RENEW Opposes Bill to Weaken State Renewable Energy Standard
At a September 6 hearing of the Assembly Energy and Utilities Committee, Michael Vickerman testifies against AB146, a bill that would extend into perpetuity the shelf life of an unused renewable energy credit. Vickerman’s testimony explains how this seemingly innocuous change to Wisconsin’s renewable energy standard would allow utilities to put off the day when they would need to add more renewable energy to their resource mix.
Good morning, my name is Michael Vickerman. I am here to represent RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit advocacy and education organization based in Madison. Incorporated in 1991, RENEW acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives. We have over 300 total members, and more than 100 businesses around the state producing renewable energy or building renewable energy systems. A list of our business members accompanies this testimony
On behalf of our members and the many businesses and individuals who support the continued expansion of Wisconsin’s renewable energy marketplace, RENEW Wisconsin is here to express opposition to AB 146. If passed as is, AB 146 would water down the state’s Renewable Energy Standard by extending the shelf life of an unused renewable energy credit to infinity. As the accompanying graphic shows, no other state in the Upper Midwest allows their utilities’ renewable energy credits to be banked in perpetuity. In the same graphic, one can also see how weak Wisconsin’s renewable energy standard has become in relation to those of neighboring states.
What is the problem here that this so-called “tweak” would solve? Other utilities in the region face stiffer renewable energy supply requirements than the utilities in Wisconsin, yet you don’t see them beseeching special treatment that allows them to bank unused renewable generation for decades. Giving into their request would effectively give utilities a 10-year vacation from actually adding a new renewable energy source to stay in compliance with their Act 141 requirements. All the Wisconsin utilities would need do to remain in compliance would be to fill out some paperwork at the end of the year and buy a new batch of elderly credits out of petty cash. How many jobs will that create? How many dollars in landowner and local government revenues will that generate?
The answer is none.
Another thing that extending the shelf life of unused renewable credits will not do is save ratepayers money. The bill lets the utilities put off the day when they would actually need to achieve a renewable energy content of 10% in real time, well into 2020’s by my calculations. In so doing, the benefits from continued investments in renewable generation, such as technology improvements, capital cost reductions and protection from fossil fuel cost increases, would not be passed along to ratepayers. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin businesses that generate renewable electricity for Wisconsin electricity customers in real-time—and there are many, as this table of biogas installations comprehensively shows– will in all likelihood downscale their presence in Wisconsin and deploy their resources in other states with livelier renewable energy markets. The impact of this bill’s passage will be particularly devastating to the state’s agricultural and food processing industries, because the renewable generation they produce from their wastes will not be needed as an energy source for years to come.
It’s worth repeating that no other state in the Upper Midwest has adopted such relaxed terms for banking renewable energy credits. These states understand that the principal effect of such a change would be to diminish the pace and scale of renewable energy installation activity. They have no desire to put a brake on one of the few economic sectors with the potential for additional growth. But they’re not going to complain if a misguided neighboring state commits this folly.
Let me put this in simple terms: this bill is nothing more than a utility-led effort to drain all the life out of Wisconsin’s renewable energy standard while leaving the law on the books. Under this bill, 2005 Act 141 will effectively become a sham law, devoid of any discernible effect. It will undermine the renewable energy marketplace, which in the last five years has been a source of vitality and confidence for the state’s economy. Once this particular marketplace goes away, there is nothing to stop the state’s energy economy from becoming a lifeless backwater. Is this the vision you have for Wisconsin’s future?