Wisconsin’s 16 technical colleges use hands-on training to educate their students. That means tech schools are expensive to operate while providing lower tuition than 4-year colleges.
Western Technical College in La Crosse realized almost 20 years ago that energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy sustainability projects could dramatically help keep tuition down.
The constant search for innovative energy reduction projects and leading the way in sustainable energy actions is why Western Technical is a 2023 Energy Efficiency Excellence Award Recipient.
In 2005, Western Technical College in Downtown La Crosse partnered with Focus on Energy and its utility, Xcel Energy on more than 70 projects.
54 projects since 2013.
In 2007, Western was a charter signatory of the President’s Climate Commitment (Second Nature Carbon Commitment), calling for colleges and universities to aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This declaration set in motion energy efficiency work that continues today.
“When you look at machine tool and welding programs, they take a lot of energy," said Western Technical College President Roger Stanford during the award ceremony. “How do you do that efficiently and how do you do that in a world-class environment?
“Our energy conservation program has saved over $4 million since 2009,” said Stanford. “Those are real dollars and validated savings for our taxpayers which allows us to be resilient and focus our efforts on students getting great jobs.”
The American Association of Sustainability and Higher Education lists Western Technical as a Top 10 Two-Year College for Overall Sustainability Performance and a Top 10 in the country among all colleges and universities for Energy Reduction Using Renewable Sources.
“Their work is a reminder to us all that we don't have to choose between mitigating climate change and protecting our environment and good paying jobs and economic development,” said Wisconsin Lt. Governor Sara Rodriguez. “We can and should do both.”
Western's list of energy improvement projects includes:
The Western Technical College Energy Team, developed in 2013, has more than 18 members, including Focus on Energy as a long-standing active member. It is among the few higher education customers participating in the Strategic Energy Management (SEM) program.
“We have committed to being both sustainable and resilient organization,” said Stanford. “This helps reduce our carbon footprint, reduce our costs so that we can continue offering this high-value education that's so important for our communities, for our employers, and for lifting people up.”
“One of our core values at Xcel Energy is commitment, and we share this value with Western Technical and their commitment to energy efficiency and sustainability,” said Xcel Energy Key Account Advisor Alex Lueck. “This award showcases the efforts of Western Technical College and their efforts over the last decade.”
In 2022, Western Technical partnered with Xcel Energy to install the region's first-known Solar Electric Vehicle charging stations. Western has enjoyed a cost avoidance of over $4 million dollars since its baseline year of 2010.
Western Technical also implemented a room scheduling program which integrates the entire system to schedule energy uses ONLY if that room is scheduled to have a class. Every year, Western Technical implements two organization-wide energy audits and setbacks to engage campus staff in reducing energy usage.