RENEW Wisconsin Sets 2012 Energy Policy Action Plan
RENEW Wisconsin affirms that the road to a sustainable economy in Wisconsin runs through the state’s own clean renewable energy sources. Integrating locally available renewables into our economy engages a vast supply chain of local manufacturers, distributors and installers, farmers, builders, entrepreneurs, and related professional workers. Local renewables secure relatively clean, risk-free and low-maintenance energy to a state with no fossil fuel reserves. They also help keep energy dollars circulating within Wisconsin. It is imperative that we expand our commitment to renewables. An energy economy that depends on imported oil to haul finite supplies of coal from Wyoming and Pennsylvania is a dead-end for Wisconsin businesses, demanding ever rising fuel costs and exporting billions of dollars and jobs to other states. And energy efficiency, though a significant source of ratepayer savings, won’t correct the underlying vulnerability of a fossil-heavy resource mix.
Going into 2012, the policy framework that had supported steady growth in the renewable energy marketplace is being dismantled, as Wisconsin utilities and state government backpedal. The political and business consensus that brought us Wisconsin Act 141 in 2006 (10% RPS, restructured Focus on Energy, state government mandates) has broken down almost completely. But the policy case for the consensus remains as strong as it has ever been. To overcome the current challenges, to value clean renewable energy properly and to empower the businesses and citizens that make that happen, RENEW Wisconsin will press for the immediate implementation of durable policies that appropriately value renewable energy’s contribution to economic development, job creation, environmental protection, and customer choice. In so doing, we will employ the most effective messages and messengers for putting renewable energy back on track in Wisconsin and regaining the momentum that once made Wisconsin a model state.
To retake the initiative on clean renewable energy, we commit to the action plan in 2012
that appears below:
Organize stakeholders to articulate a public policy message on clean renewables
Policy decisions are made in a variety of legal, administrative, and institutional settings. RENEW will represent renewable energy supporters and stakeholders in these settings to convey formulated positions on policies that can potentially advance or weaken Wisconsin’s renewable energy marketplace. RENEW will provide the organized voice on renewables in Wisconsin through public advocacy and social media campaigns.
Increase funding for renewable energy in Focus on Energy program
Focus on Energy (Focus), the statewide energy efficiency and renewable energy program, has been a critically important driver for local clean renewable energy production and is a key factor why installation activity is higher here than in other Midwest states. In July 2011, Focus suspended awarding incentives for non-residential renewable energy projects, with no certainty of their return. Beginning in 2012, no clean renewable energy incentives are available through the Focus program. RENEW will launch an organized campaign targeted at Focus on Energy decision-makers to restore financial support to renewable energy systems serving Wisconsin’s residential, businesses, and nonprofit entities.
Taking the lead on wind permitting rules and issues in Wisconsin
The Wisconsin legislature passed the Wind Siting Law (2009 Act 40) to create one overarching siting law for all wind turbines subject to local review (≤ 100 MW). The law directed the Public Service Commission (PSC) to develop administrative rules that would establish certainty and consistency in the way local governments review and regulate wind energy systems. The PSC adopted a compromise rule in December 2010. Perversely, the Wisconsin Legislature suspended the rules in March 2011, precipitating many wind developers to suspend their operations in the state and focus their efforts elsewhere. RENEW will continue to shine a light on the economic and environmental damage caused by the rule suspension as part of a wider effort to get the administrative rules accepted as public law.
Advance third-party ownership of clean renewable energy systems
For economic reasons, most small-scale renewable energy facilities in the country are owned and installed by third parties. It is often easier for third parties to take advantage of federal credits and business depreciation, while relieving the property owner of the responsibility of financing the system and building it. RENEW will advance a policy fix that removes the legal ambiguities surrounding the sale of energy from third-party-owned systems to host customers.
Net energy billing policy overhaul
Net energy billing allows utility customers who produce clean renewable energy on-site to sell excess output back and receive the full retail rate for it up to the customer’s full usage. Codified in 1992, Wisconsin’s net energy billing policy has become woefully out-of-date, lagging behind other states that actively encourage customer generation of clean renewables. One of RENEW’s highest priorities is to push for a 21st century framework that increases maximum eligible system size and eliminates unnecessary and costly interconnection requirements.
Revive utility commitments to expand renewable energy
Until recently, many of Wisconsin utilities were leaders in the Midwest and nation in encouraging distributed clean renewable energy applications in their territories. However, many Wisconsin utilities are now backsliding on their initiatives and, in one instance, abandoned a major clean renewable commitment agreed to as part of a settlement agreement. RENEW will challenge these decisions at regulatory hearings, in court, at utility stockholder meetings, and in the popular media to reinstate and/or commit to new utility initiatives for advancing renewables.
Promote attractive renewable energy buyback policies
Nearly 50,000 utility customers in Wisconsin support clean renewable energy through paying higher rates each month for their electricity. As confirmed in recent polls, more than 75% of the population supports a greater commitment to clean renewable energy development. RENEW is working with partners to translate that demand for renewables into buyback policies and rates that encourage additional supplies of renewable energy from local producers.
Defend and repair Wisconsin’s 10% Renewable Energy Standard
RENEW formulated, and helped mobilize support for, a 10% renewable energy standard on electric utilities by 2015. Adopted in 2006, this modest standard is under attack from utilities, certain large industries, and hostile elements in the Legislature. Over RENEW’s objections, the standard was amended in 2011 to allow utilities to count generation from large Canadian hydro sources toward their renewable requirements. RENEW will work with allied organizations and policymakers to fight off other efforts to weaken Wisconsin’s six-year-old standard and to propose new polices that support in-state distributed renewable applications.