WED AM News: Panelists says Legislature needs to clarify utility laws for EV charging expansion; Water Council announces latest BREW 2.0 cohort

— Transportation and electric vehicle experts say federal dollars could go a long way toward making charging stations more accessible, but the Legislature needs to clarify public utility laws before Wisconsin sees widespread charging network expansion.

UW-Madison Transportation Engineering Prof. David Noyce at a Wisconsin Tech Council luncheon in Madison said those involved in figuring out where to place new charging stations purchased with federal dollars from the bipartisan infrastructure law will focus largely on where drivers start and end their trips.

“So how are we going to decide where to put these charging stations? And the way I think about it and the way we’re looking at it, at least from a research perspective, is related to something that we always call in transportation engineering an origins destination study,” Noyce said yesterday.

He added creating charging networks in those high-use areas should come first, followed by an effort to fill in what he calls “mid-trip” EV charging needs. He also said addressing those intermediate charging needs would help curb much of the range anxiety concerns keeping many away from early EV adoption.

The federal infrastructure bill includes $79 million for EV charging stations in Wisconsin, according to a White House fact sheet.

But Godfrey & Kahn’s Art Harrington said legislation governing who is allowed to provide electricity to the public must be clarified before widespread EV adoption or charging station construction happens.

“There is a big issue,” Harrington said. “And that’s whether providing charging to the public, or indirectly, is a regulated public utility.”

He added the Legislature tried to tackle the issue with SB 573, but the measure failed to clear both chambers.

That bill spurred debate on which is best: a model centered on large public utility companies; or a model based on smaller, privately owned EV charging networks.

The model centered on larger public utility company EV charging networks would have cost-effectiveness, supply availability and pricing regulation and consumer protection advantages, Harrington said. But they would be more susceptible to hacking, less likely to immediately use renewable energy sources and struggle with balancing peak charging hours with demand.

Harrington added the smaller model would benefit from the likelihood it would use more renewable energy sources and be less of a target for hackers. However, the smaller operations would take more effort to connect with each other, lack consumer protections and likely be more costly overall.

Kayser Automotive Group President Sean Baxter said the high average cost of EVs is also a barrier for those looking to become an early adopter of the technology.

“It’s still an expensive proposition for a lot of people,” he said. “The technology is still expensive. The average price of an EV is probably in that $50,000-60,000 range. That’s out of reach for a lot of the buying public still.”

Harrington also said he expects many early adopters to be shipping companies that manage large fleets of vehicles that start and end most of their days at the same location.

“I think the early adopters are going to be in the logistics area,” he said. “Amazon, FedEx, delivery; they’re all doing that and it’s perfect, right?”

Still, Harrington stressed clarity on legislation regulating who can supply electricity to the public is needed before that happens in the logistics industry.

Watch the luncheon:

See an earlier story on SB 573:

See the White House fact sheet on the bipartisan infrastructure bill:

— The latest cohort for the Water Council’s BREW 2.0 “post-accelerator” program includes startups developing filtration technologies, microbial monitoring systems, a device that destroys PFAS chemicals and more. 

These businesses are the second batch to go through the BREW 2.0 program, which helps late-stage startups working with water technology to make industry connections and continue growing. It involves several weeks of “targeted virtual training” followed by follow-up training over the coming year. 

The 10 participating companies will make presentations June 23 during a virtual pitch event for potential investors and water industry professionals, a release shows. The cohort includes startups from the United States, Austria, the United Kingdom, Canada, India, Sweden and France. 

See the release, including a full list of this year’s cohort:  

— The Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin has announced $3.42 million in grants to support water-related research and academic programs across the UW System. 

This partnership of the state’s 13 public universities aims to support a “workforce of talented water professionals” to meet future water challenges related to climate change, invasive species and pollution. 

Examples of funded projects include: a summer research program for undergraduate students; a statewide internship program connecting UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, the Water Council and other industry partners; a new undergraduate course on managing the Mississippi River; various career and research outreach programs for high school students; a UW-Green Bay regional internship program; and dozens more. 

Marissa Jablonski, executive director for the collaborative, says water represents one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. 

“With these funds, the 13 UW Universities can expand training opportunities for students and prepare them to meet the needs of Wisconsin’s workforce and address our state’s biggest water challenges,” she said in the release. 

See the release: 

See a list of funded projects: 

— One of the state’s leading experts on infectious diseases is calling for a “fundamental paradigm shift” in how health organizations provide care. 

Dr. Nasia Safdar is a professor of medicine at UW-Madison and medical director of infection control at UW Hospital and Clinics. Speaking yesterday on a webinar hosted by the university’s Global Health Institute, she said health systems need to be more “outward looking” for the world to be better prepared for the next pandemic. 

She said the traditional delivery models in which patients shoulder the responsibility of seeking out care “has put all kinds of barriers in the way of access” during the pandemic. She called for health systems to engage with local residents “in a much more meaningful way, really doing community-based participatory work” related to education, medical care and research. 

“We’re there to deliver care, not for people to come to us, but for us to go to them,” she said. 

Panelists on the webinar reflected on strategies that proved effective during the pandemic, such as flexibility in research and information-sharing agreements. They also pointed to failings in public health communication due to lack of coordination and other issues. 

Looking ahead to the next potential pandemic, panelists suggested health agencies and organizations communicating with the public should take a less “black and white” approach. They also said more interactive data tools could help drive positive engagement with these entities. 

“We tend to communicate things in a really binary way,” said Amandine Gamble, a postdoctoral researcher in the UCLA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “It translated to, okay if you’re less than 6 feet away from people you’re in danger, but if you’re more than 6 feet away you’re safe, instead of the fact that it’s a gradient.” 

Her stance was echoed by Safdar and Stephen Morrison, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and director of its Global Health Policy Center. He called for a “wholesale rethink” of how messaging is handled at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“We’re not using the technologies in a deft fashion, we’re not doing adequate enough nimble, fast, intelligible communications,” he said. 

At the global level, Morrison criticized the “nationalist tendencies” of countries putting themselves first and noted poorer nations have fared much worse in measures of COVID-19 vaccination access. 

While Safdar pointed to information sharing between health care and research organizations as a success story, another expert panelist said more should be done on the international stage. Christian Happi is a professor of molecular biology and genomics at Redeemer’s University in Nigeria. 

“I think there should be what I call a global treaty, where people agree to share information, but also where people agree to share the benefit of the information,” Happi said. 

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— Hourly workers at a downtown Madison Starbucks have requested a union representation election from the National Labor Relations Board, according to a release from Workers United. 

The Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board of Workers United says an “overwhelming majority” of workers at the store signed union authorization cards. The move comes after other Starbucks workers in Plover and Oak Creek — as well as others in Washington, New York and Arizona — have also sought to unionize. 

The release shows workers at the Madison store wrote a letter to company CEO Howard Schultz this week saying “we will not give in to one-sided corporate decision-making” and highlighting the store’s proximity to the state Capitol. 

“How could we stay seated during this historic movement when our store’s location forces us to consider the importance of democracy and equality in decision-making in the workplace every day? We walk right past our state capitol building before clocking into each shift, reminded of Wisconsin’s struggle for justice at work,” they wrote. 

Wisconsin South Central Federation of Labor President Kevin Gundlach says the labor group stands “proudly in solidarity with these courageous young workers.” 

See the release: 


# Market volatility caused by war in Ukraine has Wisconsin farmers, agriculture companies on edge

# Frontdesk raises $4 million

# Source water for Appleton, Menasha, Neenah and Oshkosh tests low for ‘forever chemicals’



– WPS Farm Show begins Tuesday in Oshkosh

– National Dairy Challenge being held in Green Bay this week


– Calhoun Road project earns WisDOT Excellence in Highway Design award


– Federal funding helps support CALS research facility

– Milwaukee Public Schools disciplines Black students at disproportionate rate, study finds

– Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin awards $3.4 million to UW System water programs


– Summerfest announces lineup for June, July as Wisconsin music festivals prepare for a more normal summer

– Summerfest adds headliners Backstreet Boys, Thomas Rhett as full lineup unveiled


– Michels gets nearly $1M contract for Dane County phosphorus removal


– Madison’s mental health crisis-response program expands city-wide


– Kendall Packaging names new CFO


– Collins Aerospace closing New Berlin plant, laying off 90

– Collins Aerospace to close New Berlin facility


– Hunger Task Force sells former HQ near I-94

– Druml purchases former Hunger Task Force building

– Downtown Waukesha apartment building sold for $13.8 million


– Building code violations in just two ZIP codes account for one-quarter of Milwaukee’s total


– Sen. Baldwin urges Kohl’s to reject offers, raises Shopko example


– Inno Madness champion aims to be a ‘bridge’ to the metaverse


– Two Port Milwaukee projects awarded $4.5 million in harbor grants


– Our Wisconsin foundry is primarily women owned — and it’s not what most people probably think.


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

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Extends to May 11 the application deadline for Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program funding

Starbucks Workers United: First Starbucks in Madison announces unionization