Climate change

RENEW will speak at Earth Day event, April 19

Posted on April 12, 2012. Filed under: Climate change, Renewable energy - generally |

RENEW will participate in the forum.

WI Climate Change and Jobs Forum — Challenges and Solutions
Thursday, April 19th at the State Capitol

WHAT: With the warmest March on record, scientists, citizens and leaders will hold a Wisconsin Climate Change and Jobs Forum to discuss current and future climate change impacts on Wisconsin and explore cost-effective solutions to reduce greenhouse air pollution and create clean energy jobs in our state.

WHO: State leaders, UW climate experts, conservation group, public sector, business and labor leaders, State Rep. Brett Hulsey, and others.

WHEN: 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 19th, 2012.

WHERE: GAR Hall, Room 417 North (4th Floor-North Wing) of the State Capitol, Madison, Wisconsin.

There will be a charge for pizza brought in for lunch.

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SC Johnson cuts GHG emissions by 26 percent

Posted on December 28, 2011. Filed under: Climate change, Renewable energy - generally |

From an article by Leslie Guevarra on

SC Johnson, the maker of household products ranging from Windex to Ziploc bags, has met — if not topped — five-year environmental goals that were to be accomplished by 2011, the company said in a new accounting of its sustainability efforts.

Key achievements included absolute reductions in greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and in the U.S that were more than double the amount expected, according to the latest annual progress report, called “360º of Greener Choices.”

Here’s a look at some of the numbers from the report:

•Global GHG: Factories worldwide reduced GHG emissions by 26.2 percent by the close of 2010, compared to a baseline set in 2000. The goal was an absolute reduction of 12 percent by 2011.
•U.S. GHG: In the U.S., the company reduced GHG emissions by 27.4 percent by the end of 2010, compared to a 2005 baseline. The goal was an 8 percent absolute reduction by 2011.
•Renewable energy: The company hit its target in this category by sourcing 40.2 percent of its electricity worldwide to renewable energy via purchased green power and on-site generated energy.
•Waste and emissions: Globally, the company reduced its combined air emissions, water effluents and solid waste by 55 percent as a ratio to production, compared to a 2000 baseline. The goal was a 50 percent reduction.

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Small projects have wind in their sails

Posted on November 28, 2011. Filed under: Clean Air, Climate change, Energy independence, Wind | Tags: , , |

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Companies working toward energy independence

The stalled state of wind farm development in Wisconsin has led to little development activity for large wind farms.

But on a much smaller scale, wind projects are moving ahead as companies fulfill commitments to environmental and energy independence.

In western Wisconsin, Organic Valley Cooperative and Gundersen Lutheran Health System have broken ground on a two-turbine wind project that will generate enough power to offset the energy use for Organic Valley’s corporate headquarters and distribution center, as well as meet 5% of Gundersen Lutheran’s energy needs.

In southeastern Wisconsin, S.C. Johnson & Son has proposed building two or three turbines that would generate 1.5 megawatts of power each. If the plans proceed on schedule, the turbines would be erected next year.

The co-op and health care system project, Cashton Greens, calls for roads and foundations for the $9.9 million project to be completed this fall, with the turbines scheduled for installation in spring 2012, said Cecil Wright, Organic Valley’s director of sustainability.

When completed, the turbines will generate about 12 million kilowatt-hours a year.

It’s a boost to a brand that has the word “organic” in its name, but this is about more than conveying a green image, Wright said.

“One of the main reasons we did is that it’ll help manage and fix our costs,” Wright said. “We’re not just doing it because it’s a nice thing to do. The higher the price of electricity goes up, the better we’ll do at paying off our project quicker, and that’ll be a profit center for us,” he said.

“In addition to providing renewable energy to Cashton and Organic Valley, the wind turbines will serve as a ‘living lab’ for research and education for students at Western Technical College,” Wright said.

Windmills and more
At S.C. Johnson, the wind proposal is the latest in a string of distributed generation and renewable energy initiatives for the company, which uses landfill methane gas to generate energy for the factory. The Waxdale factory will be able to produce 100% of its electricity on-site, with 60% of it from renewable sources, said Christopher Beard, S.C. Johnson spokesman.

The reasons for the projects are many – everything from a desire for energy security to a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to energy use and a platform to showcase their brands as environmentally friendly.

“Both of those projects show that customers are demanding and making clean energy happen,” said Lee Cullen, a Madison energy lawyer who has been working with clients in the wind-energy sector. “There’s a groundswell of renewable energy production that’s happening because people understand its importance.”

Beard said the S.C. Johnson wind project “helps us address the fact that consumers are asking for products that are green and products that have been produced in a sustainable way. Manufacturing our products using on-site sustainable energy helps meet that consumer demand,” Beard said.

Projects to erect wind turbines and solar panels needs to be complemented with efforts to slash energy waste from a company’s buildings and production processes, said Tom Eggert, who runs the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council.

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Utilities warn of higher rates because of pollution rules

Posted on August 24, 2011. Filed under: Carbon, Clean Air, Climate change, Coal, Utility rates |

From an article by Tom Content published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on August 19:

Two state utilities said this week new federal pollution rules will lead to higher electricity costs come January.

Wisconsin Public Service Corp. of Green Bay said its residential customers can expect an increase of more than $4 a month next year, including about $2 linked to the new rules designed to limit air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

The utility said it would see higher costs of about $32.6 million in 2012 from the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule that was finalized recently by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That will result in rates going up by 6.8% instead of 3.4%, the utility said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last month finalized stronger regulations for Wisconsin and 26 other states aimed at curbing air pollution from long-distance sources.

Environmental groups praised the new rule because it would reduce acid rain and air pollution as well as help curb health effects from dirty air linked to coal plants. The EPA projected the rule will save up to 34,000 lives a year and prevent more than 400,000 asthma attacks as well as 19,000 admissions to hospitals. . .

The new rule has been in development for several years but the first phase of compliance hits utilities in 2012. WPS said it won’t have time to install pollution controls by next year at its plants, but will be able to comply by purchasing credits from other utilities that have cut emissions.

The utility also said it plans to operate its coal plants less next year than it otherwise would have, and will buy more power from the Midwest wholesale power market as a result, a move that it said is also a factor in higher costs for customers. . . .

On Thursday [August 18], Wisconsin Power & Light Co. [Alliant] of Madison said it would face an additional $9 million in costs linked to the air pollution rule. With the change, the utility is now seeking an increase in 2012 of $20 million, or 2%, utility finance manager Martin Seitz said in a filing with state regulators.

Todd Stuart, executive director of the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group, criticized the increases, and he noted that large energy users like paper mills will see higher than average increases, compared with homeowners and small businesses. Paper mills served by WPS could see a 9% hike, he said. . . .

“Industry always cries wolf whenever EPA tries to reduce air pollution,” said Katie Nekola, lawyer with the conservation group Clean Wisconsin. “The fact is, the new rule will affect old, inefficient, unnecessary coal plants that should have been shut down long ago. The continued operation of those old units is costing ratepayers money, but you don’t hear industry complaining about that.”

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Wind generation reduces climate-changing emissions

Posted on September 10, 2010. Filed under: Carbon, Climate change, Renewable energy - generally, Wind |

From a report titled “The Facts about Wind Energy’s Emissions Savings” prepared by the American Wind Energy Association:

. . . four of the seven major independent grid operators in the
U.S. have studied the emissions impact of adding wind energy to their power grids, and all four have found that adding wind energy drastically reduces emissions of carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants. While the emissions savings depend somewhat on the existing share of coal-fired versus gas-fired generation in the region, as one would expect, it is impossible to dispute the findings of these four independent grid operators that adding wind energy to their
grids has significantly reduced emissions. . . .

DOE data show that wind and other renewables’ share of Texas’s
electric mix increased from 1.3% in 2005 to 4.4% in 2008, an increase in share of 3.1 percentage points. During that period, electric sector carbon dioxide emissions declined by 3.3%, even though electricity use actually increased by 2% during that time. Because of wind energy, the state of Texas was able to turn what would have been a carbon emissions increase into a decrease of 8,690,000 metric tons per year, equal to the emissions savings of taking around 1.5 million cars off the road.

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Utilities building dozens of old-style coal plants

Posted on August 26, 2010. Filed under: Clean Air, Climate change, Coal | Tags: , , |

From an Associated Press article by Matthew Brown published in The Washington Post:

WYODAK, Wyo. — Utilities across the country are building dozens of old-style coal plants that will cement the industry’s standing as the largest industrial source of climate-changing gases for years to come.

An Associated Press examination of U.S. Department of Energy records and information provided by utilities and trade groups shows that more than 30 traditional coal plants have been built since 2008 or are under construction.

The construction wave stretches from Arizona to Illinois and South Carolina to Washington, and comes despite growing public wariness over the high environmental and social costs of fossil fuels, demonstrated by tragic mine disasters in West Virginia, the Gulf oil spill and wars in the Middle East.

The expansion, the industry’s largest in two decades, represents an acknowledgment that highly touted “clean coal” technology is still a long ways from becoming a reality and underscores a renewed confidence among utilities that proposals to regulate carbon emissions will fail. The Senate last month scrapped the leading bill to curb carbon emissions following opposition from Republicans and coal-state Democrats.

“Building a coal-fired power plant today is betting that we are not going to put a serious financial cost on emitting carbon dioxide,” said Severin Borenstein, director of the Energy Institute at the University of California-Berkeley. “That may be true, but unless most of the scientists are way off the mark, that’s pretty bad public policy.”

Federal officials have long struggled to balance coal’s hidden costs against its more conspicuous role in providing half the nation’s electricity.

Hoping for a technological solution, the Obama administration devoted $3.4 billion in stimulus spending to foster “clean-coal” plants that can capture and store greenhouse gases. Yet new investments in traditional coal plants total at least 10 times that amount – more than $35 billion.

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UW-Madison’s Charter Street coal plant embarks on its transition to cleaner fuels

Posted on August 6, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Carbon, Clean Air, Climate change, Coal, Wood |

From an article by Ron Seely in the Wisconsin State Journal:

It’s not easy going green.

Just ask John Harrod Jr., who is helping guide the $250 million green makeover of UW-Madison’s Charter Street Heating Plant.

The coal-burning plant will be converted so that it burns natural gas and cleaner, farm-grown fuels such as switchgrass. The changeover that has won praise from the plant’s many critics, including the Sierra Club, which sued the university for violating the Clean Air Act. Gone will be the giant, dust-generating pile of coal that has become a symbol of the plant and its grimy history.

But Harrod, director of the UW-Madison Physical Plant, said getting rid of that coal pile and moving to cleaner biofuels has brought its own set of problems to solve — accommodating longer and more frequent trains, for example, or expanding the plant’s footprint in its already squeezed urban setting, or figuring out new air standards for burning biofuels when even environmental regulators aren’t quite sure what those final standards will be.

Those issues and others will be up for discussion Wednesday when UW-Madison hosts a hearing on the final version of the environmental impact statement for the project. The hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in Room 1106 of the Mechanical Engineering Building, 1513 University Ave.

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Energy Fair to host renowned author, June 19

Posted on June 16, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Renewable energy - generally |

From an article by Nicole Strittmater in the Wausau Daily Herald:

An environmental superstar will visit Custer this week to help inspire central Wisconsin residents to go greener.

Bill McKibben, who wrote the first book about global warming 21 years ago and recently created an international campaign called to solve the climate crisis, is a keynote speaker for the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair on Saturday.

“I very much wanted to come, particularly because the kind of people who will be at the fair are the kind of people we need to reach,” said McKibben, 49, from his home in Ripton, Vt.

He spends the majority of his time traveling the world promoting his campaign, which draws its name from the parts per million of carbon that can safely be in the atmosphere. His focus is to get the planet from 392 parts per million of carbon, where it is currently, to 350 by encouraging people to take on environmentally conscious projects.

“We want all kinds of people who are good at doing practical things — putting up solar panels, community gardens, starting bike programs,” he said.

In 2009, he and his team coordinated 5,200 rallies and demonstrations in 181 countries in one day, which news outlets dubbed the largest globally coordinated rally of any kind.

This October, he’s organizing a global work party. He wants people worldwide to do environmentally friendly projects, such as putting up solar panels Oct. 10.

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A Cruel Month for Renewable Energy

Posted on May 6, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Economic development, Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy |

From a commentary by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin’s executive director:

Renewable energy businesses and activists entered the month of April with high hopes of seeing the State Legislature pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), a comprehensive bill designed to propel Wisconsin toward energy independence, along the way creating thousands of new jobs and strengthening the sustainable energy marketplace. This comprehensive bill would have raised the renewable energy content of electricity sold in Wisconsin, while stepping up ratepayer support for smaller-scale renewable energy installations throughout the state.

Unfortunately, on April 22, the State Senate adjourned for the year without taking action on the Clean Energy Jobs Act bill, effectively killing the measure and leaving hundreds of businesses and individuals who campaigned for the bill empty-handed.

If life imitates poetry, then the line that opens T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land—“April is the cruelest month”—aptly encapsulates the evolution of a campaign that overcame many obstacles in the final weeks only to be undermined by the unwillingness of Senate leaders to schedule a vote on the bill. The sense of anticipation that began the month was swept away by a combination of personal feuds, extreme partisanship, and increasingly polarized public attitudes toward climate change. That the bill’s demise coincided with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day was seen by supporters as an especially cruel twist of fate.

It certainly didn’t help matters that the some of the state’s most politically entrenched constituencies banded together to fight CEJA at every stage of the process. Among the hard-core opponents were Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the Paper Council and the Farm Bureau. Their vociferous opposition scuttled bipartisanship, eliminating the possibility that a Republican legislator would vote for the bill.

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist misguided, wrong

Posted on May 3, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Economic development, Energy Policy |

A letter to the editor in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Jeff Anthony, Director of Business Development of the American Wind Energy Association and a member of the board of directors of RENEW Wisconsin:

John Torinus’ column celebrating the demise of Wisconsin’s Clean Energy Jobs Act legislation couldn’t be more misguided and wrong (April 25, Page 3D).

Torinus conveniently ignores the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin study concluding that average utility bills would be lower under the bill compared to the status quo. Further, a comprehensive economic assessment of the proposed legislation concluded it would create at least 15,000 jobs in Wisconsin by 2025.

Most puzzling is that Torinus criticizes the bill by citing the European experience, which has incorporated the very same kind of renewable energy targets already in place in Wisconsin and that the bill would have strengthened.

And contrary to still more puzzling claims from Torinus, behind the development of the bill was an impressively diverse range of businesses and stakeholders, all working in concert over a lengthy period to come up with a pragmatic piece of legislation that would simultaneously create jobs and foster a cleaner environment.

Torinus apparently has failed to take a look at the list of businesses and other organizations that formed such pro-bill coalitions as “Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin’s Economy.” Conspicuously absent from the collaborative effort, in fact, was Torinus’ own company.

Jeff Anthony
Director of Business Development
American Wind Energy Association

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