UW Health working to elevate priority put on renewables

Maximilian Christman, sustainability specialist for UW Health, says the health system is working to elevate the priority put on renewable energy.

UW Health encompasses six hospitals and over 70 clinics, with more than 18,000 employees in total.

Christman says a recent survey of community groups and stakeholders — staff, patients, faculty, medical students and residents — showed three top priorities: waste, green chemicals and renewable energy.

As of now, the system doesn’t run on any renewables — other than geothermal energy for the office building where Christman works. But he tells WisBusiness.com that UW Health is “consistently pushing utilities” on this issue.

He says barriers to the system adopting renewables come from policymakers as well as utilities.

“We’re trying to respond in kind to what we’re hearing from our audiences, and we’re pushing but it’s going to be a slow drive for sure,” he said. “We can’t just put this at the feet of the [Public Service Commission]… We have to get our leadership to buy in on this.”

He says “it’s no secret” that other states have invested much more heavily than Wisconsin in wind energy, and have set higher renewable energy portfolio standards.

“That’s not just California and Texas and the northeast where renewable energy has thrived; it’s also the states surrounding all of us,” he said, pointing to Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana Michigan.

“Wisconsin’s already met our renewable portfolio standards, and until we set a more stringent one… it’s got to come from both sides,” he said. “It’s got to come from the policy side; it has to come from the utilities.”

The state’s renewable energy standard was to hit 10 percent of total energy generation by 2015 according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Christman notes many “progressive businesses” in the Madison area, in Milwaukee and in the Fox Valley “are pushing hard on sustainability and doing what they can.”

“I know there’s some regulatory uncertainty there that is really holding things up, but I think the more we can start to follow state regulators and Public Service commissions, the utilities, the examples of other states, the more businesses are going to be able to do,” he said.

“I think businesses are pushing it, but we can certainly push it harder,” he added.

–By Alex Moe