FRI AM News: Focus on Energy cost-effectiveness highlighted in new study; WisBusiness: The Podcast with Amy Achter of the UW-Madison Office of Business Engagement

— A new federal study finds Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program is the most cost-effective energy efficiency program in the country.

The study was conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and information from that analysis was included in the latest review of these programs from Cadmus, a third-party evaluator.

The Berkeley study broadly looked at energy efficiency programs funded by utility customers that were started between 2009 and 2015. After comparing programs in 41 states, the study determined the cost of saved electricity for Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program is 1 cent per kilowatt-hour saved — the highest rate of energy savings per dollars spent for all programs included in the study.

Focus on Energy provides monetary incentives to Wisconsin residents and businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, on behalf of 107 electric and natural gas utilities. It’s funded by the state’s investor-owned energy utilities and participating municipal utilities and electric cooperatives. The state Public Service Commission oversees the program.

“We knew we had a cost-effective program, but it’s nice to know we are leading the other states,” said Focus on Energy Program Director Erinn Monroe-Nye.

The ranking from the Berkeley study was noted in a separate report from Cadmus, which also included a look at Focus on Energy program data from between 2015 and 2018.  

The Cadmus report showed that small business participation in the program increased 46 percent in those three years, while rural residential participation increased 29 percent.

Over the same period, savings from heating and cooling technologies nearly tripled, and accounted for more than 28 million tons of avoided carbon dioxide emissions. According to a release from Focus on Energy, that’s equal to taking six million cars off the road for a year.

See more:

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: The Podcast” is with Amy Achter, managing director of UW-Madison’s Office of Business Engagement.

She’s held the position for about a year, since the university’s former Office of Corporate Relations shifted to its current structure as the Office of Business Engagement. She discusses details of that transition, including how OBE is developing new strategies for connecting with businesses in the state and elsewhere.

“Folks realized that companies view us as one UW, and want to be able to come here and talk to one person about all the opportunities — and that wasn’t really happening,” she said. “They may want to talk about talent, or training, or sponsored research, or opportunities for philanthropy and we can now address all of those.”

Earlier this year, the university announced a new American Family Insurance Data Science Institute, which was an expansion of an already existing relationship between the university and the Milwaukee insurer. According to Achter, OBE helped that connection flourish.

“In that case, both parties have found so much value in that relationship,” Achter said. “We’re very excited and proud about that.”

Listen to the podcast here:

See a full list of podcasts, sponsored by UW-Madison:

— The Medical College of Wisconsin says it could add up to 50 new research positions at a planned cancer research facility, following a Joint Finance Committee vote approving a grant for the project.

Earlier this week, JFC voted in favor of a $10 million State Building Commission grant for the Milwaukee facility, providing two-thirds of the funding that Gov. Tony Evers had originally proposed.

The GOP-controlled committee approved yesterday its version of the budget 12-4 along party lines. Now the biennial state budget must be approved by both the Assembly and Senate and be signed into law by the guv before going into effect.

John Raymond, president and CEO of MCW, says creating a dedicated facility for cancer research would “transform the future of cancer research in Wisconsin and beyond.”

See the JFC motion on the appropriation here:

— JFC has added a tax package to the budget that includes a net reduction of $378.6 million. The bulk of that would be an income tax cut that averages $75 per each filer who qualifies in tax year 2019.

Separately, the committee backed a standalone bill to use additional revenue from online sales to reduce income taxes by another $136.1 million in tax year 2020.

Between the bill and the budget, the combined impact would be an average reduction of $136 in 2020 for the taxpayers who qualify, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

See the Budget Blog for more:  

— Sen. Andre Jacques, R-De Pere, is circulating legislation for co-sponsorship that would change the state’s definition of solid waste to exclude certain sediments removed from the bed of Lake Michigan or Lake Superior.

A Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis included in the memo shows the bill would ensure the definition of solid waste doesn’t include sand “naturally deposited” in those lakes that is later removed and found to be largely free of contamination.

According to the memo, this change would make it easier to reuse “clean beach sand” without needing to transport it to a containment facility.

Jacques and co-author Rep. Shae Shortwell, R-Two Rivers, have set an initial deadline of June 25 for co-sponsorship.

See the bill text:  

— Applications are now being accepted for the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s Pressure Chamber competition, which takes place during Forward Festival Aug. 27 at the Overture Center.

“Pressure Chamber is about highlighting the best of Greater Madison’s startup scene and enhancing the economic connection between two of the fastest-growing technology job creators in the country,” Chamber Vice President Kevin Little said in a statement. “This year’s competition represents another golden opportunity to showcase Greater Madison’s thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem and give our community an up-close look at the innovative ideas driving the future of our economy.”

According to a release, applicants must be a member of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, be located in Dane County and have raised at least $25,000, excluding personal investment by company founders.

Applications are due by 5 p.m. Monday, July 15.

See more at Madison Startups:

Listen to a podcast with a co-founder for last year’s winner, Live Undiscovered Music:


# Dairyland Power took coal plant offline because of flooding, but it could be saving money buying power from the grid

# State law blocks Wisconsin Center District from forcing ‘labor peace’ says document

# Shipping on the Mississippi River should pick up next week



– Wisconsin winter wheat forecast well behind 2018 levels

– State maple syrup output rose from 2018


– WisDOT gets federal grant for signal upgrades at Milwaukee rail hub


– FFA officer team announced, Star Award winners honored


– UPAF campaign brings in $11.94 million


– Next round of gypsy moth aerial treatments planned

– DNR trackers: Wisconsin wolf population healthy & stable

– Land trusts voice mixed feelings over short-term approval of stewardship program


– Panera plans to relocate Mequon restaurant to add drive-through

– Food for Success coalition aiming to combat childhood hunger in Madison


– Joint Finance votes to include $10 million in state budget for MCW cancer research facility


– Zywave acquires California insurance automation startup


– Bird droppings, safety netting don’t make Post Office building unusable, government argues

– UW-Eau Claire Foundation sues city to avoid property taxes


– Northwestern Mutual Foundation awards $1.4 million to Milwaukee area cultural attractions

– Verona pantry redirects wasted food to worthy sources, from soup to nuts


– Wisconsin Legislature approves $10M for Medical College cancer center

– Republican-led finance committee passes state budget

– Wisconsin budget committee approves more than $450 million in income tax cuts


– Scannell buys recently completed industrial building in Pleasant Prairie

– Milwaukee among U.S. metros with lowest percentage of black homeowners, study finds


– Duluth Trading Co. will open at Mall of America, replacing Rihanna pop-up

– The Regal Find expands in downtown Middleton to further showcase local artisans


– Utility using drones to build power lines


– Developer cuts the ribbon on historic downtown Kenosha hotel


– Smart kiosks could offer public Wi-Fi, advertising along Milwaukee streetcar line


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

Direct Supply: Honored with 2019 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award

Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin: Kicks off campaign to “Unrig the Economy”

Medical College of Wisconsin: Applauds Joint Finance Committee’s vote for a cancer research facility

UW-Madison: Risk-based breast-cancer screenings decrease both benefits and harms