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Olivia-Sanderfoot-InCommon-Winter2016-2

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Olivia-Sanderfoot-InCommon-Winter2016-2

  1. 1. 18 IN COMMON WINTER 2016 19 41% 30% 17%10% 1% 1% Commerical Industrial Residential Transportation Waste Water and Wastewater HELPING THE CITY OF MADISON CUT CARBON EMISSIONS ESTIMATING THE COST OF WISCONSIN’S CLEAN DRINKING WATER IN COMMON: AS A YOUNG, 20-SOMETHING STUDENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT, WHAT ENERGY ISSUES DO YOU THINK NEED SOLVING? SANDERFOOT: I would say transportation and the emissions associated with that sector are going to be a huge problem in the 21st century, and we, as a society, need to dedicate resources to reducing these emissions and investing in alternative transportation. It’s important for our generation to not lose faith in our ability to find solutions to our energy crisis or the problems associated with climate change. We must continue to drive forward and be inspired by human ingenuity.  WHAT DO YOU SEE AS SOLUTIONS TO SOME OF THESE PROBLEMS? I don’t think we yet know what all the pos- sible solutions are. I think we need to, as a The term “embodied energy” refers to the energy needed to pump groundwater or surface water to the water treatment plant, and to operate the equipment that removes contaminants and makes water suitable for human consumption. The students arbitrarily set embod- ied energy to zero at the water source. In Madison, the source is an underground aqui- fer; in Green Bay and Milwaukee, it’s surface water from Lake Michigan. In Madison, where the aquifer’s groundwa- ter has already been filtered by many layers of rock, sand and other natural materials, more energy is spent on operating pumps than on water treatment. “You just need to add a little chlorine and Madison’s water is pretty much fit to drink,” Behm says. For the Lake Michigan utilities, it’s the other way around: surface water requires less energy to pump up, but more energy to clean up. How much more depends on the nature of the utility’s water treatment process. Working with engineering physics Professor Paul Wilson, the students devel- oped statistical methods for classifying utilities as low- versus high-electricity use, based on the power needs of their respective water treatment and pumping equipment. The students’ analysis will help utility managers make more informed decisions about infrastructure investments for reduc- ing water loss – the difference between the amount of water pumped to the treatment plant versus the amount of water actually delivered to customers’ homes. society, invest in research in environmental science, renewable resources, transportation technology and so many other fields that could yield an entirely new option. WHAT ADVANCEMENTS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IN ENERGY? One, I think we can invest in more efficient and sustainable modes of public transporta- tion — for example, trains. Allowing more people access to transportation is also impor- tant from a social justice perspective.  Second, I’d like to see a more holistic understanding on the part of citizens as to what their personal energy consumption is and how they can take action in their day-to-day lives to reduce their carbon foot- print. For example, I recently decided I was no longer going to eat meat because of the emissions associated with its production and transportation. While we need to approach energy sus- tainability strategically from a scientific and technological perspective, on an individual level there are a lot of things we can do. IS THERE AN INTERESTING ENERGY LESSON YOU’VE GLEANED FROM A RECENT CLASS? I found my introductory environmental eco- nomics course with Corbett Grainger to be extremely useful in thinking about regional and global issues, especially when it comes to energy. I had never really considered many of the financial aspects of environmental move- ments; for example, what impacts regulations might have on companies, or how economics could actually be a tool to benefit both the private sector and our society and public health. That’s an interesting idea to me and some- thing I think a lot of people disregard — that finances can be used as a tool to better the environment. Like many local governments, the city of Madison is trying to reduce its emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHG) such as carbon dioxide. To achieve that goal, the city partnered with UW-Madison in 2010 to produce its first-ever emissions inventory. When it was time to update that inventory with 2014 data, the city again turned to a team of UW students. As part of the EAP capstone project in the spring of 2015, Emily Howell, Alexandra Karambelas, Xiaomeng Jin and Debaki Ale analyzed emission trends for specific energy sectors and proposed policy tools for reduc- ing Madison’s carbon emissions. “We identified transportation as a problem sector that accounts for 41 percent of GHG emissions,” Howell says.“This carbon foot- print can be reduced by increasing the use of public transportation to commute to work. But to be successful, that strategy has to be tailored to Madison’s unique geography.” That unique geography is the isthmus, a narrow strip of land wedged between Lakes Mendota and Monona and the site of two of Madison’s largest employers, the state government and UW-Madison. Since only so many roads can fit on a narrow piece of land, traffic congestion during daily rush hours causes significant emission spikes. To reduce those spikes, the students pro- posed transit-oriented city development: creating more living spaces around an isthmus-centered bus rapid transit (BRT) system. By using dedicated lanes, off-board fare collection, few stops and frequent operations, BRT would be a much faster commuting system than Madison’s current bus service. Residential development around BRT would encourage a greater proportion of the popula- tion to use it. “Dane County is predicted to experi- ence 70 percent of Wisconsin’s population growth between now and 2050,” Howell says. “Therefore, transit-oriented develop- ment would go a long way toward the 80 percent reduction in GHG emissions, from the 2010 baseline, that the sustainability committee would like to achieve.” As a second strategy, the students researched policies that other U.S. cities comparable to Madison are pursuing to boost their renewable energy portfolio. Since Madison does not own its electric utility, the students focused on a nearby city in the same situation: Minneapolis. The group found that Minneapolis recently signed a first-of-its-kind renewable energy agreement with its privately owned electric utility. Increased communication between Madison’s sustainability committee and partners in Minneapolis may lead to similar progress inWisconsin’s capital city. “Drive forward and be inspired” A STUDENT’S PRAGMATIC, OPTIMISTIC ASSESSMENT OF TODAY’S ENERGY CHALLENGES BY RACHAEL LALLENSACK Olivia Sanderfoot has her head in the clouds. Thinking about birds, that is. As an indicator species for environmental health, birds are a valuable ally in inspir- ing sustainable human behavior, she believes. “I think people can connect with birds… they bring people joy,” she says. “So in a way, it might be easier to get people on board about reducing emissions or miti- gating climate change if they see that the birds they love so much are affected by anthropogenic activity.” While an undergraduate at UW-Madison completing degrees in biology and Spanish with a certificate in environmen- tal studies, the 2015 graduate earned a Conservation Scholars award from the Madison Audubon Society for her efforts to engage students and the community in bird-related conservation. Today she continues to study the ani- mals as a master’s student in Environment and Resources, advised by Nelson Institute Professor Tracey Holloway. Holloway’s work at the intersection of air quality, energy and climate inspired Sanderfoot to examine how birds are impacted by atmospheric pollutants. Sanderfoot also serves as the outreach assistant for EAP, helping to connect stu- dents and alumni and publicize their work. The graduate certificate program helps students from any background think about energy in an interdisciplinary way, which Sanderfoot believes has broadened her outlook on important energy issues. “The alumni that I get to work with are doing phenomenal things; it’s very cool to see what they’ve done since leaving UW,” she says. “And exposure to the EAP classes and capstone projects has given me a lot to think about as I process news about our energy sector and other issues in today’s society.” Here, Sanderfoot shares some of those reflections. We don’t think about it when we turn on the faucet for a cold drink of water, but it takes quite a bit of energy to fill that glass. How much energy is a question that graduate stu- dents Andrew Behm, Andy Lick and Annie Lord spent the spring of 2015 pursuing. The student team worked with the Public Service Commission (PSC) of Wisconsin to complete their capstone project. In turn, PSC, an independent agency responsible for regulating Wisconsin’s utilities, including 580 water utilities, gained insight into how to save water, energy and money. “PSC wanted to use water treatment data submitted by each utility to estimate the energy embodied in drinking water,” Behm says.“This would allow them to better under- stand how water utilities use electricity, and what opportunities exist to conserve it.” $ 18 IN COMMON WINTER 2016 19 2014 GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS IN MADISON

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