Letter from the Director: Our 2020 Vision

WEI Building Sunset. Photo by Robin Davies Robin Davies

The Wisconsin Energy Institute was born out of a collaborative vision to create a center to advance energy research and education, to help move society beyond fossil fuel dependence toward a clean energy future. As we enter a new decade, we are seeing the fruits of that vision. Our researchers are generating the knowledge needed to turn ideas into innovations and results into real-world change. We are also training tomorrow’s energy leaders. And our connections with industry as well as members of the public and private sectors are helping to position those innovations and leaders within a growing bioeconomy in the state, country, and beyond.

Tim Donohue WEI Interim Director Tim Donohue

These successes are possible because of you, our community. Sitting at the nexus of UW–Madison’s engineering, agriculture, and biological sciences campuses, WEI spans disciplinary boundaries to bring together thinkers and innovators from many backgrounds. We thrive on these partnerships to expand our reach and find new avenues through which to educate, learn, and innovate. Through these collaborations, we are accomplishing amazing things. Read on in this report to learn how we are:

Meanwhile, our community continues to grow. In 2019, we welcomed associate professor of genetics Chris Todd Hittinger to the building as the newest WEI investigator. The Hittinger lab is a model of the strength of interdisciplinary work, combining biochemistry, genetics, ecology, and evolution to turn yeast into factories for next-generation biofuels.

But our network extends well beyond the walls of the WEI building. In 2020, we look forward to helping celebrate campus milestones that showcase UW–Madison’s longstanding commitment to clean energy and sustainable solutions. The Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies has named 2020 the Year of the Environment in recognition of its own 50th anniversary as well as that of Earth Day. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the Energy Analysis and Policy program, the only energy-related graduate certificate on campus, which has now prepared four decades’ worth of students to lead and shape energy issues in industry, academia, and government.

We can see change underway throughout the state. A recent Environmental Law and Policy Center report identified a strong clean energy business supply chain in Wisconsin that supports nearly 5,500 jobs in solar and wind energy, driving sustainable economic growth and a healthy environment. And in August, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers created a new Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy charged with moving the state to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. WEI is ready to continue driving the conversations and innovations needed to build on this momentum. Our 2020 vision is clear and focused: Forward, together, in energy.