State and Local Policy Database


City Scorecard Rank


Milwaukee, WI

40.00Scored out of 100Updated 5/2015
Local Government Operations
Score: 6.5 out of 15 points
Local Government Summary List All

ReFresh Milwaukee describes the city’s energy-related goals and strategies for its internal government operations. The Office of Sustainability oversees implementation of the government operations goal and facilitates interdepartmental coordination.

Last updated: December 2014

Local Government Energy Efficiency Goals List All

The mayor issued an executive order to cut energy use in local government operations by 15% between 2005 and 2012, but Milwaukee does not have an overall post-2012 energy-related goal for local government operations. However, Milwaukee is a Better Buildings Community Partner and has a goal to reduce the energy intensity in a portfolio of municipal and private buildings by 20% by 2020.

While there is not a local government operations-wide goal, Milwaukee has reduced the energy intensity of a portion of its municipal building stock by 8% since 2009.  

Last updated: December 2014

Performance Management Strategies List All

Milwaukee has a revolving loan fund that provides funding for energy efficiency improvements in local government operations. 

Milwaukee’s progress toward its Better Buildings goal is publicly available on a Better Buildings webpage. The city regularly reports to community groups and the Milwaukee Common Council regarding progress towards ReFresh Milwaukee goals and the city consults with the groups as programs need to be adjusted. Milwaukee tracks municipal energy use through Portfolio Manager and shares its data with DOE and third party consultants for evaluation.

The Deputy Director of Environmental Sustainability works on energy efficiency initiatives within local government operations and chairs the Mayor’s Energy Reduction Team, which is comprised of facility managers from core city departments. The Milwaukee Fire Department participated in the Cool Choices program to reduce energy use, which yielded an energy savings of 6.6% over a two-month period. 

Last updated: February 2015

Procurement and Construction List All

Vehicle Fleets and Infrastructure

Milwaukee has 46 hybrid passenger vehicles in its fleet and is planning to add more hybrid vehicles, but we could not confirm if the local government has fuel efficiency requirement in place for its public fleet. City staff who do not need much equipment drive compact vehicles, many of which are hybrid and compressed natural gas vehicles. According to city policy, city employees must operate vehicles in a fuel efficient manner and avoid engine idling. 

Note: For local fleet initiatives, policies listed must make a specific, mandatory requirement for increasing fleet efficiency. Local alternative-fuel vehicle procurement requirements that give a voluntary option to count efficient vehicles are thus not included.

Public Lighting

We do not know if Milwaukee has adopted a policy requiring efficient outdoor lighting, such as the International Dark-Sky Association’s Model Lighting Ordinance. The city won a $10,000 award from the Wisconsin State Energy Office to install 54 LED streetlights which will replace the HPS currently in use. Streetlights are timed to operate only when necessary.

New Buildings and Equipment

Milwaukee does not have energy efficiency requirements for new public buildings. The city requires ENERGY STAR for new appliance purchases.

Last updated: December 2014

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

All municipal buildings are benchmarked and then exported to Portfolio Manager. Milwaukee is a DOE Better Buildings Challenge Community Partner, with 5 million square feet committed, including municipal buildings.

Sustainable Infrastructure Policies

The city does not have formalized sustainable infrastructure policies. As a built-out city, approximately 95% of Milwaukee’s capital budget is for renovation, replacement, or right-sizing of existing assets or infrastructure.

Public Employees

Milwaukee’s city employees can telework on a department-by-department basis. Milwaukee subsidizes local government employees’ commuter value passes through their employee transit benefit

Last updated: February 2015

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 3.5 out of 10 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Office leads the city’s implementation of its community-wide energy efficiency initiatives.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Energy Efficiency GoalsList All

Common Council Resolution 131035 adopted Milwaukee’s sustainability plan, ReFresh Milwaukee, but the plan does not include a specific community-wide energy efficiency-related goal. However, dovetailing with its Better Buildings goal, Milwaukee recruits businesses in downtown Milwaukee to cut their energy use 20% by 2020. The city does release ReFresh Milwaukee Annual Progress Reports which track the city’s progress towards its broadly defined sustainability goals.

Last updated: January 2017

Performance Management StrategiesList All

Common Council Resolution 131035 directs Milwaukee to annually report on activities and on the progress of their energy efficiency goals related to ReFresh Milwaukee. Milwaukee currently has two fulltime employees in the Office of Environmental Sustainability dedicated to community-wide energy efficiency strategies. The U.S. DOE independently evaluates the performance of buildings participating in the Better Buildings Challenge, but we could not confirm if the city regularly uses an independent third party to evaluate, monitor, and verify savings from community-wide efficiency projects. We could not confirm if Milwaukee has a dedicated funding source or budgeting mechanism for community-wide energy management or efficiency investments.

Last updated: February 2015

Efficient Distributed Energy Systems - District Energy and Combined Heat and PowerList All

We did not find information on any programs or policies to plan for future district energy systems. 

Last updated: January 2017

Mitigation of Urban Heat Islands List All

ReFresh Milwaukee contains an urban heat island mitigation goal to double tree canopy coverage in Milwaukee to 40% by 2023.

The city helps fund the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewer District’s Green Infrastructure Funding Program that provides incentives for the use of low impact development techniques in site design. Milwaukee has not adopted a private tree protection ordinance or policies that require or incentivize conservation of private land.

Last updated: January 2017

Buildings Policies
Score: 9.5 out of 29 points
Buildings Summary List All

Milwaukee has some building sector initiatives to improve efficiency including an energy savings target and residential and commercial efficiency incentives. The Development Center manages the building energy code compliance and enforcement for the City of Milwaukee.

Last Updated: December 2014

Stringency of Energy CodesList All

The State of Wisconsin requires local jurisdictions to follow the state building codes. Residential construction must follow the Wisconsin Uniform Dwelling Code. The Wisconsin Uniform Dwelling Code incorporates the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Commercial construction must follow the Wisconsin Commercial Building Code, which is based on the 2009 IECC. To learn more about Wisconsin’s building energy codes, please visit the State Policy Database.


Commercial construction in Milwaukee complies with the Wisconsin Commercial Building Code. The City of Milwaukee advocates for more stringent energy codes and has advocated the state against efforts to weaken local energy efficiency codes. 


Residential construction in Milwaukee complies with the Wisconsin Uniform Dwelling Code. The City of Milwaukee advocates for more stringent energy codes and has advocated the state against efforts to weaken local energy efficiency codes. 

Last Updated: January 2017

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

Milwaukee reported a budget of $1,548,500 for the building code department in 2013. This level of spending normalizes to $65 per $1,000 of residential construction spending for the city. Milwaukee has not made third-party plan review or performance testing mandatory for code compliance, nor has it established either as a voluntary code compliance option. Milwaukee does not provide upfront support to developers or owners for energy code compliance.

Last Updated: December 2014

Requirements and Incentives for Efficient Buildings List All

Building Energy Savings Goals

Milwaukee is a US DOE Better Buildings Challenge Community Partner, committing to a 20% reduction in energy intensity in a portfolio of public and private buildings.

Green Building Requirements

Milwaukee has not yet established above-code building requirements for any class of building.

Energy Audit and Retrofit Requirements

Milwaukee does not yet require commercial or residential buildings to take energy efficiency actions such as energy audits or retro-commissioning.

Incentives and Financing for Efficient Buildings

The Milwaukee Energy Efficiency (Me2) program offers rebates to Milwaukee homeowners for energy efficiency upgrades. Me2 also offers commercial PACE funding and rebates for energy efficiency upgrades for small buildings. The Targeted Investment Neighborhood (TIN) program offers loans to income-qualified owner-occupants. One of the program’s priorities is energy efficiency upgrades.

Last Updated: December 2014

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All

Milwaukee is exploring a disclosure mandate for commercial buildings, but the city does not currently have mandatory or voluntary programs to encourage building benchmarking in any sector. The MLS that serves the Milwaukee area includes fields for energy efficiency features.

Last Updated: December 2014

Comprehensive Efficiency Services List All

A Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program is available to all homeowners in Milwaukee through Focus on Energy. Comprehensive efficiency services for multifamily buildings and small commercial buildings are available through Focus on Energy programs.

Last Updated: December 2014

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 9.5 out of 18 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

We Energies, an investor-owned utility (IOU) and subsidiary to Wisconsin Energy Corporation, is the primary electric and natural gas utility serving the City of Milwaukee. The State of Wisconsin requires spending and savings targets for its electric and natural gas utilities through a PSC act. The utilities pool their required spending totals into the Statewide Energy Efficiency and Renewables Administration (SEERA). SEERA is required to create and fund Focus on Energy and to contract, on the basis of competitive bids, with one or more persons to administer the programs. To learn more about the state requirements for electric and gas efficiency, please visit the Wisconsin page of the State Database.

Milwaukee Water Works provides drinking water services to the City of Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) is a regional wastewater utility that serves Milwaukee.

Last Updated: December 2014

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs, Spending & SavingsList All

In 2013, We Energies spent $38,080,400 on electric efficiency programs between the utility’s own efficiency programs and Focus on Energy programs, representing 1.34% of its annual revenue. Due to these programs, We Energies reported a net incremental electricity savings of 222,067MWh, representing 0.91% of its retail sales. In the same year, We Energies reported spending $9,520,000 on natural gas efficiency programs. The expenditures normalize to $22.10 per residential customer. Due to these programs, We Energies reported a net incremental savings of 9.35MMTherms, representing 1.30% of its retail sales, according to the Focus on Energy Calendar Year 2012 Evaluation Report. Spending on electricity represented in this section covers the entire Wisconsin service territory, not just Milwaukee. 

Milwaukee signed a MOU with the Focus on Energy small business program to market the program as part of its Me2 outreach efforts and the city has submitted comments to the Public Service Commission expressing its support for strong energy efficiency spending.

Last Updated: February 2015

Energy Efficiency Targets & Funding Agreements List All

Milwaukee’s utilities are not subject to local energy savings targets, but instead are required to meet the state targets.

Milwaukee does not have in place a franchise agreement or municipal aggregation contract that includes funding for energy efficiency.

Last Updated: December 2014

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

In order for customers to access their own energy data, We Energies makes energy use data available online in a downloadable format; however, this format does not have the comparison features similar to the Green Button data sharing platform. The utility does not provide building managers or owners with automatic whole-building benchmarking data for input into Portfolio Manager. Community-wide energy usage information at the aggregate level for community planning is not available for city geographic boundaries but data is available for the utility at large. Milwaukee advocated for automated benchmarking in Portfolio Manager and the Refresh Milwaukee Plan calls for implementation of the Green Button.

Last Updated: December 2014

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

Water Efficiency

There are currently no water efficiency goals, policies, or programs in place for the City of Milwaukee.

Energy Efficiency and Self-Generation

MMSD’s Vision 2035 contains climate change mitigation and adaption strategies with an emphasis on energy efficiency and the regional wastewater treatment plant uses landfill gas to generate energy onsite.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Milwaukee's stormwater fee is based on impervious surface so customers can get reductions for installing green infrastructure. There is also funding in place for green infrastructure on public property, including building green roofs and rain gardens on municipal properties.

Milwaukee is committed to capturing the first half-inch of rain falling within the municipality by 2035, as stated in MMSD’s Regional Green Infrastructure Plan.

Last Updated: December 2014

Score: 11 out of 28 points
Transportation Summary List All

The transportation authority serving Milwaukee is Milwaukee Transit Services (MTS). MTS provides the public transportation for the city and the broader metropolitan area, including bus services. The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) is the MPO in charge of conducting metropolitan transportation planning. Its area of jurisdiction encompasses seven counties, including Milwaukee County, in the southeastern region of Wisconsin. Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works is charged with managing the city’s transportation network.

Last updated: December 2014

Location Efficiency List All

Milwaukee has development incentive zones in neighborhoods of the city in order to create new development projects that are more compatible with existing development and are pedestrian-friendly. The city additionally has adopted an LB3 zoning code to promote compact, pedestrian-friendly development along business corridors. Milwaukee does not have required parking minimums for single-family and two-family homes, although it is unclear if there are parking requirements for multifamily housing. Parking requirements are also reduced in some districts of the city that are best served by transit. There are no other incentives available to promote location efficiency. Although Milwaukee has not yet adopted a policy, the State of Wisconsin adopted a complete streets policy in 2008 through State Statutes Section 1918gr. 84.01.

Last updated: February 2015

Mode Shift List All

Transportation and Land Use Planning

Milwaukee's Refresh Milwaukee plan includes a number of strategies to improve mobility and reduce VMT within the city including improving transit service and accomodating multimodal travel on all streets. 

Car and Bicycle Sharing

There is one car sharing program currently available to the residents and visitors of Milwaukee, zipcar. Milwaukee is served by the Bublrbikes bikesharing program.

Transportation Demand Management Programs

Milwaukee provides a subsidized transit pass, the Commuter Value Pass, for municipal workers, and the city is served by a state-wide rideshare program.

Last updated: February 2015

Transit List All

The MTS transit system that serves Milwaukee received $179,037,141 in total funding in 2012. This funding level is $182.99 per resident in the service territory of the agency. In comparison, 2011 spending on roads and parking by the city was $151,737,954 or $253.57 per city resident. This results in a ratio of per capita regional transit funding to per capita city highway and parking funding of 0.70 to 1.

The Transit Connectivity Index measures how many transit rides are available per week within walking distance from the average household. Milwaukee’s Transit Connectivity Index value is 29,598, putting it in the second-highest category (20,000 - 50,000) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: December 2014

Efficient Vehicles and Driver Behavior List All

At this time, Milwaukee does not offer incentives for citizens to purchase hybrid, plug-in, or EV vehicles. There are no incentives available for the construction of commercial or private EV charging infrastructure. The local government has not yet made any EV charging stations available for public use. 

Milwaukee has an anti-idling policy for the city fleet and public vehicles and Milwaukee municipal staff engage with the Wisconsin Clean Cities Coalition, which works to reduce petroleum use in transportation.

Last updated: December 2014

Freight List All

There are 13 intermodal freight facilities within Milwaukee’s boundaries, 7 of which we classify as efficient because they are port- or rail-capable. Milwaukee’s share of regional freight traffic in 2011, normalized by population, is 14,637 ton-miles. As a result, there are 0.478 efficient intermodal facilities per thousand ton-miles of freight traffic, putting the city in the second-lowest category for this metric (0-0.4999) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: December 2014