After decades of inaction punctuated by occasional half-measures, Congress has passed monumental legislation committing the nation to pursue a clean energy transformation that will benefit all sectors of American society.
The enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act, which cleared the House of Representatives today, will signal to the rest of the world that the United States is “all in” on decarbonizing the domestic economy while greatly expanding investment and career opportunities in the clean energy arena.
Specifically, this legislation represents a 10-year commitment to scaling up the deployment of clean energy technologies, electric vehicles, and electrified heating and cooling systems produced and delivered by U.S. companies.
With its emphasis on strengthening America’s productive capacity and workforce to deliver clean energy to our fellow citizens, this legislation is genuinely an industrial-strength response to the climate emergency enveloping our planet.
We at RENEW look forward to working collaboratively with federal and state agencies, businesses, farmers, local governments, and schools to help deliver the benefits of the clean energy transformation to every Wisconsinite.
On Thursday, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) agreed to open a docket to determine whether individual residents and businesses may access renewable energy produced on their premises using equipment owned by third parties.
“RENEW Wisconsin commends the PSC decision,” said RENEW Wisconsin Policy Director Michael Vickerman. “While this arrangement, often described as third party-financing, is expressly legal in 29 states, it has remained a legal gray area in Wisconsin for far too long.”
“In accepting the petitions filed by Vote Solar and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, the PSC has now committed to resolving this ambiguity,” Vickerman continued. “PSC affirmation of third party financing is essential to spreading the benefits of clean energy to all Wisconsin utility customers.”
Vickerman noted that this lingering uncertainty has greatly impeded renewable energy uptake among individuals and organizations that cannot afford large upfront outlays or do not qualify for federal tax credits. These particular customers include nonprofits, small businesses, houses of worship, schools and local governments, and low-to-moderate income residents.
Vickerman continued: “A favorable ruling from the PSC would allow Wisconsin’s solar marketplace to catch up with neighboring states such as Iowa and Illinois. In those states, there is no barrier to customers hosting renewable energy systems owned by third parties and paying for this service through a lease or a power sale agreement.”
“We believe third-party financing is a critically important tool for empowering customers to scale back their fossil fuel usage,” Vickerman said. “Without expressly affirming the legality of ordinary financing mechanisms such as leases, we do not see how the state of Wisconsin will come anywhere near close to achieving a net zero carbon goal by 2050.”
But a federal anti-dumping investigation jeopardizes solar power build-out in Wisconsin
Having secured approval today from the Public Service Commission (PSC) to build six more solar power plants, Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin affiliate is on a trajectory to source 20% of its electricity from solar power by 2025.
The PSC decision enables Alliant to construct and operate 414 megawatts (MW) of solar generating capacity in Dodge, Grant, Green, Rock, and Waushara counties. In combination with the 675 MW of projects approved in April 2021, Alliant’s solar power portfolio now consists of a dozen projects totaling more than one gigawatt, or 1,089 MW. Alliant’s approved solar projects are listed in the table below.
Over the last three years, the PSC has approved 1,850 MW of utility-owned solar generating capacity in Wisconsin. Of that total, nearly 60% of that generation will serve Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin customers.
“Today’s approval by the PSC affirms the uniquely valuable set of benefits that large-scale solar will bring to Wisconsin’s power industry,” RENEW Executive Director Heather Allen said. “When placed in service, these 12 solar projects will support the grid long after Alliant retires its coal-fired power plants, generating clean, affordable energy here in Wisconsin while delivering a reliable revenue stream to participating landowners and host communities.”
But a recently initiated U.S. Commerce Department investigation into alleged unfair trade practices has already begun to disrupt utility-scale solar farm development nationwide, including projects in Wisconsin. If not resolved soon, the collateral damage from this investigation will likely spread to the Alliant solar portfolio approved today, causing construction delays and increasing costs.
The investigation, which could extend until August 28th, targets solar products imported from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Eighty percent (80%) of all U.S. solar panel imports are sourced from these four countries. If an unfair trade practice is identified, the Commerce Department is empowered to remedy the situation with very high tariffs on panels. For that reason, manufacturers in the targeted countries have been forced to cease production of solar panels destined for U.S. projects.
“Not even a month has gone by, and it is already disrupting solar projects at all stages of the development pipeline,” Allen said. “We are concerned that this investigation can do serious damage to the solar build-out now underway as well as undermine Wisconsin’s Clean Energy Plan.” Allen added: “We ask Senators Baldwin and Johnson and Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation to stand up for Wisconsin jobs, Wisconsin farmers, and Wisconsin’s rural economy and urge the Commerce Department to issue a negative ruling on this matter as soon as possible.”
APPROVED ALLIANT ENERGY SOLAR PROJECTS
Approved April 28, 2022
||Capacity (in MW)
Approved April 21, 2021
||Capacity (in MW)
Today, Governor Tony Evers introduced Wisconsin’s first-ever Clean Energy Plan. The plan was developed with input from hundreds of stakeholders and provides a pathway for Wisconsin to build a robust clean energy workforce, save billions of dollars, and become more energy independent.
Building a Clean Energy Workforce
The Clean Energy Plan developed by Governor Evers and the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy (OSCE) identifies opportunities to grow Wisconsin’s clean energy workforce. Wisconsin’s clean energy workforce is 76,000 strong, with good-paying, resilient jobs like installing solar and electric vehicle charging stations, servicing wind turbines, manufacturing energy storage systems, and retrofitting buildings. Wisconsin can take control of its energy future and expand local job creation by investing in renewable energy.
EnTech Solutions, a division of Faith Technologies Incorporated (FTI) based in the Fox Valley, is a leader in distributed energy capabilities, eMobility charging, innovative sustainable fuel technologies, and asset management solutions for businesses looking for reliable, clean energy solutions. “EnTech Solutions is growing to satisfy the high demand for emerging technologies like microgrids, distributed energy systems, and renewable energy EV chargers,” said Tom Clark, chief experience officer with FTI. “Our clean energy workforce develops innovative solutions to solve our customers’ energy challenges.”
The Clean Energy Plan will generate 40,000 new jobs in Wisconsin by 2030, or 6,000 new jobs per year. The plan will create a Clean Energy Workforce Advisory Council and strengthen the workforce with apprenticeship tracks and reentry training for formerly incarcerated individuals. Demand for clean energy workers in Wisconsin is high and growing. State leadership will ensure Wisconsinites have access to training and jobs to help them embark on clean energy careers.
Save Wisconsinites Money
The Clean Energy Plan will accelerate renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions in commercial, residential, and multifamily new construction. Wisconsin families and businesses can save money on monthly energy bills with renewable energy investments, energy efficiency measures, and demand response technologies.
A recent study by Synapse Energy Economics Inc. found that greater investment in Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s energy efficiency and renewable energy program, would help Wisconsin reap millions in benefits through avoided utility costs, job creation, economic investment, and reduced air emissions. Overall, the report found that if Wisconsin doubled the Focus on Energy budget, the state would receive $340 million in net benefits over one year or $3.4 billion over ten years. The expanded incentives for Focus on Energy outlined in the Clean Energy Plan would create a clean, efficient Wisconsin energy economy for everyone!
Reduce Dependence on Fuel Imports
Wisconsin can be free from the instability of oil and natural gas by investing in renewable energy and electric transportation. Wisconsin currently spends billions of dollars every year to import fossil fuels. The Clean Energy Plan will focus state investments on homegrown, renewable energy and electric vehicle infrastructure.
The Clean Energy Plan will speed the deployment of electric vehicles and charging stations around Wisconsin. The plan lays out strategies for state agencies and local governments to lead the way to build a comprehensive infrastructure for electric vehicle charging stations that will reduce the state and individual dollars spent annually on importing oil and gasoline.
We congratulate Governor Evers and all contributing stakeholders on developing this comprehensive Clean Energy Plan. RENEW is poised to help advance renewable energy, and we look forward to collaborating with state agencies and other partners to build Wisconsin’s clean energy future.
The Wisconsin State Senate demonstrated unanimous support for clean energy today with the passage of SB 692, which updates Wisconsin’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. The bill now moves to the State Assembly, where similar bipartisan support could pass the bill before the end of the session.
“We are excited to have bipartisan, unanimous support for this clean energy financing option which will help Wisconsin businesses shift to clean energy and drive economic investment. We thank Senator Cowles for introducing this legislation which demonstrates the broad appeal of common-sense clean energy solutions,” said Heather Allen, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin.
PACE financing creates a mechanism for commercial, industrial, health care, agricultural, nonprofit, and multifamily property owners to obtain low-cost, non-recourse financing for up to 100% of the cost of energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements. Financing options up to 30 years yield positive cash flows and increase the net operating income for commercial and industrial building owners. PACE loans are attached to the property, not the person, allowing the remaining cost of those improvements to transfer to a new owner if the property is sold.
SB 692 will improve access to PACE financing in Wisconsin by adding clarity and expanding eligibility.
Among other changes, the legislation:
- Expands the type of projects that may be financed to include energy reliability improvements, weather-related resiliency projects, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and stormwater control measures.
- Defines the term of the repayment period, clarifying that financing may be repaid through a lien, and ensures that all mortgage holders provide written consent before the issuance of funding.
- Removes the requirement for energy and water savings to exceed project costs and would instead require that the owner obtain a third-party assessment of the anticipated energy and water cost savings from the proposed project and provide confirmation of proper installation after work is completed.
- The bill also prohibits PACE financing for residential units of less than five units. Wisconsin does not currently have a residential PACE program. In the few states that have tried implementing a residential program, problems developed when individual homebuyers did not fully understand the implications of a PACE loan.
“Regular updates to our energy laws and financing programs like PACE allow Wisconsin’s citizens to benefit from the many advancements in clean, affordable renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies,” said Jim Boullion, Director of Government Affairs.
During its eleventh annual Renewable Energy Summit, titled “All Roads Lead to Clean Energy,” RENEW Wisconsin honored individuals and businesses who have made significant and lasting advances in clean energy development here in Wisconsin. Presented by greenpenny, Invenergy, and NextEra Energy Resources, the summit took place Thursday, January 27, 2022, at Monona Terrace in Madison. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Summit featured a mix of in-person and online attendees and speakers.
In keeping with the program theme, summit presenters spotlighted the intertwining pathways leading Wisconsin closer to the zero-carbon goals embraced by state and local leaders, influential businesses, schools, and nonprofit organizations. Featured speakers included Commissioner Tyler Huebner (Wisconsin Public Service Commission) and Kari Lydersen (author and journalist).
During the summit, RENEW presented awards to a trio of clean energy businesses and champions in recognition of the leadership they’ve demonstrated in the years leading up to the present occasion. They are:
Clean Energy Business of the Year: Arch Solar, Plymouth
Arch Solar, a Plymouth-based company, founded in 2003, has become the largest full-service solar contractor in Wisconsin, with about 90 employees. Arch connects veterans to solar energy, primarily through its efforts to place them in its workforce. It is also a certified Women’s Business Enterprise, one of the few in the clean energy field.
Clean Energy Educator of the Year: Kenneth Walz, Madison Area Technical College
Kenneth Walz is a nationally recognized leader in developing coursework and training materials to help post-secondary students acquire skills for entry into the renewable energy workforce. As director for the Center for Renewable Energy Advanced Technological Education, Ken has enabled Madison Area Technical College to become the state’s preeminent energy education center and laboratory. Ken has also been an effective internal champion for “solarizing” all Madison College’s campuses. With the recent installation of a 133-kilowatt array at its Watertown branch, the Madison College system now hosts more solar generating capacity than any other school or local government in Wisconsin. In 2020, U.S. EPA bestowed a Green Power Leadership Award to Madison College for incorporating clean energy into its curriculum and operations.
Clean Energy Trailblazer of the Year: Susan Millar, 350 Madison
Susan Millar is a member of 350 Madison, a local citizens group catalyzing meaningful public and private actions to address climate change threats. She recently launched an ambitious effort to re-engineer her 90-year-old house to become an all-electric residence. Susan converted her conventionally heated house to one that runs on an all-electric, solar-assisted energy platform. She disengaged from a convenient but carbon-intensive heating source to rely on electric heating appliances and technologies instead. Susan’s house has been gas-free since September 2021.
This year’s Summit program also drew attention to other milestones and notable achievements in 2021, including the following:
- The Public Service Commission (PSC) approved six large solar projects—Wood County, Grant County, Onion River, Darien, Springfield, and Apple River—that will add 950 megawatts (MW) of solar power to Wisconsin’s electric generation portfolio.
- The PSC also approved applications from Alliant-Wisconsin Power and Light and Xcel-Northern States Power of Wisconsin to add a combined seven solar farms totaling 764 MW to their respective power plant fleets.
- Madison Gas and Electric completed its largest Renewable Energy Rider project to date. Located in Fitchburg, the 20 MW O’Brien Solar Fields project serves seven customers, including the State of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- In partnership with the Couillard Solar Foundation, RENEW’s Solar for Good program issued grants for leveraging the installation of 1.27 MW of solar capacity serving 26 nonprofit-owned entities across the state.
- The first combined solar and microgrid project, serving the Bad River Tribal reservation in Ashland County, was placed in service. Project partners included a local nonprofit, Cheq Bay Renewables, and Menasha-based EnTech Solutions, the contractor that designed the project for the tribe.
- Employing the group purchase model, solar contractors teamed up with nonprofits and local governments to install 1,887 kW of solar capacity to 260 residential customers across the state.
This annual event featured an exposition hall, breakout sessions, and industry professionals discussing the current and future opportunities for advancing renewable energy in Wisconsin.
Click here for more information on the 2022 Summit program agenda, speakers, and registration.
This year’s Summit was supported by over 100 sponsors including greenpenny, Invenergy, NextEra Energy Resources, Alliant Energy, Arch Electric, ATC, Couillard Solar Foundation, Eagle Point Solar, OEI (Wisconsin Office of Energy Innovation), Savion, Stantec, Boldt, CED Greentech, EDF Renewables / Distributed Solutions, Foley & Lardner LLP, Generac, Michael, Best and Freiderich, MREA, Northwind Solar, OneEnergy, REC Group, SC Johnson, Steigerwaldt Land Services, SunPeak, Focus on Energy, AVID Risk Solutions, Carlson Electric, Braun Intertec, Current Electric, Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change (OECC), Endries Solar and Electric, Entech Solutions Inc, Full Spectrum Solar, Glow Solar, Good Steward Consulting, HellermannTyton, Ingeteam, JCG Land Services Inc, WI K-12 Energy Education Program, Keyes & Fox, Madison College, Milwaukee Shines, muGrid Analytics, National Grid, Nautilus Solar, Pines Bach, PRC Wind, Ranger Power, Ruekert- Mielke, Stone House Development, SunBadger Solar, TRC, Werner Electric, WIDRC, Xcel Energy, Ayres Associates, Chint Power Systems (CPS), Michael J. Allen, EOR, Kapur & Associates, Legacy Solar Cooperative, McKinstry, Midwest Solar Power, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Oconomowoc Realty, Organic Valley, PACE, Sustain Dane, Trillium Construction, Vanguard Real Estate Solutions, Westphal & Company, Inc., Wisconsin Clean Cities, Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum, All Energy Solar, Audubon Great Lakes, Aurora Solar, City of Madison, Clean Fuel Connects, Clean Wisconsin, Construction Business Group (CBG), Convergence Energy, Eland Electric, EMCS, Energy Analysis and Policy – Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Energy News Network / Midwest Energy News, Ethos Renewable Energy, Equix, Inc, GDS Associates, Gundersen Health System, HGA Architects and Engineers, JDR Engineering, Local 139 Operators, North Central States Regional Carpenters Council, Nokomis Energy, Samsung Renewable Energy, Solar Connection, Summit Ridge Energy, UA Local 400 Plumbers & Pipefitters, UW Office of Sustainability, WES Renewables (Engineering), Westwood, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, Wisconsin Energy Institute, Wisconsin Health Professionals for Climate Action, WI Sustainable Business Council, and WPPI Energy.
About RENEW Wisconsin
RENEW Wisconsin is a nonprofit organization that promotes renewable energy in Wisconsin. We work on policies and programs supporting solar, wind, biogas, local hydropower, geothermal energy, and electric vehicles. More information can be found on RENEW’s website: www.renewwisconsin.org.