Archive for January, 2010

Free bus from Milwaukee to Madison to testify on Clean Energy Jobs bill, Feb. 2

Posted on January 31, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Energy Policy |

A legislative alert and free offer from the Sierra Club and Clean Wisconsin:


You are invited to join your neighbors who intend to “pack the house” at the state Capitol as the Legislature holds public hearings on the Wisconsin Clean Energy Jobs Act (AB 649/SB 450). We urge you to take advantage of a free bus ride to make your voice heard in Madison.

Date: Tuesday, February 2
Where: Bus leaves from the McKinley Marina parking lot, across from Alterra Café at the Lake, 1701 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive. Parking is free.
Time: Bus leaves Milwaukee at 8:00 a.m.
Return: Bus begins the return trip from Madison at 3:00 p.m., arriving in Milwaukee at about 5:00 p.m.
What will Happen: Info about the Clean Energy Jobs Act will be provided on the bus, and you will get a chance to meet with your legislators once you get to the Capitol. This is a great opportunity to travel to the capitol and back at no expense and make your voice heard.
How to Reserve a Seat: Call Katy at Clean Wisconsin: 608-251-7020, Extension 28. Leave a message saying you’d like to be on the bus and provide your name, phone number, and street address. Or RSVP your name, phone, and address to

The WI Clean Energy Jobs Act is based on recommendations developed by the Governor’s Global Warming Task Force. The Act creates critical energy efficiency, renewable energy and transportation policies to reduce the threat of climate change and revitalize our economy. Learn more on the Sierra Club’s website at:

We have just three months to pass this bill, and it is vital that we show strong citizen support for taking real action on climate change.

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RENEW: Hearing trivialized Advanced Renewable Tariffs

Posted on January 29, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Climate change, Digesters, Economic development, Landfill Gas, Solar, Wind, Wood |

From a letter from RENEW Wisconsin to Senators Jeff Plale and Mark Miller, co-chairs of the Select Senate Committee on Clean Energy, who held a hearing on the Clean Energy Jobs Act bill on January 27:

Dear Senators Miller and Plale:

Thank you for holding a hearing yesterday of the Select Committee on Clean Energy on SB 450 (the Clean Energy Jobs Act bill). You heard a great deal of substantive commentary about much of the bill, particularly the sections dealing with energy efficiency and the expanded Renewable Energy Standard.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the discussion on the proposal to institute Advanced Renewable Tariffs in Wisconsin. Early in the hearing, a speaker framed the issue as “asking a little old lady in Cudahy to subsidize an expensive system in Mequon.” From that point, the discussion devolved into a kind of semi-orchestrated gang-tackling on this issue that continued unabated until I was called upon to speak, some seven hours and forty five minutes after the hearing began. While RENEW members who work for or with solar, wind and biogas energy installation companies were present during the hearing and had registered to speak, none were called prior to myself. All but two (Full Spectrum Solar and Ed Ritger) had to leave before the hearing ended.

Now, I don’t believe the first speaker, a labor leader, had intended to belittle the companies that install customer-sited renewable energy systems or dismiss their contribution to Wisconsin’s economy and environment. Nevertheless, the “little old lady from Cudahy” theme took a life of its own, and as a result, the very important issues of how to support these systems through utility rates and whether these rates should be mandated had become thoroughly trivialized by the end.

Allow me to repeat some of the points I made at yesterday’s hearing:

1. The vast majority of the distributed renewable generating units installed in Wisconsin serve schools, dairy farms and other small businesses, churches and local governments.

2. Utilities are not in the business of installing these systems themselves.

3. In many cases the renewable energy installation went forward because there was a special buyback rate available to accelerate the recovery of the original investment made by the customer. Yesterday, I gave the example of the Dane County community anaerobic digester project that, once operational, will treat manure taken from several nearby dairy farms in the Waunakee area and produce two megawatts of electricity with it. The electricity will be purchased by Alliant Energy through a voluntary biogas tariff worth 9.3 cents/kWh. Unfortunately, Alliant’s biogas program is fully subscribed and is no longer available to other dairy farmers, food processing companies and wastewater treatment facilities served by Alliant.

4. Companies that install solar, wind and biogas energy systems are quintessentially small businesses, many of them family-owned. Renewable energy contractors and affiliated service providers constitute one of the few market sectors where young adults who have acquired the necessary skills to do the job well can find meaningful work at decent pay.

5. By its very nature, distributed renewable energy delivers nearly 100% of its economic punch to the local economy.

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Business leaders, labor, utilities, farmers, and conservationists hail Clean Energy Jobs Act bill

Posted on January 28, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Economic development, Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy |

From a news release issued by Clean Wisconsin:

MADISON – Prominent business leaders, labor representatives, farmers, health advocates, faith leaders, energy providers, and environmentalists were among residents from across the state who gathered at a public hearing held in the State Capitol today to ask their elected leaders to support and strengthen the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

“The diversity of support for this legislation is overwhelming,” said Ryan Schryver, Clean Energy Advocate at Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization. “People from all walks of life gathered today to ask legislators to create jobs, clean our environment, protect our health, and support energy independence by passing this bill.”

The Clean Energy Jobs Act holds the potential to be an economic boon for Wisconsin, creating demand for energy efficiency projects, putting residents to work harvesting wind and solar power, and creating markets for farmers to grow and sell biofuels.

According to an analysis performed by the Office of Energy Independence, the current version of the bill will create over 15,000 jobs for Wisconsinites in the construction and manufacturing industries alone. Strengthening the bill could lead to even greater job creation.

“We cannot afford to continue draining our economy by exporting billions on expensive, dirty fossil fuels,” said Schryver. “Residents gathered today to say ‘enough is enough’ and demand that we create jobs and start investing in our own state by producing clean energy right here at home.”

The Coalition for Clean Energy which includes Clean Wisconsin also made several suggested improvements to the Clean Energy Jobs Act bill:

+ Restore and protect the integrity of the Renewable Energy Standard (RES) (Renewable Portfolio Standard – RPS – in the current draft). . . .
+ Strengthening the language to ensure that Wisconsin does meet the 2 percent energyefficiency goal by requiring the Public Service Commission to direct efficiency investments necessary to reach that 2 percent goal. . . .
+ Increase the percentage of renewable energy that must be sited in Wisconsin to at least half of renewable energy generation required under the bill (i.e. 12.5% in 2025). . . .
+ Strengthen the Advanced Renewable Tariff (ART) language by making it apply statewide
and by including a statewide minimum MW cap and a minimum project size cap. . . .

Read all of the recommendations.

The coalition also includes Wisconsin Council of Churches, Citizens Utility Board, Wisconsin Community Action Program (WisCAP), Environmental Law & Policy Center; Environment Wisconsin, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club – John Muir Chapter, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters.

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Business leaders demonstrate support for Clean Energy Jobs act, denounce WMC ads

Posted on January 27, 2010. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |

From a news release from Advocates for Creating Renewable Energy, a coalition which includes RENEW Wisconsin:

Madison, Wis. – One day before the State Senate is scheduled to hold public hearings on the Clean Energy Jobs Act, Wisconsin business leaders are criticizing attack ads run by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and demonstrating their support for the legislation, highlighting the bill’s potential to create jobs, boost our economy, and foster energy independence.

Business leaders responded to radio ads released last week by the special interest organization Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), which use flawed facts and figures to create the perception that the Clean Energy Jobs Act will actually hurt Wisconsin’s economy, when the vast majority of studies demonstrate the bill will provide an economic boon for the state.

“WMC’s deceptive advertisements would have you believe that putting Wisconsin residents to work transitioning toward clean, homegrown energy sources will somehow hurt our economy,” said Dionne Lummus of Wave Wind, LLC. “The real drain to our economy, however, is the nearly $20 billion our state spends on dirty out-of-state fossil fuels every year.”

WMC relies on a November 2009 study conducted by the Beacon Hill Institute and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute to support its claims. However, that study relied on models that are not unique to the Clean Energy Jobs Act and analyzed several provisions not even included in the bill.

“Wisconsin residents deserve a fair and accurate presentation of the facts,” said Tom Green, Project Development Manager at Wind Capital Group.

Despite WMC claims that CEJA will cost Wisconsin jobs, conservative models generated by a collaboration of non-partisan state organizations estimate that the legislation will actually create at least 15,000 jobs in the state.

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U.S. wind industry breaks installation records with 10,000 MW

Posted on January 26, 2010. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |

From a news release issued by the American Wind Energy Association:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. wind industry broke all previous records by installing nearly 10,000 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity in 2009 (enough to serve over 2.4 million homes), but still lags in manufacturing, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said today in its Q4 report.

These new projects place wind power neck and neck with natural gas ¹ as the leading source of new electricity generation for the country. Together, the two sources account for about 80% of the new capacity added in the country last year.

“The U.S. wind energy industry shattered all installation records in 2009, chalking up the Recovery Act as a historic success in creating jobs, avoiding carbon, and protecting consumers,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “But U.S. wind turbine manufacturing – the canary in the mine — is down compared to last year’s levels, and needs long-term policy certainty and market pull in order to grow. We need to set hard targets, in the form of a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), in order to provide the necessary stability for manufacturers to expand their U.S. operations and to seize the historic opportunity we have today to build up a thriving renewable energy industry.”

Early last year, before the Recovery Act (ARRA), the industry anticipated that in 2009 wind power development might drop by as much as 50% from 2008 levels, with equivalent job losses. The clear commitment by the President to create clean energy jobs and the swift implementation of ARRA incentives by the Administration in mid-summer reversed the situation. Recovery Act incentives spurred the growth of construction, operations and maintenance, and management jobs, helping the industry to save and create jobs in those sectors and shine as a bright spot in the economy.

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Glacier Hills order includes protections for residents

Posted on January 25, 2010. Filed under: Wind |

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin issued its final order on construction of We Energies’ Glacier Hills Wind Park. The order included, among others, several provisions to allow residences to seek remedies should they feel bothered by turbines in the project (numbering follows the numbering in the written PSC order, pages 48-54):

10. WEPCO shall operate the project in a manner that meets noise limits of 50 dBA during daytime hours, and, upon complaint by an affected resident, shall be permanently reduced to 45 dBA during nighttime hours for areas related to the complaint. Nighttime hours are defined to include those hours between 10:OO p.m. to 6:00 a.m. daily, from April 1 through September 30. The requirement to meet the seasonally reduced nighttime noise limit shall be triggered by the receipt by WEPCO of any complaint regarding nighttime noise levels. Methods available for WEPCO to comply with both the daytime and nighttime noise limits shall include, but are not limited to, operational curtailment of the turbine or turbines contributing to the exceedance of the noise limits. WEPCO is relieved from meeting the nighttime noise limit if the affected resident agrees to a financial settlement. Compliance with noise limits shall be measured or otherwise evaluated at the outside wall of the non-participating residence. WEPCO
shall provide notification to potentially affected residents of the provisions of this Final Decision relating to noise limits prior to initial operation of the project.
11. WEPCO shall evaluate compliance with the noise limits included in this Final Decision as part of its post-construction noise study. The post-construction noise study shall be conducted as described in the most current version of the PSC Noise Measurement Protocol. WEPCO shall file a copy of the post-construction noise study report with the Commission.
12. WEPCO shall construct its project using a minimum setback from non-participating residences of 1,250 feet.
15. WEPCO shall work with local electric distribution companies to test for stray voltage at all dairy operations within one-half mile of any project facility, prior to construction and again after the project is completed. WEPCO shall work with the distribution utilities and farm owners to rectify any stray voltage problems arising from the construction and operation of the project. Prior to any testing, WEPCO shall work with Commission staff to determine the manner in which stray voltage measurements will be conducted and on which properties. WEPCO shall provide to Commission staff reports of the results of stray voltage testing.
16. WEPCO shall work with landowners to mitigate the effects of shadow flicker. WEPCO shall provide shadow flicker mitigation for residences experiencing 25 hours per year or more of shadow flicker. Residences shall be eligible for mitigation if computer modeling shows that shadow flicker would exceed 25 hours per year, and the property owner need not document the actual hours per year of shadow flicker to be eligible. Residences that exceed 25 hours per year of shadow flicker based on logs kept by the resident shall also be eligible for mitigation. The requirement to mitigate shadow flicker at eligible residences shall be triggered by the receipt by WEPCO of a complaint regarding shadow flicker. WEPCO shall allow the resident to choose a preferred reasonable mitigation technique, including but not limited to, installation at WEPCO’s expense of blinds or planting. WEPCO shall provide notification to potentially affected residents of the provisions of this Final Decision relating to shadow flicker prior to initial operation of the project. WEPCO may provide shadow flicker mitigation for residences experiencing less than 25 hours per year of shadow flicker.
17. WEPCO shall maintain a log of all complaints received regarding the project. The log shall include, at a minimum, the name and address of the complainants, nature of the complaints, and steps taken by WEPCO to resolve the complaints. WEPCO shall make copies of this complaint log available, at no cost, to the monitoring committees authorized by the town of Randolph and town of Scott JDAs.
18. WEPCO shall coordinate with local first responders and air ambulance services regarding the development of an emergency evacuation plan, including the locations of alternate landing zones. The plan shall include provisions for public inspection of the plan, as appropriate. WEPCO shall file the final plan with the Commission, using the Commission’s confidential filing procedures, if necessary.
19. WEPCO shall follow the provisions of the town of Scott and town of Randolph JDAs regarding radio and television interference. In addition, WEPCO shall consult with affected residents regarding the residents’ preferred reasonable mitigation solution for radio and television interference problems, prior to implementing remedial measures, and that the preferred solution shall be made permanent.
20. WEPCO shall follow the provisions of the town of Scott and town of Randolph JDAs regarding cellular communications interference. In addition, WEPCO shall work with affected cellular providers to provide adequate coverage in the affected area. Mitigation techniques for lost or weakened cellular telephone communications shall include, but are not limited to, an additional micro-cell, cell, or base station facility to fill in the affected area. The micro-cell, cell, or base station may be installed on one of the structures within the wind energy facility.
21. WEPCO shall develop and file a plan with the Commission, for Commission approval prior to construction, to reduce the individual hardships to the Smitses and Regneruses. The plan shall be developed in consultation with these two families. The plan may include, but is not limited to: relocation of turbines to reduce the number of turbines within one-half mile to no more than seven turbines; providing annual payments to these two families, not to exceed the amount paid to participating residents receiving payment for one turbine lease; or, purchasing the properties at fair market value.
22. Compliance with setback provisions for non-participating residences shall be measured from the centerline of the turbine tower to the nearest point on the foundation of the residence.
25. WEPCO shall provide up to $150,000 of funding towards an operational curtailment and bat mortality study at GHWP, or a site with similar characteristics, as determined by Commission staff. These funds may be applied to a study effort undertaken by another entity or, if no other study can be identified, WEPCO shall develop and coordinate a study and shall seek additional funding from other entities.
26. WEPCO shall provide proposed designs of the required bat and bird studies to DNR and Commission staff for review, and Commission staff shall approve the final study design.

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Making a connection: Wind transmission grid weakens west of Wisconsin

Posted on January 25, 2010. Filed under: Transmission, Wind |

From an article by Melissa Rigney Baxter in The Daily Reporter:

The multimillion-dollar construction projects to get the blades spinning won’t mean much if there’s no way to transmit wind farm electricity.

So far in Wisconsin, transmission has been less of a problem than local approvals and harnessing the wind, but that could change as the state reaches farther west for renewable energy.

“Connecting wind in Wisconsin is not very challenging at all,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin. “Where you see all the wind projects in eastern Wisconsin, they are close to existing transmission lines.”

We Energies considered 118 potential sites for the recently approved Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County, said Brian Manthey, utility spokesman. We Energies considered many factors, including the most efficient transmission.

Combined with access to wind and area demographics, transmission is a top priority when evaluating an area for wind turbines, Vickerman said.

“Without transmission,” he said, “there is no product to sell.”

While Wisconsin wind is easy to capture and transmit, that is not the case in the wind-rich areas in the Dakotas, western Minnesota and Iowa.

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RENEW denounces WMC’s “fact-free flip-flop” in radio ad on energy bill

Posted on January 21, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Energy Policy, General |

January 21, 2010

Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin

RENEW denounces WMC’s “fact-free flip-flop” in radio ad on energy bill

RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director Michael Vickerman assailed the credibility of a new radio ad launched by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) that characterizes the Clean Energy Jobs Act bill as an unaffordable extravagance.

“WMC executed an astonishing fact-free flip-flop with its claim that the legislation (AB 649/SB 450) would raise an average family’s electricity bill by more than $1,000 a year. What’s astonishing about it that WMC is conveniently forgetting existing ratepayer protections, which it endorsed – and claimed credit for — when similar legislation passed in 2006,” Vickerman said.

When the state’s current renewable portfolio standard (RPS) was passed (which directed utilities to source 10 percent of their electricity from renewable generation by 2015), WMC ran an article on its website with the headline “’Energy Efficiency and Renewables Act’ Will Protect Ratepayer Dollars.” That article can be accessed at

The article says that WMC was instrumental in ensuring that “ratepayer groups will have a clear opportunity to seek delays in the implementation of new renewable portfolio standards, should they have an unreasonable effect on electric rates.”

The Clean Energy Job Act bill would continue those ratepayer protections enacted in 2005 Act 141. So far no utility or energy advocacy group has requested an implementation delay under the current renewable energy standard.

In order for an average family’s bill to increase $1,000 a year, according to Vickerman, electric rates would have to double.

“That will never happen because groups like WMC, Citizens Utility Board, and the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group would intervene aggressively on behalf of their member using the existing ratepayer protections,” Vickerman stated.

Since the adoption of Act 141’s renewable energy requirements, Madison Gas and Electric’s residential ratepayers have seen annual increases of only 0.8 percent through 2009, even though the utility is already in compliance with the 2015 standard, added Vickerman.

“This outrageous claim is just another example of WMC’s decision to lob grenades instead of working constructively to forge a responsible partnership with all parties to create family-supporting jobs in the clean energy sector,” Vickerman said.

“It’s clear that WMC made up its mind to oppose the Clean Energy Jobs Act bill long before its contents were even known to the public,” Vickerman stated.

“There is no more obvious proof of this than WMC’s sponsorship of a so-called study by the Wisconsin Pubic Research Institute (WPRI) that claims that the bill’s provisions to expand renewable energy supplies would cost utilities $16 billion.”

RENEW previously critiqued the WPRI report in a report titled “Think Tank Flunks Renewable Energy Analysis.” (

“WPRI’s assertions demonstrate yet again that if you torture your economic models long enough, they will confess to anything,” Vickerman said.

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Dueling radio ads: Potawatomi vs. WMC

Posted on January 21, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Energy Policy |

An email circulated by Amber Meyer Smith, Program Director, Clean Wisconsin:

The Forest County Potawatomi and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) [the statewide chamber of commerce] have new radio ads running on opposite sides of proposed [Clean Energy Jobs Act].

In WMC’s spot, two women discuss the bill, mocking the idea that Gov. Jim Doyle and his “friends in the Legislature” are trying to solve global warming “all by themselves.”

One woman tells the other that the proposal will cost the average family more than $1,000 a year in higher electric rates and gas prices.

“They’ve got a plan,” she says. “They say it’s going to create green jobs, but it’s really going to kill our jobs and increase energy costs.”

The Potawatomi, who participated in the task force that laid out recommendations that later became the bill, calls the legislation “hope for new jobs in a troubled economy.”

The tribal ad cites a Mazomanie factory opening to produce solar panels, plans for 600 new manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin Rapids building wind-powered turbine blades and a biomass plant near Wausau as examples of the green economy opportunities. It then says the proposed climate change bill could create 15,000 jobs in Wisconsin, reducing dependence on foreign energy and resulting in a cleaner environment.

It urges listeners to call legislators to encourage them to “to protect Mother Earth so she can provide for all of us.”

Listen to the spots in AdWatch.

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Wisconsin pays more if the state fails to act

Posted on January 20, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Energy Policy |

From an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The Clean Energy Jobs Act will require trade-offs, but we’re confident that the cost of the measure will be far less than if we stand pat.

A bill just introduced in the state Legislature holds the promise of growing new technologies, new jobs and energy independence in Wisconsin. Its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing conservation efforts and renewable and alternative sources of energy are good public policy. They deserve widespread support in the Legislature and from citizens.

The bill comes with costs, and the Legislature should do what it can to mitigate those costs to businesses and families, especially the neediest. But doing nothing in the face of the climate change that science says is already taking place will be even more costly. And even if the worst projections of climate change don’t come to fruition, and even if the federal government doesn’t act on a bill of its own, it’s still important to reduce Wisconsin’s reliance on fossil fuels and increase our use of renewable energy. Public health and the environment demand no less.

Just as important in the wake of the Great Recession, the Clean Energy Jobs Act, based on the recommendations of the governor’s Global Warming Task Force, also brings opportunity. Gov. Jim Doyle asserts the bill will create more than 15,000 jobs. Maybe that’s an overestimation; maybe not. But it’s clear that jobs will be created and that the bill could put the state in position to take advantage of a new wave in the so-called green economy. Getting ahead of other states would benefit businesses as well as the families who need jobs.

The act provides a launching pad for a number of efforts that could move Wisconsin forward. It is not without flaws – and those flaws need to be addressed by legislators – but if done right, this bill deserves to be enacted this year.

A key element of the bill is a requirement that Wisconsin generate 25% of its power from renewable sources such as wind turbines, biomass plants and solar panels by 2025, up from 5% in 2008.

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