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Reprinted from: Green Bay Press-Gazette

February 18, 2006

UWGB embraces renewable energy

NatureWise program to provide 10% of power

By Terry Anderson

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is again living up to an old nickname Eco U.

Beginning with the fall 2006 semester, UW-Green Bay will purchase 10 percent of the campus's electrical energy from renewable energy sources through the NatureWise program offered by Wisconsin Public Service Corp.

A month ago, UW-Green Bay students voted to become the first campus in Wisconsin to purchase "green energy" through a voluntary $1.69 increase in student fees per semester during the next four years.

"Lots of people talk about supporting the environment, but this is real action. This is really doing something about it," said senior Michelle Eis, a senior environmental policy major. "It's really great how it worked out."

Eis, a Two Rivers native who helped to spearhead the NatureWise issue on campus, said it's especially gratifying because there's been quite a bit of publicity about the fact that UW-Green Bay student fees are the highest in the University of Wisconsin system.

The proposal was approved by UW-Green Bay's Student Senate in December. Surveys showed that the initiative was supported by more than 80 percent of the students.

Final approval was granted by the Student University Fee Allocation Committee in late January.

NatureWise provides a choice for WPS customers who support renewable energy. Electricity produced from local wind and biogas resources is offered at a premium, said Chip Bircher, WPS renewable energy product manager.

The student fees for NatureWise will total $17,000-18,000 per year, which is the difference between the normal cost of electricity and the premium rate for NatureWise.

The university spends about $2.3 million for utilities, of which a little more than $1 million is for electrical power from WPS. That accounts for 17.7 million kilowatt hours. The premium cost is one cent more per kilowatt hour.

"What makes this unique is that the students are voluntarily paying for this," Bircher said. "With the challenges of the state budget I thought it was very proactive of the students."

The proposal got its start last April during Earth Day promotions when WPS representatives discussed the NatureWise program with students, Eis said.

Initially there was talk of making 4 percent of the campus energy come from renewable sources, but as students talked about the subject they became more ambitious, Eis said. They finally settled on a goal of 10 percent.

The initiative has gone beyond the students.

UW-Green Bay chancellor Bruce Shepard committed to matching the students' funding with an equal amount that will be used for energy conservation and energy efficiency upgrades on the campus.

So while more renewable energy will be purchased, the university will be concentrating on reducing the campus's overall energy needs.

"This initiative aligns (UW-Green Bay) with the direction Governor Doyle set for all state agencies as well as the president's renewed call for affordable, environmentally responsible energy sources," added Shepard.

Doyle has called for state government to get 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2006 and 20 percent by 2010. "We commend the students for their commitment to environmental stewardship," said Larry Weyers, WPS chairman and chief executive officer, in a prepared statement. "We have teamed up with UW-Green Bay on several renewable energy projects in the past, and we're pleased that the students chose NatureWise to expand the university's efforts in this area."

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