Archive for April, 2010

More groups join call for veto of waste-to-energy bill

Posted on April 30, 2010. Filed under: General |

Shortly following the end of the legislative session, RENEW Wisconsin wrote to Governor Jim Doyle asking him to veto Senate Bill 273, which would allow “plasma gasification” of municipal wastes to generate electricity. RENEW sought the veto because the bill would allow the electricity to be called renewable and count toward the renewable energy requirements placed on Wisconsin utilities.

Now several other organizations, including RENEW, fleshed out the orginal veto request with a second letter:

We, the undersigned businesses and organizations, urge you to veto SB 273, which would undermine Wisconsin’s current renewable energy standards under Act 141. Signing this bill will result in less renewable solar, wind and biomass energy for Wisconsin at a time when our economy and our environment desperately need more, not less, of these technologies to decrease our dependence on dirty fossil fuels.

New development companies across the country are attempting to define gasification facilities as “green” renewable energy. Yet this technology, a glorified form of incineration that is burdened with many of the same cost and environmental drawbacks, has never been successfully deployed anywhere in this country. Developers are seeking tax incentives, grants and renewable energy credits at the expense of recycling and true renewable energy programs.

Please end your tenure as Governor by vetoing the bill that will undermine Wisconsin’s efforts to become a leader on genuine renewable energy. The benefits of doing so will be recognized for years to come.

The letter came from the Sierra Club – John Muir Chapter * Waukesha Environmental Action League * Midwest Environmental Advocates * Advocates for Renewable Energy * Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters * Clean Wisconsin * Wisconsin Environment * Citizens Utility Board * RENEW WI * Physicians for Social Responsibility * Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice.

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Cape Wind gains go-ahead

Posted on April 29, 2010. Filed under: Wind |

From an article in The New York Times:

After nine years of regulatory review, the federal government gave the green light on Wednesday to the nation’s first offshore wind farm, a fiercely contested project off the coast of Cape Cod.

Opponents said they would continue to fight construction of the farm, known as Cape Wind, which would sprawl across 25 square miles of Nantucket Sound, Katherine Q. Seelye reports in The New York Times.

But the decision is expected to give a significant boost to the nascent offshore wind industry in the United States, which has lagged far behind Europe and China in harnessing the strong and steady power of ocean breezes to electrify homes and businesses.

“This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic Coast,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said at a news conference here in the Massachusetts Statehouse with Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat and supporter of the venture, at his side.

In announcing the much-anticipated decision, Mr. Salazar hastened to add that he was requiring the developer, Cape Wind Associates, to take several steps to mitigate possibly adverse effects on the environment — including views from the Kennedy Compound National Historic Landmark, which overlooks Nantucket Sound. Those steps include adjusting the turbines’ color and configuration.

Opposition to the proposal from Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who died in August, had been a major thorn in the Obama administration’s side in advancing the project.

The Cape Wind farm would lie about 5.2 miles from the nearest shore, on the mainland, and about 13.8 miles from Nantucket Island. The tip of the highest blade of each turbine would reach 440 feet above the water.

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Guest column: Trash to energy

Posted on April 28, 2010. Filed under: Biomass |

RENEW does not support gasification of wastes when the resulting energy is called renewable energy under a renewable portfolio standard, but we honor Jack Lundee’s polite request to have his commentary posted on RENEW’s blog:

When it comes to environmental discussion, waste management is an environmental concern that many feel needs to be addressed. Many also feel that clean energy innovations are needed to ensure a greener earth. Yet, what many fail to realize is that the solution to the garbage and clean energy problem may be garbage itself.

Denmark has installed a number of garbage plants that take trash and make it into energy. These plants are at the forefront of waste/energy technology. How they operate is that the waste taken into the plant is incinerated which creates heat that generates steam for a turbine that goes on to run generators that create electricity and even heat. Statistics have shown that plants like the ones in Denmark, while creating new forms of energy, also help to cut down on waste caused emissions. 0.56 metric tons of CO2 is emitted from these conversion plants, which is considerably smaller than the 3.35 metric tons of CO2 that is emitted from landfills. Denmark has shown that there are other answers to waste problem than the common practice of landfills, but some countries like the United States are still hesitate to make the change.

There are over 13,000 active and inactive landfills in the United States alone. These landfills make up 54% of the nation’s waste management, which compared to the 4% in Denmark shows the differences in the way garbage is taken care of between the two countries. The negatives of landfills are that they take up space, have been known to leak toxins, and have almost six times the emission rate than that of trash energy plants. So what is stopping the United States from embracing the change? Well, it may be coming from an unlikely opponent: environmentalists.

Some environmentalists feel that incinerators, even ones that help to create energy, are counterproductive to the cause. In their opinion, incinerators promote a waste culture instead of a culture based around recycling. Yet, many American organizations like the Clinton Global Initiative (an international aid and philanthropy organization started by former President Clinton and advisor Doug Band back in 2005) see carbon emissions as the true environmental problem regardless of where it comes from. This is why CGI has worked tirelessly to create green initiatives that cut down on CO2 emissions.

What the waste conversion plants in Denmark have shown is that there are plenty of solutions to environment worries around the world waiting to be utilized. The United States may not be eager to join just yet, but the victory is that the world is thinking of ways to create cleaner energy even if it’s from a trashy source.

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Renewable Energy Not Responsible for MGE Rate Increase

Posted on April 27, 2010. Filed under: Coal, Generation Plants |

April 27, 2010

Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin

Renewable Energy Not Responsible for MGE Rate Increase

Higher costs associated with fossil fuel generation are driving Madison Gas & Electric’s costs higher, according to testimony submitted by company witnesses. The utility filed an application last week with the Public Service Commission (PSC) to collect an additional $32.2 million through a 9% increase in electric rates starting January 2011.

The bulk of the rate increase can be attributed to expenses associated with burning coal to generate electricity. A 22% owner of the 1,020-megawatt (MW) Columbia Generating Station near Portage, Madison Gas & Electric (MGE) and the owner plant owners plan to retrofit the 35-year-old facility to reduce airborne emissions. The cost of Columbia’s environmental retrofit is expected to total $640 million, of which MGE’s share is about $140 million.

MGE also owns an 8% share of the state’s newest coal-fired station, the 1,230-MW Elm Road Generating Station located in Oak Creek. A portion of the proposed rate hike would cover lease payments and other expenses at that plant.

MGE’s application does not attribute any portion of its proposed rate hike to renewable energy sources. However, MGE plans to increase the premium associated with its voluntary Green Power Tomorrow program from 1.25 cents per kilowatt-hour to 2 cents. RENEW estimates that the premium hike will collect more than $1 million in 2011 from the approximately 10,000 customers participating in the program.

According to the utility’s web site, 10% of MGE’s electric customers purchase some or all of their electricity from renewable resources. Moreover, Green Power Tomorrow has the second highest participation rate of all investor-owned utilities in the country according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Not surprisingly, MGE anticipates subscribership in Green Power Tomorrow to decrease if the PSC approves the higher premium. Currently, the program accounts for about 5% of total electric sales. Program subscribers include the City of Madison, State of Wisconsin, Dane County Regional Airport, Madison West High School, Goodman Community Center and Home Savings Bank.

According to MGE, sinking fossil fuel prices have widened the difference between wholesale power costs and the cost of supplying customers with renewable energy. However, it is worth remembering that the cost of supplying power from MGE’s renewable energy assets, such as its Rosiere installation in Kewaunee County and Top of Iowa project, did not increase last year and will not increase in the foreseeable future.

“Even though the cost of MGE’s windpower supplies is not going up, Green Power Tomorrow customers will take a double hit if the PSC approves this rate increase and request for higher premiums,” said RENEW Wisconsin executive Director Michael Vickerman. “It’s a ‘heads-I-win-tails-you-lose’ proposition that will wind up rewarding customers who drop out of the renewable energy program because coal is cheaper.”

“It would be short-sighted to penalize renewable energy purchasers just because fossil fuel prices are in a temporary slump,” Vickerman said. “But if MGE is allowed to institute this penalty at the same time it imposes the cost of cleaning up an older coal-fired generator on all of its customers, including its Green Power Tomorrow subscribers, it would have a profoundly negative impact on the renewable energy marketplace going forward.”

“This is the wrong time to be throwing up barriers to renewable energy development. We at RENEW will fight proposals that reward fossil fuel use and penalize renewable energy,” Vickerman added.

RENEW Wisconsin ( is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives.
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This Earth Day a bust at State Capitol

Posted on April 27, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Economic development, Energy Policy |

From a column by Bill Berry in The Capital Times:

It was the 40th anniversary of Earth Day last week. Fittingly, we celebrated the past — because the present hasn’t given us much to brag about.

In fact, 2010 will go down as a real stinker in Wisconsin when it comes to the environment.

Gov. Doyle’s Clean Energy Jobs Act bit the dust late last week as lawmakers buttoned up the spring session. The act, which was built on recommendations of Doyle’s Global Warming Task Force, would have required 25 percent of the state’s energy to be generated from renewable sources by 2025. Despite the potential for green jobs creation and more clean energy, the bill wasn’t perfect, and its backers scrambled in the late innings to make it palatable to utilities, business and farm groups that opposed it. In the end, it wasn’t enough.

Many of the measures sought in this bill have worked elsewhere in America and the world. There was nothing radical in it. Maybe in the wake of the Roberts Supreme Court ruling giving corporations the right to unlimited spending in elections, lawmakers are running scared.

Doyle wore the black hat in the eyes of most conservation and environmental organizations earlier this year when he vetoed a bill that would have restored the power of appointing the Department of Natural Resources secretary to the citizen Natural Resources Board. Breaking promises is nothing new for politicians, but Doyle kept those groups on the line long enough to win two terms of office and then cut bait.

Conservation and environmental groups focused a ton of attention on that effort. Had they spent as much time and energy supporting the Clean Energy Jobs Act, they might be happy today.

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RENEW Wisconsin calls for veto of waste-to-energy bill

Posted on April 26, 2010. Filed under: Energy Policy |

April 23, 2010

Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin

RENEW Wisconsin Calls for Veto of Waste-to-Energy Bill

RENEW Wisconsin called on Governor Jim Doyle to veto a bill that allows garbage to qualify as a renewable energy resource.

“The bill (Senate Bill 273), passed in the last hours of the final legislative session, would lead to a cutback in new clean-energy installations using solar, wind, biogas, and biomass,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide renewable energy advocacy organization.

The bill would credit electricity from gasification of garbage toward the amount of renewable energy each Wisconsin utility must supply under current law.

“By failing to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act, the Legislature essentially froze the overall percentage of renewable energy that Wisconsin utilities must supply to customers,” said Vickerman.

“Adding solid waste to the list of eligible resources without raising the percentage above the current requirement will result in a reduction of electricity derived from truly sustainable renewable resources.”

“No way can anyone legitimately say that this bill expands renewable energy in Wisconsin.”

“All in all, this session will be remembered as a wasted opportunity for clean energy and job creation,” Vickerman said.

“When we entered the month of April, we had high hopes for the Clean Energy Jobs Act, a bill that would have forcefully sent Wisconsin down a path to energy independence while creating thousands of new jobs. Instead, the Legislature crammed garbage down the throats of utility customers.”

“No other legislative body in history has managed to trash Earth Day and the legacy of Wisconsin’s own Gaylord Nelson as completely as the Wisconsin Senate whose leaders wouldn’t allow a vote on the Clean Energy Jobs Act,” according to Vickerman.

“Governor Doyle can honor Gaylord Nelson by vetoing SB 273.”


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Wisconsin Democrats say no to Clean Energy on Earth Day

Posted on April 23, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Economic development, Energy Policy |

A news release issued by Clean Wisconsin:

MADISON — Hours ago, the democratically controlled state Legislature failed the people of Wisconsin when it adjourned before taking up the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

“It’s ironic that on Earth Day, our Democrat-led state Legislature effectively killed a vital piece of clean energy legislation,” says Keith Reopelle, senior policy director, Clean Wisconsin. “Senate Democratic leaders Jeff Plale and Russ Decker’s refusal to schedule the bill for a vote guaranteed the bill’s demise.”

The Clean Energy Jobs Act would have created more than 15,000Â jobs for Wisconsinites. Just yesterday, Wave Wind, a wind energy service provider in Sun Prairie, sent an open letter to the state Legislature noting that the delayed passage of the bill forced the company to lay off 12 employees. Had the bill passed, Wave Wind would have created 100 new high-quality jobs.

“The world is transitioning to a clean energy economy, and Wisconsin is getting left behind,” says Reopelle. “Wisconsin has now lost the manufacturing and design jobs that would have been created by the bill  to China, California and Illinois.”

The bill also would have lowered energy bills for homeowners and businesses with its renewable energy and energy efficiency provisions, allowing Wisconsin to make incremental but critically important steps toward reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and increasing our energy independence.

“It is a travesty that Wisconsin’s Legislature missed the opportunity to take action on such an important bill for the health of our state’s economy and environment,” says Reopelle. “While today’s inaction is definitely a setback, thanks to the hard work of our allies in the Legislature and coalition partners, we have laid the foundation for future clean energy legislation and remain hopeful that Wisconsin will soon return to its forward-thinking roots.”


Clean Wisconsin, an environmental advocacy organization, protects Wisconsin’s clean water and air and advocates for clean energy by being an effective voice in the state legislature and by holding elected officials and polluters accountable.

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State needs clean energy goal

Posted on April 22, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Economic development, Energy Policy |

From an editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Wisconsin needs an ambitious goal for boosting clean energy and efficiency.

Our state leaders also need to let the private sector find the best ways to achieve the higher standard.

Thursday is Earth Day. It also is the final day of session before the Legislature adjourns for the year.

State lawmakers should find a way to pass a clean energy bill with more buy-in and flexibility.

Both sides in this important debate are guilty of overheated debate. Supporters sell the bill as a magic potion for incredible job creation. Opponents trash the legislation as a job killer that will dramatically hike utility rates.

The reality is that encouraging more renewable energy production, along with greater energy efficiency, has a lot of long-term benefit for Wisconsin. Yet it also requires investment costs that aren’t easy to cover during such a challenging economy.

That’s why the bill phases in progress toward reaching the goal of 25 percent of Wisconsin’s power coming from renewable sources by 2025.

Sponsors also made it easier to reach that goal last week by agreeing to include gains in energy efficiency toward the 25 percent renewable standard. Another improvement is the elimination of a misguided provision that would have tied Wisconsin’s auto-emission rules to California’s.

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Babies and cats want Clean Energy Jobs Act passed; 25% renewables by 2025

Posted on April 21, 2010. Filed under: Clean Air, Climate change, Economic development, Energy Policy |

The video is one of eight in Wisconsin Environment’s Clean Energy Jobs Act Video Contest.

From a news release issued by Wisconsin Environment:

Vote for your favorite in the Clean Energy Jobs Act Video Contest

Madison – As the legislature considers the Clean Energy Jobs Act, citizens from across Wisconsin have created short videos to show why our state should pursue a clean energy future. The video submissions were entered into a contest sponsored by Wisconsin Environment.

“Wisconsin’s citizens know we can achieve a clean energy future,” said Dan Kohler, Wisconsin Environment Director. “Legislators should watch these videos to get a sense of the passion people have for getting off our dependence on fossil fuels and harnessing clean technologies to clean our air.”

The video contest will be decided through online voting happening through April 21st at the Wisconsin Environment website. The winner will be announced on Earth Day, April 22nd.

Vote now for the winner:

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Utilities and businesses urge passage of Clean Energy Jobs Act

Posted on April 19, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Economic development, Energy Policy |

From a news release issued by CREWE, a coalition of the following organizations — CleanPower, Alliant Energy, EcoEnergy, Johnson Controls, Xcel Energy, C5•6 Technologies, Axley Brynelson, Madison Gas and Electric, Orion Energy Systems, Forest County Potawatomi Community, Wisconsin Energy Corp., Poblocki Sign Company, Emerging Energies of Wisconsin, MillerCoors, American Transmission Co., WPPI Energy, DTE Energy Services, Kranz, Inc. and Greenwood Fuels:

(MADISON, Wis.)—The coalition for Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin’s Economy (CREWE) today urged the State Assembly to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) in order to create thousands of jobs and reduce electricity costs for Wisconsin consumers and businesses.

“The amended Clean Energy Jobs Act provides even more benefits than the original version, so our representatives must make the obvious choice and pass this bill,” Thad Nation, executive director of CREWE, said. “In fact, a recent survey shows that business leaders are eager to undertake energy efficiency efforts as a means of saving money and growing their respective businesses.”

CREWE member Johnson Controls surveyed more than 1,400 executives in North America and found that improving energy efficiency in buildings is their top priority. According to the Public Service Commission, the energy efficiency provisions in the new CEJA are likely to save Wisconsin ratepayers billions of energy dollars over the next several years.

The Assembly will vote on the bill Tuesday.

Among the amendments, a more aggressive energy efficiency policy will keep electricity affordable and target Wisconsin’s manufacturing, large commercial and and institutional sectors, which in turn will produce
many high-quality, well-paying jobs, Nation added.

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