RENEW Wisconsin Legislative Blog

RENEW Wisconsin Legislative Blog

RENEW’s summer tour of renewable energy projects to help educate legislators and local officials about renewable energy continued on May 30th, as I helped to coordinate a visit for State Senator Howard Marklein, Representative Ed Brooks and Jon Hochkammer of the Wisconsin Counties Association to the Sauk County Health Care Center to showcase a new solar project that was one of two arrays that were approved last year by the Sauk County Board.

The project was made possible through the use of a third-party investor that allows the county to benefit from the projects without any upfront cash outlay. Eagle Point Solar, who built the project, is also the initial investor/owner of the installations. Financing for the project, which included a Focus on Energy grant, provides an option for the county to purchase the arrays after seven years and potentially save money on their utility bills. The cumulative cash flow savings from both projects over a 25-year period is projected to be more than $550,000 for the county!

As quoted in a local newspaper story, Mark Hanson, director of sustainable services for Hoffman Planning, Design and Construction who helped coordinate the project said “It is groundbreaking for a Wisconsin county because some counties are just getting into it with this combination of both the solar and third-party financing.”

Eagle Point Solar General Manager Jim Pullen said from an investor’s standpoint, there are advantages to having another party in the project. “We have the ability to monetize the tax credits and monetize the depreciation and therefore our cost to build this solar array is less than if the county just wrote us a check,” Pullen said. “Therefore we pass that lower cost back to the county by way of a lower energy rate.”

A Victory for Renewable Energy in Wisconsin

A Victory for Renewable Energy in Wisconsin

Focus on Energy’s Renewable Energy Program Funded for 2019-2022

Today, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin made preliminary decisions to allocate approximately $5.5 million in incentives per year to the renewable energy programs within “Focus on Energy” for the years 2019 through 2022.

The decisions came as part of the four-year planning process for the Focus on Energy program. Focus on Energy delivers incentives and education to help utility customers reduce energy usage and save money through energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and projects. The total budget for the statewide Focus on Energy program is approximately $100 million annually.

RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director Tyler Huebner stated, “Today’s decisions to fund the Focus on Energy renewable energy incentive programs at adequate budget levels will set up the solar, geothermal, small wind, and bioenergy markets for a successful four-year period.  We advocated for a consistent, predictable program and the PSC delivered, which is a win for customers and the growing industry of small businesses who do this work all across the Badger State. Based on recent experience, this level of funding should incentivize approximately 2000 homes and perhaps 600 or more businesses and nonprofits as they pursue renewable energy projects throughout the next four years.”

“Renewable energy creates jobs in Wisconsin, develops home-grown power sources, and enables a cleaner environment for future generations,” said Huebner.

Today’s verbal decisions and discussion:

• Allocated approximately $5.5 million per year for renewable energy incentives for 2019-2022.
• Established that four sub-markets will be served:  residential, small business, mid-sized business, and larger business projects. The mid-sized business program will be new for 2019.  Nonprofits and local governments fall into the “business” categories as well.
• Allows flexibility to meet market demand in these four sub-markets
• The residential and small business programs will continue to be first-come, first-serve programs.  The mid-sized business and large business programs will start out being run through a request-for-proposal process.
• A study being conducted on the renewable energy programs may inform improvements to the program when it is completed.
• Opportunities to support rural and agricultural communities using $5 million in unspent funds will be explored, with a staff memorandum on possible options to be developed by July 1.  $20 million was previously allocated towards biodigesters, with $15 million being awarded to the BC Organics project in Brown County in 2016.

“The Commissioners definitely heard the collective comments of our industry and stakeholders to make the renewable energy program as streamlined and business-friendly as possible.  RENEW Wisconsin will continue to work with the Commission, PSC staff, and the Focus on Energy program administrators to make the programs simple for customers and the renewable energy marketplace, while ensuring cost-effective outcomes,” said Huebner.

Want to champion renewable energy victories like this?

Report: Focus on Energy Fuels Economic Growth in Wisconsin

Report: Focus on Energy Fuels Economic Growth in Wisconsin

Focus on Energy, the state’s ratepayer-funded energy efficiency and renewable energy program, continues to yield dividends for Wisconsin’s economy.

An independent analysis of program investments in 2015 and 2016 shows that energy savings from completed projects generated $208 million in economic benefits and supported about 1,200 jobs annually.

The Cadmus Group, an independent third-party evaluator, found that Focus on Energy achieved a benefit-cost ratio of $3.24 per dollar spent without factoring in broader economic impacts such as job creation. When broader economic impacts are factored into the analysis, the benefit-cost ratio rises to $4.77 per program dollar invested.

Cadmus released its findings in a January 2018 report submitted to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, which oversees the Focus on Energy program.

“A $4.77 return on investment shows Focus on Energy is one way Wisconsin encourages economic development and grows its favorable business climate,” said Public Service Commissioner Lon Roberts in a press release dated January 29, 2018.

“When a business saves money by saving energy, it also becomes more globally competitive,” Commissioner Roberts added.

For more information, view the full report or executive summary on Focus on Energy’s website, www.focusonenergy.com.