Clean Energy Jobs Act Information
The Clean Energy Jobs Act Frequently Asked Questions
Note: RENEW Wisconsin supports the Clean Energy Jobs Act and provides the attached FAQs to help our members and the public better understand this legislation. However, not all statements included in this document represent the positions and/or policies of RENEW Wisconsin.
Enhanced Energy Efficiency and Conservation
Q: Won’t increased funding for statewide energy efficiency programs come out of the pockets of Wisconsin ratepayers? We shouldn’t be raising energy costs during an economic downturn by adding more fees to our utility bills.
- A: Investing more money in energy efficiency has a demonstrable, risk-free payback for Wisconsin residents and businesses. Over the long run we will use less energy, which means we’ll actually be reducing our energy bills. The cost of conserving energy is far less than the cost of building new power generation. Energy efficiency and conservation efforts are the least-cost means of mitigating carbon pollution. Investing in energy efficiency also translates into stable, family-supporting jobs, particularly within the building and construction trades and at the 50+ businesses in Wisconsin that manufacture Energy Star appliances, windows, and other products.
- A: The Task Force recommendations called for zero energy usage in new construction by 2030 and adoption of the International Energy Conservation Code within 18 months of promulgation. More importantly, this provision will:
- Lower long-term costs related to affordable housing;
- Create sustainable jobs in the residential and commercial construction industry;
- Enable the transition to a more modern construction industry; and
- Create jobs in Wisconsin providing energy efficient building materials.
Q: Will an Enhanced Renewable Portfolio Standard require the build-out of costly electric generation that Wisconsin doesn’t need, while doing nothing to reduce the demand for electricity? Don’t renewable energy sources cost more than coal and natural gas?
- A: Each year, we send over $16 billion out of state to purchase coal, natural gas, and petroleum products to meet our energy demands. Every dollar we spend on these fossil fuels is a dollar that leaves Wisconsin. By increasing our state’s renewable portfolio standards, we are guaranteeing that more of our energy dollars remain here, and creating thousands of jobs for Wisconsin families in construction and building trades work, and, in the longer term, supply-chain jobs in our manufacturing, agricultural, and forestry sectors. Also, the EPA has moved to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, which means that costs associated with burning coal and natural gas will continue to rise. We cannot continue to pretend that exclusive reliance on fossil fuels for power generation is either sustainable or affordable in the long term. We need to speed our transition to a cleaner energy economy and position Wisconsin as a leader in this growing industry before other states get ahead of us. As we add renewable sources of energy to our fleet, many of the older and less efficient fossil fuel burning units will gradually be retired, and Wisconsin’s generation capacity will fall in line with demand. Initial infrastructure costs associated with a transition to renewables will be off-set by producing cleaner and reliable renewable energy for Wisconsin over the long-term. Meanwhile, the cost of renewable generation technologies continues to fall when compared to fossil fuel alternatives. Increased reliance on renewable energy is central to creating a more sustainable Wisconsin. Life cycle costs associated with fossil fuel have a significantly greater adverse impact on public health, quality of life, and the environment.
- A: Evidence from around the world suggests that feed-in tariffs lead to faster deployment of renewable generation sources than a stand-alone Renewable Portfolio Standard. Advanced Renewable Tariffs will help harness the power of Wisconsin’s rich agricultural resources by making it easier and more cost-effective for farmers to take farm-waste and generate electricity with it to power their farming operations and deliver clean, renewable energy back to the grid. Incenting the deployment of smaller-scale, more distributed renewable generation sources cuts down on our state’s transmission infrastructure costs and will reduce our reliance on out-of-state renewable power in the long term. This policy helps level the playing field so individual homeowners, farmers, and businesses can earn a return on investments in renewable energy that is similar to the returns that utilities earn.
Q: Will the Energy Crop Reserve Program undo the environmental benefits of existing agricultural set-aside programs, such as CRP or CREP.
- A: The bill contains important check and balances to minimize this from happening. For example, the requirement that sustainable management guidelines be followed by Energy Crop Reserve participants will ensure this program does not result in unintended environmental impacts. This policy will also help establish a supply chain for biomass fuels that is already needed and will increasingly be needed as more biomass power plants are built in Wisconsin.
Q: The bill sets unrealistically high GHG emission reduction targets that will handicap economic growth in Wisconsin.
- A: The proposed targets are generally consistent with federal legislation, and are in line with numerous other state and regional efforts. Also, the emissions reduction targets in the legislation are merely goals. They are not regulatory requirements.
- A: The bill does not create any state-only cap and trade system. Rather, it positions Wisconsin to act quickly should a national or regional cap and trade approach to greenhouse gases be adopted.
Lifting Wisconsin’s “Nuclear Moratorium”
Q: By lifting Wisconsin’s “Nuclear Moratorium” aren’t we opening the door to unacceptable public health risks, unresolved waste disposal issues, and increasing costs?
- A: The Clean Energy Jobs Act neither guarantees nor encourages the development of additional nuclear power generation in Wisconsin. It simply provides the state with the option of considering it in the future as a low-carbon power generation source. Although long-term disposal of nuclear waste is a challenging and serious issue, we know that nuclear power in the U.S. has a proven safety record and has had virtually no negative public health consequences, in stark contrast to fossil fuel power generation. If or when a permanent nuclear waste storage option becomes available, the revised Wisconsin law would actually create new, additional safeguards to ensure that new nuclear power plants are built to meet Wisconsin’s needs and are fully regulated, regardless of who owns them. In a future that may be relatively free of fossil fuel power generation, additional nuclear power may be necessary to replace coal power plants as they undergo increasing retirements in the coming decades.
Q: Why should Wisconsin allow California bureaucrats to dictate automotive standards? Following California “cars” will result in additional purchase and long-term operational costs to consumers.
- A: The federal government has already addressed this issue by establishing a national CAFÉ and GHG standards that essentially meet the directive of the Governor’s Global Warming Task Force. The Clean Energy Jobs Act is simply advocating for Wisconsin adopting the national standard.
- A: Reducing GHG emission from the mobile source sector is essential to meeting overall carbon emission goals. The LCFS is a logical and cost-effective means to achieve reductions in the mobile source sector, and will yield an economic boon to Wisconsin by leveraging our natural agricultural and forestry capital – creating new jobs, increase tax base, and diversifying the economy. Petroleum and natural gas are non-renewable and 100% imported to Wisconsin. Overtime, as was recently experienced, prices will continue to go up and experience significant price fluctuations; neither of which provides a stable basis for Wisconsin’s economy. By diversifying, Wisconsin can mitigate the potential for price fluctuations, and improve our energy security. Development of an indigenous biofuels industry will reverse the tide of manufacturing job loss, by diversifying the profit centers in pulp and paper, as well as other manufacturing in Wisconsin. For example, currently in Wisconsin several pulp mills are piloting the creation of 4 profits centers from the current one center of pulp production.
- A: Fuel savings will offset initial capital costs to install the needed auxiliary power unit (APU) for firms operating in colder climates such as Wisconsin. Costs associated with maintaining the APU will be offset by reduced wear and tear on the primary diesel engine.
- A: Current planning processes do not address the GHG implications of long-term transportation infrastructure plans and projects. Including these implications will optimize transportation investment decisions. This bill will create an information baseline for assessing the carbon footprints of various transportation alternatives that currently does not exist. This will allow the public and policy makers at the local, state and federal levels to make more informed choices with scarce transportation dollars.
- A: Addressing climate change, cleaning up our air, and growing Wisconsin’s green energy economy are comprehensive challenges that require comprehensive solutions. Packaging the Task Force recommendations in one piece of legislation reflects that, and also acknowledges the very real compromises that an incredibly diverse group of Task Force members made in agreeing to support the Task Force recommendations as a whole. Parceling out certain recommendations for separate legislative action will only serve to divide the broad-based support that we worked to gain for the Task Force package as a whole.