20 years of FOCUS ON ENERGY® empowering Wisconsin with economic benefits

Randy Matsche, Operations Manager at Neenah Paper in Stevens Point, talks about the energy efficiency projects he and his team completed with Focus on Energy during a recent tour.

Last updated on December 20th, 2021 at 10:47 am

Wisconsin manufacturers and business understand energy efficiency saves them money and helps with sustainability. Over the past 20 years, hundreds of Wisconsin companies have turned to Focus on Energy. In collaboration with the state’s utilities, Focus on Energy helps Wisconsinites reduce energy waste, lower energy bills, and strengthen the economy.

Since 2011, Focus on Energy has delivered more than $1 billion worth of net economic benefits to Wisconsin through job creation, local infrastructure upgrades, and reducing the need to purchase energy from other states.

Getting here wasn’t easy. Buy-in from business owners and CEOs didn’t happen overnight. The Focus on Energy pilot program in 1999 needed help from someone Wisconsinites would trust.

The next time you’re watching the Green Bay Packers playing on the “Frozen Tundra” of Lambeau Field, thank them for helping you save money on energy.

The Green Bay Packers: Champions of Energy Efficiency

When the Packers, Wisconsin Public Service, and Focus on Energy kicked-off their collaboration, Wisconsin businesses started taking notice. The large energy consumers in Wisconsin, the manufacturing plant down the road, the industrial    paper mill about ten miles downriver, your kids’ schools plus colleges and universities, and the farmer just past the county line,  began looking towards the future and sustainability.

In 2001, the 13-time World Champion Green Bay Packers became “Champions of Energy Efficiency” scoring a major victory for all of Wisconsin’s homeowners and businesses. Wisconsin lawmakers crafted legislation turning Focus on Energy into a state law.

State Legislators realized the shift towards energy efficiency would create more jobs, stimulate the economy, and show financial benefits to ALL Wisconsinites.

Wisconsin State Senator Rob Cowles authored Wisconsin Act 141 in 2005 strengthening Focus on Energy.

(The Packers) is just one entity,” State Sen. Cowles said during a Focus on Energy event at Lambeau Field highlighting yet another energy-efficiency project. “The Focus (on Energy) program is about residential, commercial, and industrial.  We’re saving lots of money for those entities.”

Now, sector specific Focus on Energy Advisors meet regularly with business operations teams, industrial plant energy teams, schools and government administrators, and farmers and agribusinesses across Wisconsin who have utilized Focus on Energy or who are looking for energy-efficient guidance because they see how much value they receive with our Business Solutions.

This is how it all comes together for Wisconsin businesses.

Wisconsin’s Paper Industry Proves Energy Efficiency Raises Profits

Large, energy-efficiency capital projects can be cost-prohibitive. That alone keeps CEOs and CFOs from looking beyond the initial costs and seeing the enormous cost-savings to their companies. Working with our utility partners, Focus on Energy brings those upfront costs down through specific incentives and specialized offerings.

“The question that was always asked (by company leadership) was, ‘you tell me you’re going to get a check from Focus on Energy for $100,000…is that real?’” Neenah, Inc.’s Whiting Facility Technical Manager Randy Matsche said. “We ask for money (from the administration for energy projects), we don’t get asked that (question) anymore. Year after year after year, it’s just a given. This is a great program.”

Neenah Paper’s Stevens Point paper mill is a shining example of how that industry, part of the backbone of Wisconsin’s manufacturing history, realized lowering energy usage wouldn’t cut production. In fact, the energy-efficient machinery and different projects expanded production.

The Whiting Facility has its own “Energy Team” with a Processing Engineer known as the “Energy Champion” who is constantly looking to cut energy waste and make the paper mill more energy efficient.

Focus on Energy has provided more than $1.4 million in incentives over the last decade cutting energy bills that averaged $1 million/month in half!

Neenah, Inc. is preparing for its next energy-efficiency project scheduled for 2022.

Manufacturer’s Push for Energy Efficiency Saved Cornell, Wisconsin

When ABC Supply Co., Inc. purchased Mule-Hide Manufacturing, it saved the 100-year-old Mule-Hide Manufacturing plant in Cornell in the early 2000s. The mill is the largest employer in Cornell, and it was teetering on the edge of shutting down. The mill now produces felt roofing paper for the construction industry. ABC Supply Co., Inc. made a pledge to the Northwoods that it would be committed to sustainability and reduction of energy waste.

“We work toward keeping jobs in a small community and providing good employment,” Mule-Hide General Manager Sheri Scheidler said receiving a 2021 Energy Efficiency Excellence Award. “Our owners (ABC Supply CO., Inc.) see value in this community and energy savings. They know and we know Focus on Energy isn’t just fluff. How many projects would we have not been able to do without the incentive from Focus on Energy? For many businesses that (the incentive) could be the one thing pushing them to invest in that energy project.”

For the past 20 years, Mule-Hide has developed a steady flow of energy efficiency projects ranging from updating lighting to installing a high-efficiency boiler in 2014 with $200,000 in incentive assistance from Focus on Energy.

In 2019 and 2020 with the assistance of Focus on Energy’s Rural Industrial Bonus offering, Mule-Hide installed Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) on pumps that adjust motor speeds based on energy demand in the building. Mule-Hide also installed high efficiency re-pulper rotors, completed compressed air projects, LED lighting projects, and insulation projects.

These projects will save Mule-Hide $111,300 annually.

For every $1 you spend to power your home or business, Focus on Energy returns $4.32 in economic benefits. Lower energy bills and energy waste reduction helps businesses grow, allowing for expansion, and creating jobs. Energy-efficient workplaces keep employees happy, boosting their production as well.

“Switching over to LEDs, I cannot tell you how beneficial that was for the safety aspect,” Mule-Hide Safety Manager Tammy Stephens said. “You can see so much more and it just changes everything (for the employees).”

“It’s time to  focus”

Focus on business.

Focus on manufacturing and industry.

Focus on agriculture.

Focus on schools and government buildings.

Focus on Energy.

Where do you start?

Visit www.focusonenergy.com.

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Lisa Stefanik is Managing Director of Focus on Energy. From 2004 to 2011, Stefanik worked as the Focus on Energy Marketing Manager and Energy Policy Advisor at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. Stefanik’s robust experience in the energy industry includes implementation of complex program operations, budget management, forecasting, and analysis.

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