Archive for January, 2012

Small Businesses Request Resumption of Renewable Energy Support

Posted on January 31, 2012. Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy, Focus on Energy/Public Benefits, General, Renewable energy - generally |


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Fracking industry executive says 90% of Americans are ‘nuts

Posted on January 30, 2012. Filed under: General |

From a column by Lyle Hopkins in The Capital Times:

Wall Street and CEO culture in America is out of touch, arrogant, condescending, and those are probably their good qualities. Recent examples run the gamut, from snooty finance employees sipping champagne while mocking Wall Street protesters to a sign posted in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange proudly stating “we are the 1%.” It’s clear that our titans of industry are in dire need of an attitude adjustment.

One of the worst offenders is the energy industry. Case in point, the CEO for the Colorado Oil & Gas Association reportedly said of fracking opponents: “These nuts make up about 90 percent of our population, so we can’t really call them nuts any more. They’re the mainstream.”

Lyle Hopkins is an energy and security analyst at the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute. He is also a former intelligence officer for the U.S. Air Force and led a 150-person watch center providing threat warning information to national leadership. He has a masters degree in Environmental Management and Sustainability from Harvard. This column was provided by the American Forum, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, educational organization.

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Legislature should restore funding to Focus on Energy

Posted on January 27, 2012. Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy, Renewable energy - generally |

From a guest commentary by Keith Reopelle and Charlie Higley in the Janseville Gazette:

In spring 2011, Gov. Scott Walker and legislative leaders significantly cut funding to Focus on Energy, the energy efficiency program that helps residents and businesses lower energy bills. A recent legislative audit demonstrates that the benefits of Focus on Energy more than double the program’s costs, and legislators should quickly restore lost funding in order to maximize the program’s cost-saving potential.

Focus on Energy was created in 2001 to help homeowners and businesses reduce energy costs. More than 2 million Wisconsin residents and businesses have participated in the program.

The statewide program helps keep energy bills affordable for all Wisconsinites by reducing energy use and preventing the need to build expensive new power plants and transmission lines that we all pay for with increased electricity bills.

In addition, Focus on Energy helps reduce the amount of money we spend to fuel our power plants. Wisconsin spends $12.5 billion every year on imported electricity and dirty, out-of-state fossil fuels. Much of that is spent on coal, oil and natural gas to generate electricity and heat our homes. Investing in energy efficiency is the No. 1 way we can reduce that and keep money circulating within our own economy.

The audit released by the bipartisan Legislative Audit Bureau confirms that Focus on Energy successfully lowers energy bills and provides environmental and economic benefits that far outweigh program costs. For every $1 invested, residents and businesses save more than $2 on energy bills, according to the audit. This helped save more than $264 million on energy bills in 2010 alone. Since its inception, Focus on Energy has helped residents and businesses save more than $2 billion. . . .

Keith Reopelle is senior policy director at Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization. Contact him at Charlie Higley is executive director of the Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin. Contact him at

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PV’s levelized cost drops to 11.5 cents per kWh with incentives

Posted on January 25, 2012. Filed under: Energy Policy, General, Solar | Tags: , |

An analysis by Don Wichert, Director, Renewable Energy Services,
Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation (WECC):

My recent (simplified) levelized cost analysis for commercial PV, at $5,252 a kW installed in WI, over 25 years and with a 5% loan (no shading, no maintenance, no output degradation), is 13.8 cents per kWh as shown on the slide below. This includes a 56% reduction in the installed price due to the ITC and depreciation. With the previously available $600 a kW Focus base incentive, the levelized cost drops to 11.5 cents per kWh.

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Citizen and business action groups help leaders form energy policy

Posted on January 19, 2012. Filed under: Energy Policy, Renewable energy - generally |

From a report by Alex Brasch on RENEW’s Energy Policy Summit:

MADISON, Wis. – Can local governments work together with citizen action groups to effectively transition America away from reliance on fossil fuels? The answer in Wisconsin and Colorado seems to be yes.

Members of Wisconsin’s renewable energy industry convened in Madison for the RENEW Wisconsin Energy Policy Summit last week. The diverse crowd of renewable energy manufacturers, installers, state utilities, environmental advocacy groups, university representatives, and government officials, including Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, came together to focus their efforts on retaking the initiative in the fight for a more sustainable energy future for Wisconsin.

Members heard from keynote speaker Leslie Glustrom, a biochemist who belongs to a similar organization in Boulder, Colo. – a group that recently led a successful ballot initiative to authorize creation of a municipal utility in that city.

Don Wichert, founder of RENEW and former chief of energy resources with the Wisconsin Department of Administration and current director of renewable energy services at the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation created the advocacy group more than 20 years ago to address government officials about clean energy development in the state.

Wichert said Wisconsin spends nearly $6 billion per year on imported coal, petroleum, and natural gas. “As a renewable energy advocacy group composed of concerned citizens, clean energy businesses, environmental organizations, and government employees, RENEW Wisconsin seeks to change the way people think about and consume energy through a combination of advocacy, education, and creative partnerships with state and local governments, businesses, utilities, and citizen groups,” Wichert said.

Michael Vickerman, long-time executive director of RENEW, expressed optimism that, “despite current rollbacks of renewable energy policies, including the suspension of clean energy incentives and a weakening of state laws that leverage utility-purchased renewable energy, there is still a network of supportive local officials throughout the state.” He challenged advocates to resist acquiescing to the current political situation, and instead, use the sum influence of the clean energy industry, including non-profits and concerned citizens, to drum up support for clean energy development. Vickerman provided three guiding principles as a springboard to start discussion on how to retake the initiative.

First, reframe the message by presenting the industry’s true potential as a group of highly-motivated, dynamic organizations with a unifying business plan that will generate green jobs. Second, assert the fact that renewable energy is something intensely desired by businesses and citizens, because it gives customers more options, businesses increased market appeal, and a surefire pathway to more local jobs. And finally, pursue community-owned renewable projects that will keep energy production local and redirect investment into the area economy.

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Presentations from RENEW Energy Strategy Summit

Posted on January 18, 2012. Filed under: General |

Leslie Glustrom
Renewable Energy’s Day Will Come: Coal is Not Cheap, Plentiful, or Clean

Leslie Glustrom
US Coal Supply Constraints: The “Sweet Imperative” that Will Help Drive the Repowering of the United States for the 21st Century

Mick Sagrillo
How To Frame The Debate or Tips and Tricks from Karl Rove

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Policy Briefs from Energy Strategy Summit

Posted on January 18, 2012. Filed under: General |

RENEW Wisconsin Policy Issue Briefs

Prepared for Policy Summit – January 13, 2012

Topic Area: Expanding Market Access

Authorizing Renewable Energy Sales from Third Parties to Host Customers
BACKGROUND: There are many households and businesses around the state that desire to host a renewable energy system, but can’t afford the up-front costs associated with these installations. More than two dozen states expressly allow such customers to contract with third parties to install a renewable energy system and sell the output from that equipment, be it electricity or heat, to the system hosts. In those states, that allow such arrangements, a system host simply purchases the electricity or heat from the installation, often at a lower cost than what would be provided by the utility. Read more.

Aggregating REC’s from Local Installations
BACKGROUND: Along with the energy they produce, renewable system owners can also sell the attributes associated with their output to a different entity than the one acquiring the energy. These secondary markets can accommodate a wide range of renewable energy producers, from nationally prominent wind developers to residential owners of PV systems. In Wisconsin, utility-run “green pricing programs’, which are voluntary in nature, funnel customer dollars to support renewable energy installations that would not otherwise ave been constructed, due to their higher cost. In fact, several Wisconsin utilities were, until recently, active aggregators of solar electricity generated by their customers, acquiring their attributes through special buyback rates. But with the discontinuation of these solar initiatives, renewable energy producers must look to other entities to aggregate their REC’s and market them effectively. Read more.

Topic Area: Economics of Renewable Energy

The Renewable Energy Incentives Puzzle
PROBLEM: Incentives for renewable energy systems have been substantially removed from Wisconsin’s marketplace. The majority of utility advanced renewable tariffs (ARTs) are fully subscribed and We Energies’ $6 million/year renewable energy development program is now shut down. Moreover, Focus on Energy has removed incentives for renewables from current program offerings, nearly all within the last 12 to 24 months. As one might easily imagine, the market for customer-driven renewable energy systems is contracting without incentives, which are needed to overcome a utility market structure that discounts the value of local, renewable generation. Indeed, it should be noted that traditional sources of energy thrive with their own hidden incentives, which are not accounted for in the comparison of costs comparing renewable energy to traditional energy sources. The outcome is a highly skewed marketplace that favors traditional energy sources and market actors. Read more.

Press for Advanced Renewable Tariffs
PROBLEM: Worldwide, Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) are widely credited for expanding distributed renewable energy development to a greater extent than other tax or financial incentives. FITs, known in Wisconsin as Advanced Renewable Tariffs (ARTs), have been approved in the last few years by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) and have been implemented by electric providers as part of their renewable energy acquisition strategies. Apart from net energy billing, the use of ARTs has also been a major income driver for many customer-sited distributed renewable projects in Wisconsin. Read more.

Topic Area: Regulatory Environment of Renewable Energy

Uniform Wind Permitting Rules and PSC 128
PROBLEM: Under current law, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) reviews proposed wind energy installations only if they exceed 100 megawatts (MW). All other proposals are reviewed by the responsible local permitting authority. For developers of such proposals, the local permitting landscape resembles a minefield. In some cases, the local permitting process has resulted in moratoria or excessively stringent ordinances that make wind development impossible within that jurisdiction. In the vast majority of instances, these restrictions go well beyond the scope of review allowed under Wisconsin Statute 66.0401, which limits municipal review of wind energy systems matters involving public health and safety. Onerous restrictions have even been placed on small wind systems, despite the modest nature of their impacts. Read more.

Improved Net Energy Billing Policy
DEFINITION: Net energy billing (or net metering) is an arrangement that allows utility customers to install and operate renewable generating systems for their own use, and receive full retail value for electricity not consumed on site (up to 100% of their internal usage). Read more.

Topic Area: Towards Community Energy

Community-Owned Energy Generation and Distribution
PROBLEM: From its earliest roots, utility services have been organized by citizens interested in controlling their own access to energy. Initially, many of these utilities relied on local sources of renewable energy (hydro) for their energy. Over time, however, all utilities outgrew their renewable roots and invested heavily in large-scale generation of fossil fuels. Their preference for fossil fuels continues to this day; three new coal plants have been added in the last 10 years. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of citizen-customers now question the economic and environmental sustainability of these investments. They are taking matters into their hands by investing in on-site renewable generation and/or purchasing renewable electricity from their local providers. Read more.

Repairing Wisconsin’s RPS to Benefit Local Renewables
BACKGROUND: Wisconsin’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires electric providers to source, by 2015, 10% of the electricity they sell from qualified renewable energy resources. The law allows these providers to (1) build and own the generation sources themselves; (2) acquire renewable electricity from other generators; and (3) acquire renewable energy credits (the attributes, not the electricity) that meet certain requirements in the law. Wisconsin’s investor-owned utilities have demonstrated a pronounced preference to own the generation used to comply with the RPS. Read more.

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Issue Briefs Released for RENEW’s Energy Policy Summit

Posted on January 9, 2012. Filed under: Energy Policy, Renewable energy - generally |

For immediate release:
January 9, 2012

More information:
RENEW Wisconsin
Michael Vickerman

Issue Briefs Released for RENEW’s Energy Policy Summit

To sharpen participant discussions at RENEW’s Energy Policy Summit on January 13 in Madison, RENEW Wisconsin issued several policy backgrounders addressing specific barriers to renewable energy development in Wisconsin, while outlining potential strategies for overcoming them.

“While these barriers are significant, they can be overcome with the right combination of well-thought-out policies and an engaged citizenry,” said Michael Vickerman, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide, nonprofit renewable energy advocacy organization.

The issue briefs address specific facets within four broad categories that will be addressed in separate breakout discussions: expanding market access; economics of renewable energy production; regulatory environment; and, community-based energy.

In addition to familiar policies such as net energy billing, the breakout sessions will focus on market-based initiatives such as renewable energy credit aggregation and third-party contracting of renewable generation.

“In these breakout sessions, we will dive into various policies and practices and select those that belong in a viable renewable energy road map for 2012 and beyond,” Vickerman said.

“To build a truly sustainable energy future, we must come together as a team to decide upon and pursue the most intelligent policy options, taking into account today’s political and economic realities.”

The issue briefs and registration information on RENEW’s Energy Policy Summit can be found on the event website: RENEW Energy Policy Summit. The registration period will end at the close of business on Tuesday, January 10.

 – END –

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. More information on RENEW’s Web site at

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We have to move “so fast” to get to 100% renewables

Posted on January 5, 2012. Filed under: Coal, Energy Policy, Renewable energy - generally |

Leslie Glustrom is the featured speaker at RENEW’s Energy Policy Summit, January 13, Madison. Read the report that she mentions about 11 minutes into the interview.

Get details and register for the Summit at the Summit Web page.

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Coal’s liabilities to be a focus of RENEW’s Energy Policy Summit, Jan. 13, Madison

Posted on January 4, 2012. Filed under: Coal, Renewable energy - generally |

For immediate release:
January 4, 2012

More information
RENEW Wisconsin
Michael Vickerman

Coal’s Liabilities to be a Focus of RENEW’s Energy Policy Summit

Long-considered an inexpensive and reliable fuel source, coal is rapidly becoming the Achilles’ heel of the national electric energy picture, according to Leslie Glustrom, Research Director for Clean Energy Action in Boulder, Colorado.

Glustrom will be the featured speaker at the RENEW Energy Policy Summit on January 13, 2012, in Madison.

Clean Energy Action is spearheading a campaign to shut down Colorado’s coal-fired power plants and replace them with locally generated renewable electricity.

In a recent report, Glustrom wrote, “It appears that rather than having a ‘200 year supply of coal,’ the United States has a much shorter planning horizon for moving beyond coal-fired power plants.  Depending on the resolution of geologic, economic, legal and transportation constraints facing future coal mine expansion, the planning horizon for moving beyond coal could be as short as 20-30 years.” (1)

“The expectation of less plentiful coal supplies and continued increases in coal prices reinforces the value of expanding our use of energy resources that we have in this state,” said Michael Vickerman, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide, nonprofit renewable energy advocacy organization.

“People from businesses and households will meet at the RENEW Energy Summit, January 13, to forge an action plan for a renewable energy future that moves us away fuels with serious and well-documented liabilities,” said Vickerman.

The delivered price of coal for Wisconsin generation plants has increased by 17% over the last twelve months of available data, according to Vickerman. (2)

“This upward trajectory will continue this year when current supply contracts expired on December 31.  The newer contracts that take effect January 1 of this year are certain to be more costly,” said Vickerman.

A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that coal consumption fell 2 percent this year and is likely to decline by an even larger 4 percent in 2012.  Many observers predict that between 10 and 20 percent of coal-fired power in the United States will be shut down by 2016. (3)

More information on RENEW’s Energy Policy Summit can be found on the RENEW Wisconsin website:

– END – 

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.  More information on RENEW’s Web site at   

References and links

1.  Coal: Cheap and Abundant…Or Is It?  Why Americans Should Stop Assuming That The U.S. Has a 200-Year Supply of Coal by Leslie Glustrom

2. Energy Information Agency, Electric Power Monthly, Dec. 16, 2011, Table  4.10.A

3.  The Coal Age Nears Its End,  Wall Street Journal, Dec. 23, 2011

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