State and Local Policy Database


City Scorecard Rank


Milwaukee, WI

35.50Scored out of 100Updated 5/2017
Local Government Score:
4.5 out of 10 points
Local Government Summary List All

While ReFresh Milwaukee describes the city’s energy efficiency strategies for internal government operations from 2005 to 2012, Milwaukee does not have an overall post-2012 energy-related goal for local government operations. The Office of Sustainability oversaw implementation of the government operations goal and facilitates interdepartmental coordination.

Last updated: February 2017

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 relative to a 2009 baseline.






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 consults with the groups as programs need to be adjusted. According to a 2014 report, Milwaukee reduced the energy intensity of a portion of its municipal building stock by 12% between 2009 and 2014. In addition, Milwaukee tracks municipal energy use through Portfolio Manager and shares its data with DOE and third party consultants for evaluation.

Last updated: January 2017

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. This city has no energy-efficient vehicle procurement policy in place. We could not confirm if this city uses web-based tools or GPS technologies to increase public fleet efficiency.

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

Milwaukee has not yet adopted a policy requiring efficient outdoor lighting, such as the International Dark-Sky Association’s Model Lighting Ordinance. Although there is no formal replacement program in place, Milwaukee has replaced 2% of their streetlights with LEDs. 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: January 2017

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

In Milwaukee, all municipal buildings are benchmarked and then exported to Portfolio Manager.  Although Milwaukee has no comprehensive retrofit strategy for its municipal buildings in place, this City has implemented HVAC and lighting retrofits in many public buildings.

Public Employees

We could not find data on policies to reduce the commutes of city workers, such as flex schedules and teleworking.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 3.5 out of 12 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: April 2017

Community-Wide Energy Efficiency GoalsList All

Common Council Resolution 131035 adopted Milwaukee’s sustainability plan, ReFresh Milwaukee. 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: April 2017

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: April 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: April 2017

Buildings Policies
Score: 6.5 out of 28 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 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 against efforts to weaken local energy efficiency codes. 

Last Updated: January 2017

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

Milwaukee does not have internal staff dedicated solely to energy code compliance. The city does not require building code officials to complete energy code training. 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: January 2017

Requirements and Incentives for Efficient Buildings List All

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 and manufacturing facilities. Milwaukee's  Targeted Investment Neighborhood and low income weatherization programs grant energy efficiency upgrades and weatherization work to low income homes.

Last Updated: January 2017

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All

Milwaukee does not currently have mandatory or voluntary programs to encourage building benchmarking in any sector. 

Last Updated: January 2017

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 11 out of 20 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

We Energies, an investor-owned utility (IOU) and subsidiary of WEC Energy Group, 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: January 2017

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs, Spending & SavingsList All

In 2015, according to Focus on Energy, We Energies achieved 207,961 MWh in net incremental savings between the utility’s own efficiency programs and Focus on Energy programs, representing 0.66% of retail sales. To achieve these savings, We Energies and Focus on Energy spent $36,372,294 on electric efficiency programs in 2015, which equates to 0.89% of annual revenue. In 2015, We Energies and Focus on Energy reported savings of 17.44 MMtherms from natural gas efficiency programs, representing 1.56% of its retail sales. To achieve these savings, We Energies spent $10,868,835 on natural gas efficiency programs, which are normalized to $24.88 per residential customer. 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: January 2017

Low-Income & Multifamily EE Programs List All

Low-Income Programs

Focus on Energy, in partnership with We Energies, provides larger incentives to income-qualified customers for its energy efficiency programs. These larger incentives can be used for participation in the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® and the Heating and Cooling Improvements programs. The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program uses a whole-home energy audit to determine energy-efficient recommendations for the home. The Heating and Cooling Improvements program provides incentives for improvements made to a home’s HVAC systems. The program is not specifically designed for low-income customers, but does offer larger incentives for low-income households in order to lower barriers to participation. The programs address both electric and natural gas end uses, include health and safety funds, and address water efficiency, and target high energy users, the elderly, and households with children. We Energies coordinates with the federal weatherization program in finding eligible customers for additional services.

In 2015, according to We Energies, it achieved 3,726 MWh and 0.78 MMtherms in energy savings from its low-income programs, while spending $18,264,184 on its electric and $8,443,151 on its natural gas low-income efficiency portfolio. These programs served 3,081 low-income customers, with each household receiving an average of $5,928 and saving an average of 1,209 kWh for electric program participants, and receiving an average of $2,253 and saving an average of 208 therms for natural gas program participants.

Multifamily Programs

We Energies, through Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy initiative, offers the Multifamily Energy Savings Program. This comprehensive program offers prescriptive (equipment-specific) or custom (whole-building performance-based) incentives for multifamily developments. The maximum prescriptive incentive is $200,000 and the maximum custom incentive is $400,000. The program also offers energy assessments and no-cost direct install of high efficiency showerheads, faucet aerators, pipe insulation and LED light bulbs.

Last Updated: June 2017

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 made available to the City. In terms of advocacy for policy improvements in data provisions, Milwaukee currently undertakes advocacy efforts though the Refresh Milwaukee plan.

Last Updated: January 2017

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

Water Efficiency

Focus on Energy distributes low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, funded by a surcharge on utility bills. There are no water efficiency goals or full 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, with the goal of being energy self-sufficient by 2035. The regional wastewater treatment plant uses landfill gas to generate energy onsite.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) has a Regional Green Infrastructure Plan and the City has a Green Streets Stormwater Management Plan. The Regional Green Infrastructure Plan commits the city to capturing the first half-inch of rain falling within the municipality by 2035. Milwaukee's stormwater fee allows customers to receive reductions for installing green infrastructure. There is also funding in place for green infrastructure on public property, including green roofs and rain gardens on municipal properties.

Last Updated: January 2017

Score: 10 out of 30 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: January 2017

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.

Last updated: January 2017

Mode Shift List All

Modal Share Targets

We could not confirm the existence of targets to promote a modal shift in transportation in Milwaukee.

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.

Complete Streets

Milwaukee has not yet adopted a complete streets policy.

Last updated: January 2017

Transit List All

The MTS transit system that serves Milwaukee has received $171,191,235 in average annual funding from 2011-2015. This funding level is $108.64 per resident in the service territory of the agency, putting it in the fourth highest category (100-149) available in the City Scorecard. 

The Transit Connectivity Index measures transit service levels. It is based on the number of bus routes and train stations within walking distance for households scaled by frequency of service. Milwaukee’s Transit Connectivity Index value is 17, putting it in the third highest category (15-29) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: January 2017

Efficient VehiclesList 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 EV charging infrastructure. This city has 11 EV charging stations available for public use.

Last updated: January 2017

Freight List All

Sustainable freight plan

Milwaukee does not have a sustainable freight transportation plan in place nor does the city has any policies that address freight efficiency.

Smart freight

Milwaukee does not employ an internet-based application or service to coordinate freight transport.

Last updated: January 2017

Sustainable Transportation Planning List All

The Refresh Milwaukee Sustainability plan promotes new sustainable transportation options.

Last updated: January 2017

Low-Income in Transit-Oriented Development Areas List All

Milwaukee does not have any requirements or incentives in place to encourage the development or preservation of affordable housing in transit-served areas.

Last updated: January 2017