL customers to exchange a quartz lamp-type torchiere floor lamp for a new Energy Star fluorescent torchiere floor lamp.
  • The Super High Efficiency Clothes Washer Cash Reward to provide CWL customers $100 on qualified washers that meet the highest efficiency rating from the Coalition for Energy Efficiency.
  • Tree Power, a program offering Columbus home and apartment owners up to $50 toward the purchase of qualifying deciduous shade trees, planted near homes and buildings to reduce air conditioner use during the summer months.
  • The Central Air Conditioning Tune Up Program, which provides Columbus residents with a $25 reward to have their central air conditioning equipment professionally cleaned and checked.
  • Several Earth Day and Arbor Day events planned for the week of April 22. These events will include the planting of a community Christmas tree on the library mall on April 27; e-cycling for PCs and computer monitors; an Earth Day poster contest; and a film and panel discussion on Aldo Leopold.
With ongoing involvement from those who live and work in Columbus, the city will continue to grow as an energy sustainable community for generations to come.

For more information, contact Patrick Vander Sanden, Economic Development Director, at 920-623-5900 or by email.