Policy - 2012 Energy Policy Action Plan
Going into 2012, the policy framework that had supported steady growth in the renewable energy marketplace is being dismantled, as Wisconsin utilities and state government backpedal. The political and business consensus that brought us Wisconsin Act 141 in 2006 (10% RPS, restructured Focus on Energy, state government mandates) has broken down almost completely. But the policy case for the consensus remains as strong as it has ever been. To overcome the current challenges, to value clean renewable energy properly and to empower the businesses and citizens that make that happen, RENEW Wisconsin will press for the immediate implementation of durable policies that appropriately value renewable energy's contribution to economic development, job creation, environmental protection, and customer choice. In so doing, we will employ the most effective messages and messengers for putting renewable energy back on track in Wisconsin and regaining the momentum that once made Wisconsin a model state.
To retake the initiative on clean renewable energy, we commit to the action plan in 2012 that appears below:
Organize stakeholders to articulate a public policy message on clean renewables
Policy decisions are made in a variety of legal, administrative, and institutional settings. RENEW will represent renewable energy supporters and stakeholders in these settings to convey formulated positions on policies that can potentially advance or weaken Wisconsin’s renewable energy marketplace. RENEW will provide the organized voice on renewables in Wisconsin through public advocacy and social media campaigns.
Increase funding for renewable energy in Focus on Energy program
Focus on Energy (Focus), the statewide energy efficiency and renewable energy program, has been a critically important driver for local clean renewable energy production and is a key factor why installation activity is higher here than in other Midwest states. In July 2011, Focus suspended awarding incentives for non-residential renewable energy projects, with no certainty of their return. Beginning in 2012, no clean renewable energy incentives are available through the Focus program. RENEW will launch an organized campaign targeted at Focus on Energy decision-makers to restore financial support to renewable energy systems serving Wisconsin’s residential, businesses, and nonprofit entities.PSC Order 5-GF-191, REF#:163778 was issued April 26, 2012 detailing metrics and methodology for funding renewable projects through the Focus on Energy Program.
Below is a summary, from the order, of the new funding metric:
- Available renewable resource incentive funding for 2012 is $10 million, including incentives that will be paid out in 2012 for previously approved projects.
- Available annual renewable resource incentive funding for each of 2013 and 2014 is $10 million, inclusive of incentives that will be paid out for previously approved projects.
- In 2013 and 2014, 75 percent of the renewable resource incentives will be available for biomass, biogas, and geothermal technologies, and 25 percent will be available for solar thermal, photovoltaic, and wind technologies.
- In 2013 and 2014, the $10 million renewable resource incentive funding is contingent upon maintaining a Focus on Energy program portfolio benefit-to-cost ratio of at least 2.3 and a reduction in energy savings of the portfolio of programs due to the inclusion of renewable resource measures of no more than 7.5 percent.
Taking the lead on wind permitting rules and issues in Wisconsin
The Wisconsin legislature passed the Wind Siting Law (2009 Act 40) to create one overarching siting law for all wind turbines subject to local review (≤ 100 MW). The law directed the Public Service Commission (PSC) to develop administrative rules that would establish certainty and consistency in the way local governments review and regulate wind energy systems. The PSC adopted a compromise rule in December 2010. Perversely, the Wisconsin Legislature suspended the rules in March 2011, precipitating many wind developers to suspend their operations in the state and focus their efforts elsewhere. RENEW will continue to shine a light on the economic and environmental damage caused by the rule suspension as part of a wider effort to get the administrative rules accepted as public law.
RESULTS TO DATE:
By adjourning on March 15th, without passage of bills restricting wind development, the Legislature allowed a statewide permitting rule developed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) to take effect. RENEW thanks all of its members for keeping up the calls and emails to ensure uniform wind siting rules were not permanently suspended!
Advance third-party ownership of clean renewable energy systems
For economic reasons, most small-scale renewable energy facilities in the country are owned and installed by third parties. It is often easier for third parties to take advantage of federal credits and business depreciation, while relieving the property owner of the responsibility of financing the system and building it. RENEW will advance a policy fix that removes the legal ambiguities surrounding the sale of energy from third-party-owned systems to host customers.
Presentation "Third Party Ownership Assessment "
Net energy billing policy overhaul
Net energy billing allows utility customers who produce clean renewable energy on-site to sell excess output back and receive the full retail rate for it up to the customer’s full usage. Codified in 1992, Wisconsin’s net energy billing policy has become woefully out-of-date, lagging behind other states that actively encourage customer generation of clean renewables. One of RENEW’s highest priorities is to push for a 21st century framework that increases maximum eligible system size and eliminates unnecessary and costly interconnection requirements.
Revive utility commitments to expand renewable energy
Until recently, many of Wisconsin utilities were leaders in the Midwest and nation in encouraging distributed clean renewable energy applications in their territories. However, many Wisconsin utilities are now backsliding on their initiatives and, in one instance, abandoned a major clean renewable commitment agreed to as part of a settlement agreement. RENEW will challenge these decisions at regulatory hearings, in court, at utility stockholder meetings, and in the popular media to reinstate and/or commit to new utility initiatives for advancing renewables.
Promote attractive renewable energy buyback policies
Nearly 50,000 utility customers in Wisconsin support clean renewable energy through paying higher rates each month for their electricity. As confirmed in recent polls, more than 75% of the population supports a greater commitment to clean renewable energy development. RENEW is working with partners to translate that demand for renewables into buyback policies and rates that encourage additional supplies of renewable energy from local producers.
Defend and repair Wisconsin's 10% Renewable Energy Standard
RENEW formulated, and helped mobilize support for, a 10% renewable energy standard on electric utilities by 2015. Adopted in 2006, this modest standard is under attack from utilities, certain large industries, and hostile elements in the Legislature. Over RENEW’s objections, the standard was amended in 2011 to allow utilities to count generation from large Canadian hydro sources toward their renewable requirements. RENEW will work with allied organizations and policymakers to fight off other efforts to weaken Wisconsin’s six-year-old standard and to propose new polices that support in-state distributed renewable applications.