On February 28, Governor Tony Evers released his 2019-2021 state budget. The budget bill will now go to the Joint Finance Committee who will review it and get briefings on the various provisions from the Governor’s administration and specific state agencies. The committee will also hold a series of hearings around the state to learn what the general public thinks about the budget bill provisions. By statute, the budget bill is supposed to be complete by July 1st, but that date is not often met, regardless of which party holds power. Between now and then, please contact your state legislators and let them know what you think about the various provisions of the bill. You can find your legislator’s contact information by following this link.
Below is a short summary of the Governor’s proposals related to clean energy.
100% Carbon-Free Goal
Establishes a state goal that all electricity produced within the state should be 100 percent carbon-free by 2050. While not a mandate or requirement, writing this goal in Wisconsin’s statutes will help state agencies, the legislature and the public know what we are trying to achieve.
Allocate $75 million in bonding to fund energy conservation projects on state-owned facilities. $25 million of these funds would be allocated to renewable energy projects.
These funds will be used for energy conservation projects to help state agencies and UW System meet their energy reduction goals and reduce utility costs. Renewable projects could include solar, wind, standby generators or geothermal enhancements to state facilities. The achieved savings from the reduction in utility costs would be used to pay the debt service payments on the bonds.
Focus on Energy
Allows the Public Service Commission to increase funding for the Focus on Energy program beyond the current statutory limit of 1.2 percent of utility revenues. The bill also requires the PSC to submit to the Joint Finance Committee a proposal for spending a greater percentage on the programs than is currently allocated (The amount is to be determined by the PSC).
Create the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy
Transfer the State Energy Office and its employees from the PSC to the Department of Administration. The new office would:
- Administer a $4 million clean energy research grant.
- Advise state agencies in developing sustainable infrastructure to reduce energy use.
- Study and report on the status of existing clean and renewable energy efforts by the state.
- Serve as a single point of contact to assist organizations pursuing clean energy opportunities.
- Identify clean energy funding opportunities for private and governmental entities.
- In coordination with other state agencies, collect and analyze data needed for clean and renewable energy planning and review those plans with the governor and legislature.
Use a Portion of VW Settlement Funds for EV Charge Station Grants
Spend $10 million of the remaining $25 million from the Volkswagen emissions settlement on grants for electric vehicle charging stations. The rest would be dedicated to replacing public transit vehicles. $42 million of the original $67.1 million that Wisconsin was allocated from the settlement was spent in 2017-19 for replacement of state vehicles and the transit assistance program.
Hybrid Vehicle Registration Fees – Definition expanded to include all hybrids, not just PHEV’s
All hybrid vehicles (any vehicle that uses a battery to increase mpg) would pay the additional $75 annual fee that was originally designed to cover only Plug-in-Hybrid vehicles. This is in addition to the proposed $96 (up from $75) annual vehicle registration fee paid by all vehicles. All-electric vehicles would continue to pay the additional $100 annual fee that was already in the statutes. The fee is designed to recover the sales taxes that would have been paid if they were powered by gasoline that is used to support the transportation budget.
WEDC Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency or Renewable Energy
WEDC would be allowed to award business tax credits of 5% for investments made on projects that improve energy efficiency or that generate energy from renewable resources.
Ratepayer Advocate (Intervenor Compensation) Grants
The bill increases from $300,000 to $500,000 the annual grants the PSC is allowed to make to nonprofit corporations that advocate on behalf of utility ratepayers.
If you have any questions or would like more information about any of these energy related issues please contact Jim Boullion, RENEW Wisconsin’s Director of Government Affairs.
Last fall, I wrote a blog about the Volkswagen Mitigation Settlement, A Big Opportunity for Electric Vehicles. The Federal Volkswagen Mitigation Trust awarded Wisconsin $67.1 million to replace aging diesel vehicles. The goal of the settlement is to counteract the damage done while over-polluting Volkswagen cars were in operation.
Wisconsin’s plan for spending approximately two-thirds of the funding, or $42 million, included replacing transit buses and state fleet vehicles. Now, it’s time to decide what to do the last third of that funding, about $25 million.
Governor Evers released his State of Wisconsin Budget in Brief last Thursday. Good news! It included an allocation for the rest of Volkswagen Settlement funding, with a specific call-out for $10 million to fund electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Wisconsin. The budget calls for the $10 million to be administered as a grant program by the Department of Administration.
This is a big win. Per the settlement terms, states are allowed to use up to 15% of their funding to pay for electric vehicle infrastructure, which comes to just about $10 million in Wisconsin. Taking full advantage of this opportunity means Wisconsin drivers can drive with the confidence that they can recharge in public if they need to. This funding will go a long way to support a vast network of fast recharging stations across the entire state.
The rest of the funding, $15 million, was earmarked for more transit bus replacements. Our hope is that these buses will be electric. Electric buses are so much cheaper to operate, more efficient, and produce zero point-source pollution, making them a “win” for everyone.
Before these Volkswagen allocations can be spent, the budget needs to pass through the legislature. While there is a chance that this budget will not pass, I am really excited to see a commitment to electric transportation. If this commitment makes it through the legislature, Wisconsin will join 44 other states that have also pledged to take advantage of this opportunity.
It’s a long road to ensure every Wisconsinite has access to affordable and clean transportation. This is a big step on that journey. Stay tuned for more details as we continue to follow the Volkswagen Mitigation Settlement and advocate for using Wisconsin’s funds to advance electric transportation.
Tony Evers Wins Close Race
Recent polling showed that the race for Governor was going to be close, and they were right! Not until a large number of late arriving ballots came in from Milwaukee did it become clear that Tony Evers was the projected winner in a hotly contested race. As of this morning the Walker campaign has not conceded the race as they look into the late reporting from Milwaukee and a few other reported ballot problems. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Evers has a 30,849 vote lead, which is 1.18% ahead of Walker. Walker’s campaign can only request a recount if the election results are under 1%. Assuming the results hold up, Evers will take office in January. Even though the GOP retains full control of the legislature, Evers will control the State agencies and has the ability to veto anything that the Republicans in the legislature send to his desk that is not agreed to.
Public Service Commission
Of particular interest to the renewable energy industry is the effect of the elections on the Public Service Commission. Because the PSC has staggered 6-year appointments, control of the PSC will not switch to Governor-elect Evers’ appointees immediately. This is different than state agencies like the Department of Natural Resources or Department of Administration, where Mr. Evers’ appointees will take control when appointed and confirmed by the State Senate. Governor-elect Evers will appoint a new PSC Commissioner, which also must be approved by the State Senate, for a 6 year term which will start on March 1, 2019. It is customary and likely that this individual will become the Chairperson of the PSC. Evers would appoint another PSC Commissioner to start a term on March 1, 2021, at the end of Commissioner Mike Huebsch’s term. Current Chairperson Lon Roberts’ term goes to March 2023. If either of those individuals choose not to complete their term on the Commission, then Evers would select the replacement for the duration of the respective term.
Josh Kaul Apparent Winner over Brad Schimel in Attorney General Race
In an even closer race, Democratic candidate Josh Kaul has a lead of 22,673 votes, or .87% over Schimel. If this holds up, it would be within the 1% threshold for a candidate to be able to request a recount.
Republicans Retain State Assembly
In spite of the statewide races for Governor, Attorney General and US Senate going to the Democrats, the Assembly Republicans appear to have maintained their strong 64-35 majority for the 2019-20 legislative session. One Assembly seat is close enough at this time that a recount may occur. It is between Republican State Treasurer, Matt Adamczyk, and Democratic candidate Robyn Vining. At last count Adamczyk had a 21-vote lead with all precincts reporting.
Republicans Gain in State Senate
With 4 to 5 Senate Republican races expected to be close, many thought that they would lose one or more seats in a year that had hints of Democratic momentum. Instead, the GOP actually gained 1 seat when Andre Jacque (R) retook the 1st Senate District seat from Caleb Frostman (D). Frostman took the seat away from the GOP when he defeated Jacque in a special election earlier this year. These results increase the GOP’s net majority in the State Senate to 19-14 for next session.
Tammy Baldwin Wins Impressive Victory in U.S. Senate Race
The GOP held the majority in the U.S. Senate last night, but Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin easily won reelection against Republican challenger, State Senator Leah Vukmir. Baldwin held a 10 point margin – 55-45% – as of this writing.
All Congressional Incumbents Win Congressional Races
Other than Congressman Paul Ryan, who did not run and is retiring from the House of Representatives at the end of this session, all of the congressional incumbents won reelection. Republicans maintained control over 5 of 8 congressional districts in Wisconsin. Republican candidate, Bryan Steil (CD-1) held Speaker Paul Ryan’s seat for the Republicans.
RENEW Wisconsin will be actively engaging with the Governors’ office and legislature over the next few months to start developing policy initiatives that will advance renewable energy next year.
Please contact our office if you have any questions.
September was a busy month for me and RENEW Wisconsin. I attended more than 30 meetings, seminars and site visits all over the state. Many of them involved learning about Wisconsin’s exciting and fast growing renewable energy industry and building relationships with the talented people who help make it go. There were also numerous meetings with state and local policy makers as well as the leadership of many influential trade associations, unions and advocacy groups. Working together, we are starting to develop ideas for the 2019-20 legislative session that will help advance the use of clean, renewable energy that will create jobs, economic growth and save money for everyone!
Customers First! Power Lunch – Go Electric!
September got off with a “high voltage” start at the Customers First! Coalition Power Lunch, with the theme of “Go Electric”. Over 120 attendees learned about the latest developments and benefits of electric vehicles and “efficient electrification” – replacing direct fossil fuel use with electricity in a way that reduces overall emissions and energy costs. Efficient Electrification holds significant potential benefits for Wisconsin customers, utilities, and environmental advocates alike. PSC Chairman Lon Roberts gave the opening keynote speech and several panels with utility executives and state legislators Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit) and Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin) dove deeper into the technical and policy issues that will need to be addressed to keep up with these fast-growing trends. The program was interesting enough that WisconsinEye, the not-for-profit State Capitol broadcast network, recorded the event.
Emmi Roth Solar Panels
On September 11th I joined State Representative Travis Tranel at the Emmi Roth Cheese plant in Platteville to cut the ribbon on their new 1,600 panel solar system. The system will provide 15% of their electric use. “There are many companies trying to live up to sustainability goals,” said Jim Pullen, General Manager at Eagle Point Solar, who installed the system. “Emmi Roth is part of a group that actually makes these goals a reality and invests in the environment.” The company also recently invested in a new anaerobic digester at the same location in Platteville, Wisconsin, in an effort to lower operational costs and remain environmentally responsible for the waste being produced during their cheesemaking operations. According to Tim Omer, president and managing director at Emmi Roth, “We have a very strong commitment to sustainability. We want to have the lowest possible carbon footprint we could have in the industry.”
Butler Ridge Wind Farm
On September 17th, Pauline Meyer and Nic Cravillion, policy staff from Congressman Mike Gallagher’s office, and Dodge County Board member Russ Kattke joined me at a tour of the Butler Ridge Wind Energy Center in Dodge County. This was a behind the scenes tour of one of Wisconsin’s premier wind farms and was hosted by NextEra Energy Resources. Butler Ridge’s 36 turbines generate 54-megawatts of clean, renewable energy to power more than 13,500 homes. Wisconsin based Faith Technologies, who installed the ground grid and in-tower wiring, and The Boldt Construction Company were two of the prime contractors on the project.
Conservative Energy Forum Summit on “Advancing Wisconsin’s Clean Energy Economy” and Clean Energy Week Proclamation by Governor Walker
On Thursday, September 27th the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum hosted a summit onclean energy developments in Wisconsin. PSC Commissioner Lon Roberts opened the meeting discussing the bright future of renewable energy. Several guest panels discussed Utility Scale Clean Energy – A Turning Point for Wisconsin Utilities, and Decentralizing Energy & Encouraging Private Sector Investment. Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch also spoke about the great things happening for clean energy in Wisconsin and how renewable energy fits so well into a conservative political viewpoint. At the end of her talk, Kleefisch presented a proclamation from Governor Scott Walker designating September 24th to September 28th as Clean Energy Week in Wisconsin. This echoed the clean energy week activities around the country.
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.
There was a palpable sense of excitement and our largest crowd ever (330 attendees), for our 7th Annual Renewable Energy Summit held January 18th. This year’s Summit, “Connecting to a Powerful Future,” included NextEra Energy Resources as a Presenting Sponsor.
Wind energy is coming back to Wisconsin as evidenced by the 2017 addition of Quilt Block Wind Farm, which was awarded the Renewable Energy Project of the Year.
Solar energy had its best year ever – for the 3rd consecutive year. The total amount of solar power capacity in Wisconsin has grown to 80 megawatts, enough to power over 10,800 Wisconsin homes. That’s up from 42 megawatts twelve months ago and 25 megawatts the year before that.
Our panel of utility executives and our solar industry speakers described the growth in solar, and the future opportunities on the horizon.
And biogas, which has struggled in recent years, is finding new opportunities. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi described the county’s plans to transform their landfill from electric generation to gas injection to a pipeline, and how it will also facilitate local biodigesters to do the same.
Bringing home our theme of “Connecting to a Powerful Future,” we learned how to improve our clean energy communications from Jane Bloch of Tusculum Consulting. Jane’s specialty in conveying the benefits of clean energy to broad audiences will help all of us continue to expand renewable energy in Wisconsin.
We also named John & Mary Frantz of Madison and Cal & Laurie Couillard of Deerfield Renewable Energy Champions for their support and philanthropy which enables RENEW Wisconsin to continue growing. John & Mary have been matching donors to our Ride with RENEW bicycle events, and Cal & Laurie founded Solar for Good to help Wisconsin mission-driven nonprofits “go solar.”
Our exhibition hall had 27 vendors, our most ever, and the networking was consistently described by many attendees as “excellent.”
Please check out the presentations from the day and photos of the event, and plan to join us at next year’s event!
Also, we encourage you to check out the media coverage of the day:
RENEW Wisconsin: Big Increase in Solar Energy Expected in Next Few Years (Chuck Quirmbach, Wisconsin Public Radio, January 18, 2018)
Cost-Effectiveness of Solar, Other Renewables Expected to Keep Growing (Alex Moe, WisBusiness.com, January 19, 2018)
Thank you to our 2018 Summit Sponsors!