MGE Rate Settlement a Big Victory for Residential Customers and Clean Energy

MGE Rate Settlement a Big Victory for Residential Customers and Clean Energy

In a stunning policy reversal, Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) submitted a proposal to lower monthly charges and raise energy rates for its residential electric customers. Filed on September 3rd, MGE’s rate application is strongly backed by customer groups and clean energy organizations, including RENEW Wisconsin.

MGE’s filing is the product of negotiations over the summer with RENEW and other parties intervening in the case. If approved as is by the Public Service Commission (PSC), the agreement will pare the fixed charge for residential electric service from $19 per month today to $17 per month in 2022 and $15 per month in 2023. At the same time, energy rates will rise to offset the proposed reduction in the fixed charge.

The monthly fixed charge is the minimum amount assessed on residential customers for electric service. These charges do not vary with energy consumption levels. Hiking fixed charges invariably depresses the volumetric rate assessed to energy consumption, penalizing customers who use relatively little electricity and those who supply themselves with solar power produced onsite. Alternatively, lowering fixed charges and raising energy rates should achieve the opposite result by sending a stronger price signal to incentivize customer investments in energy efficiency and onsite solar.

“Low-income customers, solar customers, and customers who have invested in energy efficiency to reduce energy bills will benefit from this shift,” said Heather Allen, Executive Director for RENEW Wisconsin. “Overall, MGE customers will benefit because reduced energy demand helps limit the need for additional generation capacity. This is a win-win.”

The settlement avoids a contested case hearing in which Citizens Utility Board (CUB) and RENEW had been planning to submit testimony demonstrating that the $19 per month charge was excessive, especially in an urban service territory where the majority of electric customers are renters living in multifamily dwellings.

The MGE settlement follows a similar one struck with Xcel’s Wisconsin utility several months ago. Under the terms of that settlement agreement, which RENEW, CUB and other organizations signed onto, Xcel agreed to lower its fixed charge for residential electric service from $17 per month to $16 per month in 2022 and $15 per month in 2023. As with MGE, Xcel’s energy rates will also increase.

Other positive outcomes of the settlement include MGE’s support for a low-income thermostat pilot program, exploration of further innovative ways to help low-income customers achieve lower energy bills, and MGE’s increased support for smart thermostats and technologies, such as controlled water heaters, heat pumps, and battery electric storage in future filings.

The PSC is now accepting public comments on the MGE rate case. If you’d like to support the settlement agreement, please communicate your thoughts to the PSC via this public comment webpage specific to this case. For more information on the MGE rate case, see the Wisconsin State Journal article here.

An Unexpected EV Journey

An Unexpected EV Journey

Guest Blog by Andy Phelps
Andy Phelps is a local philanthropist who believes in electric vehicles. Recently, he and his family took a trip Up North with their all-electric Chevy Bolt. Continue reading to learn how Andy and his family overcame range anxiety and found charging stations on their trip.

A road trip in an EV? “Someday!” I’ve always said. We love our EV and use it every day, but until now I’ve always assumed that if I took off on a thousand-mile trip, my old gasoline-eating station wagon would be the practical way to go. I know that some folks plan trips from one “destination charger” to the next, but what about my Chevy Bolt? Could we use it for a serious itinerary, with places to go and things to do?

My sister-in-law is a serious photographer, so when she came to visit Wisconsin, we loaded up our car for a meticulously planned trip around the state. We figured we’d use our old Volvo wagon, of course, and weighed it down with suitcases, cooler, lawn chairs, and a giant bag of photography equipment. So four of us — my sister-in-law, my wife, my adult daughter, and I — embarked on our adventure.

And got exactly half a block.

With “Brake Failure” displaying on Volvo’s dashboard, we faced a dilemma. Our first destination, a Clydesdale farm, had pre-paid tickets and an inflexible start time. Switch to renting a car? Unlikely to still be able to make our first deadline. Take the trip anyway in a car that’s claiming “brake failure”? My wife seemed to think that was an unwise way to start a thousand-mile journey.

So, we packed everything into the EV.

First victory: It fit! Well, we downsized to a smaller cooler. But I was astounded that our Bolt carried about as much gear as our gas-eater. Plus, we added the level-1 charge cord and threw in an extension cord for luck. I guess the cargo area goes deep since there’s no gas tank underneath it.

But now, the enormity of it: Start a trip in an EV, when we hadn’t pre-planned charger locations or anything? We decided to just take off and go, and think about that once we were on the road.

We didn’t even start with a “full tank”. We regularly use the car’s “hilltop reserve” setting, which only charges to the 90% point. But we knew that our first destination was within range, and we had pre-paid tickets and a deadline and off we went. Someone driving, someone navigating, and someone googling “best apps for finding EV chargers”. PlugShare and others were soon downloading as we drove. We were also soon experimenting with searching Google Maps for chargers, something I hadn’t even known about. (Not every app shows every charger!)

We actually made it with lots of time to spare, so we had a little picnic by the side of a pleasant country road before the start of our visit. We were happy we’d still had room for those folding chairs! I’m pleased that weighing down the car with four people and all that luggage doesn’t hurt our mileage. The mile-per-kilowatt-hour number depends on speed and wind and whether or not the windows are down, but, unlike a gas car, it does not really depend on how heavy we are! We stayed above 4 miles per kWh, here and on most of the trip.

Unsurprisingly, there are no level 2 chargers at the horse farm, and as we left after our tour, we planned our next move. Overall, our first day’s driving would total 167 miles, which we could probably make on our remaining charge (despite starting without a full battery). But we realized that we might not be able to get any charge that night, so we wanted some extra juice so we wouldn’t arrive empty. Luckily, there are level 3 chargers in Appleton, not at all off our route to Brillion, Wisconsin. While much of northern Wisconsin is a vast desert in terms of DC fast chargers we could use, Appleton turns out to have two of them. We found our way to the back of a Bergstrom auto dealership, plugged in, and relaxed at a beautiful pond and fountain that the dealership had installed.

Level 1, 2, and 3 chargers all have their uses! All were indispensable on this trip.

So, how long to stay charging in Appleton? There was no need to try to fill up all the way, and also, fast chargers slow down as you get over 80% full. Getting to Collins Marsh and then back to our hotel in Brillion wouldn’t require that much additional charge. But with no level 2 or 3 chargers in Brillion and more miles to go the next day, we didn’t want to roll into Brillion on an empty battery. So, taking advantage of the DC charger while we were there, we stayed for over an hour.

(We got a cheery text from our other daughter — “Have fun in Appleton!” Turns out my phone was logged into her ChargePoint account. No worries; she’ll bill me for it.)  🙂

The price of the charger went up after the first hour, from $6 an hour to $25 an hour. We considered moving to Appleton’s other DC fast charger after the first hour but decided that we weren’t breaking the bank with another few minutes at the higher rate. We actually ended up with a total of an hour and a half, adding what the car claimed would be another 100 miles of range.

Then, bidding farewell to our shady rest stop at the pond, we headed on toward Collins Marsh and Brillion.

A lot of our driving this trip was at 55 or 60 mph on scenic rural highways, but part was on 70 mph interstates. It turns out that the allure of speed is a bad idea. Since EVs are so efficient in other ways, wind resistance is a big part of the energy used, and the energy loss from wind resistance goes up disproportionately. Going from 55 mph to 70 mph can lose you a third of your range! And in situations where you have to periodically recharge, any time you gained by zipping along at 70 is just lost again taking longer at a charger. So, my compromise: I set the cruise at 62 mph, and was happy with the range and the speed.

And, keep the windows up! We did some experiments as we went, and it was striking to see that it was much more efficient on the highway to roll up the windows and use air conditioning than it was to roll down the windows and become un-aerodynamic.

We arrived at our hotel that night with charge to spare, but still a long way from full.  We cast our eyes around outside of our hotel, and sure enough, there was an ordinary electrical outlet on a light post. We asked at the office and were told sure, we could plugin. A level 1 charge isn’t fast, but overnight, definitely worth it.

There are two speeds for level 1 charge in a Bolt: 8-amp and 12-amp. Not knowing what all other loads might be on the circuit, we went for the default 8-amp setting. This adds roughly 4 miles of range per hour of charge.  After our overnight stay, our car claimed it was up to 60% charged, and 138 miles of range.

This “miles of range” display bothers me. Of course, no one knows how far I can go on a given charge since it depends on speed and weather and wind and mountains and everything else. For example, if I’d been puttering around town at low speeds, but then I were about to start a trip on a freeway, its estimate will be way off, and I know better than the car does that my mileage won’t be the same as what I’ve been getting. I wish the car would also tell me just how much charge it has in the battery. It does have a bar graph, but it’s pretty coarse, and only increments every 5% (i.e. 3 kWh), and even then doesn’t always update exactly when it ought to.

If you start with a full charge, you can use the “kWh used since last full charge” display, which gives you a much clearer view of the car’s idea of its charge level (showing every 0.1 kWh). But once you start doing partial charges, this becomes much less useful, and it’s back to the bar graph.

Day 2: Brillion to Door County. This is a total of 94 miles, plus a few small side trips. We went first to Sturgeon Bay, where we went to a visitor’s center, the Maritime Museum, the ship canal and lighthouses, and lunch. The visitor’s center had a free level 2 charger, and so did downtown Sturgeon Bay, where we picked up a nice 25 miles of bonus range. That’s an EV-welcoming city!

Then, on to Sister Bay. We stayed for four nights at a vacation home, using it as a base for smaller trips around the area. The extension cord we brought along came in handy, and we could plug in from the front porch of the villa. Should we use 8 or 12 amps? While it seemed fine for 12 (no other loads on the front-porch circuit), I figured 8 was sufficient given how long we’d be there. Each night we’d gain 50 miles or so, and each day we’d spend some of them on trips to neighboring towns. We didn’t seek out any level 2 chargers there, though we did grab some free charge at a nature center, just because it was right there. On our last night, I went ahead and set the level 1 charge to 12 amps so we’d finally get all the way to a full charge by the time we left in the morning.

So the morning of Day 6 was the first time that entire trip (even the beginning) where we were at 100% charge! Good thing, since we had some miles to drive.

We were now headed to the other side of the state. Our itinerary had two days planned: Sister Bay to Wausau, which is 170 miles, then Wausau to Bayfield, another 191 miles. We picked a spot for a lunch stop where we could park at a level 2 charger. But still, we knew we’d like a full recharge in Wausau, so we switched hotels (the only change we made to our itinerary) to a hotel that was across the street from a charger. If we’d needed to, we could have left the car at the charger all night, but actually, by bedtime, we had already completely charged our battery.

Day 7, on to Bayfield. We could have made it on one charge at a pinch, but we didn’t want to arrive on empty. We were going through a town where Harley-Davidson had installed a charger, so we added a bit of charge there while we visited a church service that happened to be going on across the street. Later that day, we found a charger in downtown Ironwood to park at while we ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant. So all in all we arrived at Bayfield with almost half a charge left.

At our cottage in Bayfield, we were pleasantly surprised to find a dedicated 20-amp outlet right next to where we parked our car, so we got a 12-amp charge all night for both nights we were there. Still, level 1 being what it is, we weren’t going to get quite a full charge that way, so we bought ourselves some ice cream and enjoyed a break at a nearby retreat center, sitting at a level 2 charger. A little math says that 30 minutes of 7.6 kilowatts of level 2 charge saves you over 2 1/2 hours of 1.5 kilowatts from a 12-amp level 1 charge, so we knew we’d be able to finish our charge overnight and be able to get an early start in the morning.

When doing the math to figure out charge times, it’s pretty easy to get an approximate number of how long it will take. A basic level 1 charge is 1 kW, so in an hour, that will add 1 kW-hour to the battery. Almost. Actually, I figure something like 90% of what goes in actually stays in, so it’s best to figure on adding 10% slop. So say I wanted to add another quarter of a ‘tank’, and I wanted to know how long I’d need to charge. On a Bolt a full ‘tank’ is 60 kW-hours, so a quarter of that is 15 kW-hours. Using a 7.6 kW Level 2 charger, I’d divide 15 by 7.6 to get approximately 2 hours of charging time. It will take a little longer because of the aforementioned slop, and it will also take longer if you’re trying to charge the battery to the top because the charging slows down when the battery gets close to full. (And why won’t the car just tell me when it’s added 15 kWh? Only on level 3 chargers does it give me a running commentary on how much is in the battery).

Type of charge kilowatts (kW) Charge added per hour (assuming 10% overhead)

Miles of range added per hour

(assume 4 miles per kWh)

 

Level 1

(120 volts)

 

1.0

(using the 8 amp setting)

0.9 kWh 3½ miles

1.5

(using the 12 amp setting)

1.4 kWh 5½ miles

 

Level 2

(240 volts)

7

(some typical chargers)

6.3 kWh 25 miles

7.6

(max level 2 my Bolt will take)

6.8 kWh 27 miles

 

Level 3

(DC fast charge)

25

(many slower level 3 chargers)

22½ kWh 90 miles

55

(max level 3 my Bolt will take)

50 kWh

(but only until it starts to slow down)

180 miles

(but only until it starts to slow down)

 

Day 9:  Drive to Duluth, including scenic byways. Up to 180 miles were planned for this day, so it’s good we had a full charge. We grabbed some level 2 charge at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. (Thanks to my daughter who persevered in figuring out how to navigate the downtown streets to get there; Google Maps had failed me.) When we got to the hotel that night, we were pleasantly surprised by electrical outlets by a dozen or so of the parking spaces. I suppose they had actually intended them for engine block heaters. After our several hours at the railroad museum plus our overnight at 12-amp level 1, we were fully charged again.

Day 10: Drive to Eau Claire. 157 miles. And with another long drive the next day, we were pleased to see that Eau Claire has a level 3 charger — in fact a whole bevy of them at Walmart. I’m not always a huge Walmart person but in EV charging they are outstanding — not a wimpy 25 kW level 3 charger like we’ve sometimes used, not even a 50 kW which pretty much is all a Bolt will take, but 350 kW! We charged at 50 kW up to where it was 80% full (where the charge is slowing down) and spent the night at a hotel without bothering to hunt for outlets. The next day we drove around to some local destinations, so we then charged back up to 80% at the same Walmart again before the drive home.

Back to Madison! We went a total of 1319 miles. If we had taken our Volvo, which gets 24 mpg, that would have been 55 gallons of mid-grade gasoline, which would have cost $176. As it was, the cost of electricity was only $23 ($21 of that in Appleton). Most of the chargers were free.

You’d think we’d be done, but actually, we only had a couple of days to regroup before we headed off to our last destination — relaxing at a cabin on a lake outside of Eagle River, Wisconsin. It’s unlikely we could have gotten the Volvo’s brakes fixed in that short gap, even if we had wanted to, but actually at this point, we had no desire to switch back to our dinosaur-juice-burning ICE-car. (It’s so last century!)

So we headed north again, first to a visit in Keshena, and then on to Eagle River. Once again we needed to pick up a little charge on the way, and, lo and behold, Appleton was on our path again, and we got to visit that nice pond and fountain for another driving break. We calculated how much charge we needed to arrive with a 15% (9 kWh) buffer, and indeed, as we drove to our destination (after a diversion in search of a Dairy Queen) the dashboard was starting to show an orange warning message that indeed we were right about at that mark.

The cabin by the lake had no level 2 charger (though I hear they’re going to put one in!). I’d thought it would be easy to just plug into the cabin, but it had no outside outlets, and the screens on the windows were important to leave in place as mosquito defense. But there was a well-house with a nice outlet good for a 12-amp charge, and my extension cord came in handy again. (My extension cord is thin enough it gets a little warm with 12 amps, but not warm enough to worry me as long as it wasn’t bunched up or confined.)

Moving the car to be closer to the well house, off-roading through the rain-soaked leaves, I miscalculated and got the car stuck in the mud, spinning its wheels. Luckily a shovel was handy, and some friendly folks from adjacent cabins helped me push the Bolt back to solid ground.

I’d thought it would be a piece a cake to charge up when we were staying six nights in one place, but between day trips, and a whole series of thunderstorms (it seemed a bad idea to be plugged in outside during a north-woods thunderstorm), it wasn’t until the last night that we got back to a completely full charge.

Going back to Madison involved a long enough trip that we stopped for lunch and a hike in Wausau since we already knew about the free level 2 charger across from the last trip’s hotel.

We rolled into our driveway fairly low but not showing any orange warnings. It was good to be back to where I can plug in every night in my own garage. But I was pleased to know that I can travel around the state in my EV whenever I please.

Some final thoughts

Traveling with an electric car is a little like traveling with a dog. It can be fun, but you do have to think about it. If you’re going to stop for a break and some refreshment, is your dog (or your car) also going to get its needs met as well? Are you spending the night somewhere that’s friendly to your dog or your car?

Not everyone is into this. Someone recently compared it to being “an early explorer in the Sahara, trying to rely on sketchy maps to find enough watering holes to stay alive, never knowing if the next water is dried up, or poisonous, or not really there at all”. My own experience was positive, but it also helped that I was biased toward a spirit of adventure.

I look forward to the day when every place that one can spend the night has level 2 chargers for an overnight fill-up. Whether you’re a hotel or a vacation rental or a campground, please, just put in a level 2 charger (or two or three) — it’s not that expensive. For now, the hard part for the driver is figuring out not only how to make it to the next destination, but to be prepared to begin the next day’s journey as well when you may not have gotten an overnight charge.

The world is already changing, and chargers are getting easier to find. New EVs have longer ranges and faster charging times. In some ways, Europe is ahead, with level 2 chargers that are three times the power of what I was using! Businesses are catching on, investments are being made. It won’t be long before a trip like mine will hardly be an adventure at all.

Wisconsin solar farms can improve water quality

Wisconsin solar farms can improve water quality

August is National Water Quality Month, a time to reflect on clean water’s vital role in our health, agriculture, and environment. Solar energy is frequently associated with cleaner air, but its benefit to Wisconsin water quality is often overlooked.

Agricultural producers are increasingly turning to solar power to reap a steady income from renewable electricity generated on their land. In addition to generating healthy economic returns for farmers, solar farming yields many positive impacts for local and global environments. Beyond reducing carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels for electricity, solar farms are vehicles for revegetating farm fields, significantly benefiting local water quality.

Solar farms on agricultural land are temporary land uses, lasting up to 30 years in most cases. During this period, the solar arrays interspersed with deep-rooted vegetation can dramatically reduce runoff that would otherwise seep into groundwater, lakes, and rivers. The equipment is removed when the solar farm is ultimately retired, and the land can return to active cultivation.

Consider the recently approved Onion River Solar project in Sheboygan County. When completed in early 2023, this 150-megawatt (MW) project should significantly reduce water pollution. Onion River’s developer, Ranger Power, plans to establish plantings compatible with grazing and pollinating around and underneath the solar arrays. During the Public Service Commission’s review of the project, Dr. Paul Mathewson, staff scientist for Clean Wisconsin, testified that replacing the existing cropping regime with mixed grasses will reduce phosphorus runoff to nearby surface waters by 85-98% in the local watershed. Over 30 years, the plantings will prevent 100,000 pounds of phosphorus from being added to the local stream network.  Reducing phosphorus runoff into rivers and lakes is vital to preventing algal blooms which threaten aquatic life and recreation.

Like Onion River, the recently approved Darien Solar Energy Center, developed by Invenergy, should also improve water quality in the surrounding area. A 250-MW solar project in Walworth and Rock counties, Darien will employ a very similar approach to revegetating the impacted cropland. According to the Delavan Lake Improvement Association, Darien will revegetate approximately 2,000 acres that had been under active cultivation, which will promote more thorough drainage and inhibit the likelihood of erosion and runoff polluting nearby water resources. Additionally, the plantings will provide habitat for pollinators, enhancing biodiversity.

Invenergy’s latest proposal, the Koshkonong Solar Energy Center, envisions a 300 MW solar installation extending across 2,400 acres of active farmland in southeast Dane County, upstream of the Rock River. As with Darien, Invenergy plans to establish deep-rooted vegetation amid the arrays. According to Invenergy’s filings, the mix of prairie plants and other grasses should reduce stormwater runoff by 60%, nitrogen outflow by 48%, phosphorus outflow by 53%, and total suspended solids outflow by 87%. The Koshkonong solar farm is under review at the Public Service Commission.

While providing steady income to Wisconsin’s farmers, the Onion River, Darien, and Koshkonong solar farms will deliver significant value to Wisconsin’s environment above and beyond the electricity they will produce. Displacing coal and fossil gas generation with solar power will improve air quality and slash greenhouse gas emissions. Further, solar generation will play a critical role in mitigating water pollution in Wisconsin because these facilities temporarily replace agricultural row-cropping with deep-rooted vegetation cover over 30 years.

Find answers to frequently asked questions about solar farms here, and learn more about solar and agricultural land use here.

RENEW Celebrates 30 Years of Advancing Clean Energy!

RENEW Celebrates 30 Years of Advancing Clean Energy!

On August 3rd, 2021, RENEW Wisconsin gathered with friends and supporters under Dane County’s new solar shelter near Lussier Family Heritage Center to celebrate 30 years of advancing clean energy in Wisconsin. The weather was beautiful, and after a long period of limited opportunities for gathering in person, it was a welcome moment of connection and joy!

It was wonderful to see longtime friends and clean energy champions. Attendees enjoyed appetizers, drinks, and live music, reminisced over Wisconsin’s clean energy history, and discussed new energy policy and legislative opportunities for growth in Wisconsin.

It is a busy time for energy policy in Wisconsin! We work with lawmakers and regulators to defend renewable energy. This summer RENEW staff are engaged on the forthcoming Clean Energy Plan, the Zero Carbon Roadmap docket, interconnection rules, parallel generation rates, utility rate cases, as well as, legislation on community solar and direct sales for electric vehicles. From distributed solar to energy storage we are expanding the renewable energy market in Wisconsin.

Since 1991, our vision has not changed – to have clean, renewable energy powering a strong, healthy, and vibrant Wisconsin.  We have made significant progress on our 30-year mission to lead and accelerate the transformation of Wisconsin’s renewable energy future through advocacy, education, and collaboration. You can support our urgent work with a donation today.

 

In advance of the event, Governor Evers issued a proclamation commending RENEW Wisconsin on 30 years of work advancing clean energy

Several special guests joined us:

  • Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes
  • Dane County Executive Joe Parisi
  • Don Wichert, RENEW Wisconsin Founder and Emeritus Board Member
  • Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin Policy Director
  • Eric Udelhofen, RENEW Wisconsin Board of Directors
  • and Stanley Minnick, Arch Electric, the evening’s emcee

Thank you to the Honey Pies for the music, Pasture and Plenty for the appetizers, Yellow Dog Farms for the flowers, Kai Brito for photos, and our sponsors Apex Clean Energy, Delta Beer Lab, eagleview, greenpenny, JDR Engineering Inc., PRC Wind, OneEnergy, and Wisconsin Conservation Voters.

This 30th anniversary would not be possible without the support of our members and partners. We thank you for joining us on this amazing journey to a stronger, healthier, more vibrant Wisconsin.

Missed our party but still want to celebrate?  Sign up today for our September 26th, Ride with RENEW in Madison.  Our annual bike ride will feature the Forest Edge Elementary School – the first net-zero school in Wisconsin!

Proposed legislation would grow clean vehicle market in Wisconsin

Proposed legislation would grow clean vehicle market in Wisconsin

Did you know Wisconsin is one of over a dozen states that currently does not allow direct sales of electric vehicles?

This week, I had the opportunity to provide testimony – alongside Tesla, Lucid, and other industry experts – explaining RENEW Wisconsin’s support of Senate Bill 462, which would allow direct sales of electric vehicles in Wisconsin.

This is an important and much-needed step towards electric vehicle (EV) expansion in Wisconsin, as it removes market barriers and allows consumers greater access to EVs that better suit their financial and driving needs.

This legislation also ensures Wisconsin does not get left behind in the electric vehicle marketplace.  It has the potential to bring jobs to Wisconsin by opening the door for companies like Fisker, Rivian, Lucid, and Tesla to both manufacture and sell EVs directly in Wisconsin. As Henrik Fisker, CEO and Co-Founder of Fisker, Inc., recently said in Forbes: “The one sticking point for me would be that I don’t want to start producing a car in a state where I can’t sell my car direct.”

And if you’re worried about direct sales putting dealerships out of business, research shows that in states that currently allow direct sales of electric vehicles, the traditional dealership model experienced 52% sales growth and 18% employment growth (higher than the national average).

However, in states that do not currently allow direct sales, the sales and employment growth of the traditional dealership model is lower than the national average and much lower than in states that do allow it.

Senate Bill 462 is about diversifying Wisconsin’s auto industry and Wisconsin’s economy.  In 2020, 45% of electric vehicles purchased by Wisconsinites were purchased in-state, and 55% were purchased out-of-state. That’s 55% in lost sales revenue due to an out-of-state electric vehicle purchase!

The chart illustrates the projected growth in electric vehicle adoption in Wisconsin based on Bloomberg’s EV Outlook 2021 (analysis conducted by Robin Lisowski of Slipstream Aug 2021).

Passage of this legislation would let consumers decide for themselves, how they want to shop for and purchase an electric vehicle. As Kathy Harris from NRDC puts it “Let Drivers Buy Clean Cars.”

 

Legislative Alert: Electric Vehicle Direct Sales in Wisconsin – Public Hearing August 25th

Legislative Alert: Electric Vehicle Direct Sales in Wisconsin – Public Hearing August 25th

The Senate Committee on Government Operations, Legal Review, and Consumer Protection scheduled a public hearing on Senate Bill 462 / Assembly Bill 439 relating to ownership, control, or operation of a motor vehicle dealership and performance of motor vehicle warranty service.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021, 10:00 AM
Room 411 South, State Capitol

Senator Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) and Representative Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee) introduced legislation to allow a direct sales business model for electric vehicles (EVs) in Wisconsin. If passed, EV manufacturers could sell and deliver their vehicles directly to consumers, either online or from a manufacturer-owned dealership, rather than Wisconsin’s current dealership model. The bill would also clarify that an EV manufacturer can provide warranty and preparation work on vehicles they manufacture in Wisconsin.

RENEW Wisconsin strongly supports this initiative and sent a letter to legislators urging their endorsement. To help pass this legislation, we encourage you to contact your legislators directly or attend the public hearing to register in favor, or even better, speak directly with the committee members. 

The Kooyenga/Neylon bill is one of the keys to increasing EV availability for Wisconsin businesses and consumers and reducing transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. The internet has completely reimagined how we buy things, opening opportunities, lowering prices, and eliminating many market barriers of the past. The bill would permit Wisconsin’s consumers greater access to EVs that better suit their financial and driving needs by allowing them to purchase directly from the manufacturer-dealership without traveling to Illinois or Minnesota.

If you have any questions or would like to report whether or not your legislators support this legislation, please contact Jim Boullion, Director of Government Affairs at jim@renewwisconsin.org or Jeremy Orr, Emerging Technologies Program Manager at jeremy@renewwisconsin.org.

RENEW Wisconsin welcomes three new board members after recent election

RENEW Wisconsin welcomes three new board members after recent election

RENEW Wisconsin’s Board of Directors plays a vital role in setting our organization’s strategic vision and direction. And all dues-supporting members of RENEW Wisconsin were recently invited to vote in the 2021 Board of Directors Election.

RENEW Wisconsin would like to thank all members who voted in our recent election and congratulate our new and incumbent board members who embark on three-year board terms. Incumbent candidates Mike Cornell (Arch Electric), Amy Seeboth-Wilson (UW-Platteville), and Jessica Niekrasz (Clean Fuel Partners) will all retain their seats. And we would like to welcome the following three newly elected board members committed to helping us advance renewable energy in Wisconsin.

 

Samara Hamze
Energy Educator, Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP)

Samara is an energy educator at Wisconsin’s K12 Energy Education Program, where she strives to increase energy literacy in schools through educator and student engagement. Her focus is to expedite the transition of Wisconsin schools to clean energy through teacher training, student leadership development, and career exploration programming, and connecting administrators to clean energy resources.

Her journey into clean energy started when she was an unsuspecting graduate student from North Carolina who thought a summer doing research on the shores of Lake Michigan would be interesting. Little did she know she would fall in love with the entire ecosystem of the Great Lakes, make it her home, and fight to protect its natural resources. She believes one of the great greatest threats to this ecosystem is climate change and the intersecting solutions for its protection and the protection of the biosphere lie in a rapid and just transition to clean energy.

Mariah Lynne
President/Owner, Good Steward Consulting

Mariah Lynne is Owner/President of Good Steward Consulting, a public outreach and communications firm specializing in utility-scale renewable energy developments in the Midwest.

She and her team assist developers in educating host communities, stakeholders, and the general public regarding development projects. Mariah lives on the edge of a 120-turbine wind farm and spent nine years as a farm wife on a multi-generational corn/soybean farm in rural southern Minnesota. She carries with her a keen understanding of rural/agricultural life and communication preferences. Mariah and her team are working with several developers in Wisconsin, across multiple projects in development. Additionally, she was a contributor to the public outreach and communications needs during development of the 300MW Badger Hollow Solar Farm in Iowa County, Wisconsin.

She has contributed to RENEW Wisconsin’s annual conference as a sponsor, panelist, and moderator in recent years. Mariah passionately advocates for our industry and is committed to communicating the benefits of renewable energy, and the synergies between development opportunities and agriculture, to the public. To-date, she and her team are assisting in the development of over 6GW of renewable energy in our region.

Ken Walz
Renewable Energy Program Director, Madison Area Technical College

Ken is a lifelong Wisconsin resident, and his ancestors came to Milwaukee shortly after the state was established. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin while performing research on advanced lithium-ion batteries with Rayovac and Argonne National Laboratory. He has lived in Dane County for the last 20 years and serves as the director of the CREATE Renewable Energy Center at Madison Area Technical College. He has also worked with the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the University of Rochester Center for Photoinduced Charge Transfer. He has served as a committee and board member for the Wisconsin Distributed Resources Collaborative, the Wisconsin Biodiesel Association, the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education, the K-12 Energy Education Program, and the Solar Ready Vets Program.

Growing Focus on Energy Means Growing Wisconsin’s Economy

Growing Focus on Energy Means Growing Wisconsin’s Economy

On June 29, 2021, RENEW Wisconsin hosted a webinar titled “Focus on Energy: Economic Impact in Wisconsin.” Dan York from American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Scott Blankman from Clean Wisconsin, and Maddie Wazowicz from Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA) provided an overview of the Focus on Energy program. In particular, Wazowicz provided pre-publication results of an upcoming Synapse Energy Economics report analyzing utility bill savings and associated efficiency of business and utility operations that would result from an increase in Focus on Energy’s annual funding.

In his introductory remarks, ACEEE’s York noted that “An analysis conducted a few years ago by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab found that Focus on Energy was the most cost-effective program serving utility customers in the U.S.” Dan went on to say that according to ACEEE’s own state efficiency scorecard analysis, “while other states have increased their investments and associated spending for customer energy efficiency programs, such funding in Wisconsin has been largely static, locked in by the legislation that created Focus on Energy.” MEEA’s Wazowicz compared Midwestern states’ energy efficiency investments and discussed what an increase of the Focus on Energy budget could mean for Wisconsin.

To understand what additional benefits could be realized from expanding the Focus on Energy program, we can look at results from the upcoming Synapse report. The figure below uses information from a slide presented by Maddie Wazowicz at the webinar and represents pre-publication results from the Synapse study.  It shows that doubling the Focus on Energy budget would translate to $20.7 million in annual utility bill savings for Wisconsin utility customers. Of that, $16.95 million in yearly utility bill savings would be realized by Wisconsin businesses if the Focus on Energy budget were doubled! This is what Wisconsin customers would save on top of savings occurring at current Focus on Energy investment levels.

The August Synapse report details avoided utility costs, job creation, economic investment, and reduced air emissions associated with an increase in the Focus on Energy budget. Overall, the report finds that if Wisconsin doubled the Focus on Energy budget the state would receive $340 million dollars in net benefits over one year or $3.4 billion over ten years. Investing in Focus on Energy means a more clean and efficient Wisconsin economy for everyone!

The webinar then transitioned to a discussion of direct economic impacts for Wisconsin business. York moderated a panel of Wisconsin business representatives, who described their experience with the program’s energy efficiency and renewable energy incentives. The panel included Sean Hyland from American Family Insurance, Charles McGinnis from Johnson Controls, Benjamin Reynolds from Reynolds Transfer and Storage, and Tim Ulrich from Cree Lighting.

One of the hot topics of the business panel’s discussion related to data management combined with energy efficiency measures and occupancy sensors. Johnson Control’s McGinnis said that the objective of these combined technologies is to “reduce the amount of energy consumption, for the appropriate amount of occupancy, so that you can optimize the size of renewable energy application to produce green electricity.” Panelists discussed their experience with sustainability programs and performance-based metrics. In combination with his experience with the Focus on Energy program, Benjamin Reynolds described his experience with the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council and its Green Masters Program. According to Reynolds, the Green Masters Program “is aimed at helping small-to-medium-sized businesses implement sustainability, and figure out ways to improve in energy efficiency, but also improve in waste and other performance metrics.”

Focus on Energy Impact in Wisconsin

This webinar was prompted by calls by supporters to increase funding for Focus on Energy. A RENEW blog post, penned by Michael Vickerman in October of 2020, detailed success stories and energy savings benefits realized by several Wisconsin breweries, such as Capital Brewery in Middleton, WI. That blog post referenced findings of numerous third-party evaluator annual reports on the program. These reports have found that for every dollar invested in Focus on Energy, Wisconsin receives $4 to $5 in economic and environmental benefits. That cost-to-benefit ratio represents a considerable success, as well as a huge opportunity for expansion!

The RENEW blog post also highlighted a recent review of the program by Chair Rebecca Valcq of the Public Service Commission and her request that Governor Evers propose doubling the Focus on Energy budget. Chair Valcq also recently published an op-ed in WISPOLITICS, an online journal, highlighting the economic benefits of Focus on Energy and why an increased investment is needed.

Focus on Energy is currently funded by utilities at about $95 million per year, and funding level changes can only be done through legislation. The Governor followed up on calls to increase Focus on Energy funding by doing just that with his proposed 2021-2023 budget, which RENEW highlighted in a blog post about public listening sessions earlier this year.

This past spring, legislators decided to omit all Governor Evers’ clean energy provisions from its own proposed budget, which unfortunately meant leaving an important economic growth opportunity on the cutting room floor after Governor Evers signed the state budget earlier this July.

Since its inception in 1999, Focus on Energy has fueled a more energy-efficient economy in Wisconsin. The program was created with bipartisan support and can help grow the economy once again with increased funding. Since doubling the Focus on Energy funding was not part of the state budget this year, legislators on both sides of the aisle can prioritize supporting a stand-alone piece of legislation. A clean, growing economy should be something we can all get behind!

For more information, contact Andrew Kell, RENEW Wisconsin’s Policy Analyst, andrew@renewwisconsin.org.

Community Solar for Everyone

Community Solar for Everyone

Over the past few months, RENEW Wisconsin and our partners have been developing statewide policies that would expand customer access to community solar projects.  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory defines community solar, also known as shared solar or solar gardens, as a distributed solar energy deployment model that allows customers to buy or lease part of a larger, offsite shared solar photovoltaic (PV) system.  Community members subscribing to a solar facility receive credits for their share of the power produced, either in electricity bill savings or energy (kWh) credits.

New community solar projects are being rapidly developed around the country; 21 states, including Minnesota and Illinois, have already enacted policies that expand the community solar market between subscribing organizations and participating customers. Community solar deployment in the United States has achieved a five-year annual growth rate of 53%[1]. But, lacking statewide policies to promote community solar options, Wisconsin is quickly falling behind.

Since 2010, the number of solar energy systems purchased by US homeowners and businesses has grown tenfold. By the end of 2019, nearly two million homeowners and businesses were reaping the rewards from producing solar-generated electricity. Solar power is popular with many US consumers, and it has become an affordable option for many households and businesses. Yet access to solar power is limited. More than 50% of Wisconsin households cannot access solar energy onsite because they rent, live in multi-tenant buildings, have roofs that cannot host a solar system, or experience some other constraining factor.

In Wisconsin right now, only regulated utilities and cooperatives can provide energy from solar gardens to customers. A few utilities, like Madison Gas and Electric, offer a shared solar service that customers can enroll in today. However, most Wisconsin utilities do not currently have a comparable program available for their customers.  That lack of access will persist unless state lawmakers adopt a modernized policy to promote a robust community solar marketplace.

Senator Duey Stroebel (R – Saukville) and Representative Timothy Ramthun (R – Campbellsport) have introduced legislation that would expand access to community solar in Wisconsin. This legislation enables the development of more community solar and supports energy freedom, expands customer choice, saves money on your utility bill, all while creating healthier and more resilient communities.

With a stronger statewide community solar policy, we would open the door for homeowners, businesses, schools, churches, and nonprofits to supply themselves with clean, affordable electricity from a local solar array.

Community solar legislation would benefit all utility customers by adding locally generated electricity to our energy grid while strengthening the rural economy at the same time. Community solar brings guaranteed savings for every subscriber as well as predictable and stable long-term energy costs. It gives customers a choice to support local clean energy projects while expanding access to affordable renewable energy for low-to middle-income residents.

Community solar expansion would allow more Wisconsin farmers to lease their land to host solar arrays and receive a guaranteed secure income for 25 years or longer.  This drought-resistant cash crop is especially valuable for Wisconsin’s agricultural communities facing economic stress.

The soil underneath the panels can be planted with a variety of native plants and perennials.  In addition to minimizing agricultural runoff and fixing nutrients in the soil, these perennials create a high-quality habitat for bees, butterflies, and other insects that move pollen in and around the fields and improve farm productivity.

When solar panels have reached the end of their useful lives, the equipment can be removed, and crop production can resume on the land that has become more fertile as a result of the native plantings.

A robust community solar market in Wisconsin will create thousands of jobs, spur hundreds of millions of dollars in economic growth, and save customers millions in utility bills. Community solar is proven to support economic development, expand consumer choice and bring clean energy to urban and rural communities across Wisconsin.

Learn more about the proposed community solar legislation at www.wisolarcoalition.com.

 

[1] The Vision of US Community Solar: A Roadmap to 2030

 

 

Wisconsin Businesses call for Federal Clean Energy Investment to Drive Jobs and Economy

Wisconsin Businesses call for Federal Clean Energy Investment to Drive Jobs and Economy

Twenty-one Wisconsin businesses signed a letter supporting ambitious clean energy investments and broad interest in the American Jobs Plan. The signatories, representing biogas, solar, finance, and electric vehicle industries, are committed to “advancing the clean energy economy, building family-sustaining jobs, and expanding economic opportunities for Wisconsinites.”

The letter states, “Wisconsin’s cumulative solar capacity more than doubled in the past year and is anticipated to quintuple in the next 3-5 years. Wisconsin’s clean energy workforce is 76,000 strong, and solar and advanced transportation jobs proved remarkably resilient even during the economic upheaval of 2020.” Investing in these sectors can create jobs and opportunities for Wisconsin to become a clean energy leader in the Midwest.

The electric vehicle sector is a key focus of the American Jobs Plan and an area where Wisconsin has tremendous opportunity to invest. Recent studies and RENEW’s analysis suggest that the federal stimulus funds spent on transportation electrification will yield a 500% return on investment.

Corry Bullis of U.S. FLO said that “Given President Biden’s goal to deploy 500,000 charging stations by 2030, FLO is expanding its manufacturing footprint to meet increasing demand in the U.S and support its climate and air quality goals. Incentives, as outlined by the American Jobs Plan, will be critical to delivering on this promise. We urge Congress to pass an infrastructure package as soon as possible.”

Wisconsin’s solar job market held steady throughout the pandemic. The industry continues to advance, and local job opportunities are growing rapidly, signaling clean energy investments are a bipartisan solution to growing Wisconsin’s economy and advancing careers for local workers.

Ed Zinthefer, an owner of Arch Electric based in Plymouth, WI, says, “More homeowners and businesses are saving money and supporting local jobs in their neighborhoods by going solar.  We are busier than ever, growing and hiring and building more clean energy projects. It’s a great time to get into clean energy in Wisconsin.”

Even as the renewable energy markets are growing, there is an urgent need to drive investment and expand our workforce. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, the solar industry is on a trajectory to reach 400,000 solar jobs by 2030. However, employment will need to exceed 900,000 workers by 2035 to reach President Biden’s 100% clean electricity goal.

Sign your name to support federal investment in clean jobs here in Wisconsin!