RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Recap of January Energy Summits

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Recap of January Energy Summits

January was a busy month bopping between energy summits. On January 17th we had our Renewable Energy Summit in Madison and January 24 – 25 the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters held the Powering Local Leadership Summit in Appleton.

Both summits had electric vehicle panels, and both were awesome.

Renewable Energy Summit: Electric Vehicles

This was the first time we had an electric vehicle session at the Renewable Energy Summit. Our space ended up being standing room only so I’d say it was a success. We emphasized the benefits that electric vehicles provide, no matter what business you are in.

Dan Steinhart and Mike Cornell kicked off the presentations, representing Arch Electric EV, the recently incorporated subsidiary company of Arch Electric. Arch Electric EV will house their electric vehicle charging station business. Arch is primarily a solar photovoltaic (PV) installer that has recently been in contact with over 100 businesses to gain a better perspective on the market and demand for electric vehicle (EV) recharging infrastructure. Their motto is that PV + EV = Sustainable Transportation.

Becky Cooper from Bounce Milwaukee shared her family business’s experiences with pizza delivery electric vehicles.  In addition to providing family-fun of all kinds, Bounce Milwaukee owns electric Leafs that they use to deliver pizzas. Their rooftop solar array and electric pizza ovens mean their pizzas are both made and delivered on sunshine. Bounce Milwaukee uses electric cars because they’re affordable, efficient, and provide a better customer experience, in addition to boosting their brand as an early adopter of clean energy technology!

We also heard from Mahanth Joishy about the City of Madison’s commitment to low emission transportation. The city currently owns 3 Chevy Bolts and acquired a grant to purchase 20 more in 2019 and 2020. Additionally, the city has a biodiesel pilot project, 6 hybrid police vehicles, anti-idling technology on ambulances, is working on specs for compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks, and is outfitting vehicles with GPS tracking to even further optimize routes and decrease fuel use.

This session was a really excellent exercise in seeing the various ways that electric transportation can benefit all different kinds of organizations. From companies already invested in the energy transition to local family-centric businesses, and even local governments, there’s a lot to be gained from electric transportation.

Check out the slides and audio to learn more.

Powering Local Leadership Summit: Preparing Your Community for Electric Transportation

The Powering Local Leadership session had a more focused goal: provide local leaders the tools to prepare their communities for the transition to electric transportation. I kicked things off with an overview of the myriad of benefits of electric vehicles (to name a few: cheaper to operate, no tailpipe pollution, quiet, fun to drive, and convenient to refuel).

Ashwat Narayanan from 1000 Friends of Wisconsin reiterated the point that electric vehicles can solve many problems. They are not, however, a magic bullet to solving all of our transportation issues. We have to prioritize people – bikers, bus riders, and car sharers – over actual cars.

Jeff Springer from Dairyland Power Cooperative emphasized that electric vehicles have both an awareness issue and a rural issue. We need to help electricity coops through the process of getting the word out about electric vehicles, transitioning their fleets, and installing charging stations in their area. Rural solutions are also necessary – pickup trucks, SUVs, and farm equipment – all of which is coming to the market soon.

Finally, Peter Skopec from WISPIRG gave hope that with sales at an all-time high, communities really do need to be preparing for thousands of electric vehicles on their streets soon. The charging infrastructure needs to be built out, especially for folks who live in multifamily units and urban areas without access to overnight charging.

The audience had great questions that ran the gamut from gas station interest in electrification (there is some interest), to Volkswagen Settlement Funding (a huge opportunity for building electric vehicle infrastructure), and if mechanics need additional training to work on electric cars (yes, we want mechanics to be comfortable working on these cars).

I learned a ton from moderating these panels! Thanks to the panelists for joining me, and thank you for reading about them here. For those of you who couldn’t make it, I hope you can join us next year!

Big year for renewables ahead!

Big year for renewables ahead!

Home-grown renewable electricity is poised for a big breakout this year.  Two solar projects large enough to replace fossil-fuel power plants are making headway, while utilities in Wisconsin have made stronger renewable energy commitments.  At the same time an accelerating number of nonprofit organizations, businesses, and citizens are turning to renewable energy for their own use.

Hearings are set this month for the Badger Hollow Solar Farm in Iowa County and the Two Creeks solar project in Manitowoc and Kewaunee Counties.  The Public Service Commission will likely decide whether to approve of the two projects in mid-March.  The utilities Wisconsin Public Service (based in Green Bay) and Madison Gas & Electric plan to acquire 300 megawatts of  generation capacity from these plants, enough to power over 70,000 average Wisconsin households. If the two projects are approved, the utilities will be able to reduce their fossil-fuel emissions while increasing supplies of renewable power in their energy generation mix.

Take action to support the Badger Hollow Solar Farm today!

We expect another wave of large solar power plants to follow soon after the PSC issues decisions on Badger Hollow and Two Creeks.

Wisconsin electric providers are driving this transition to renewable energy through their recently announced plans to scale back carbon emissions.

WI Utility Commitments to Reduce Carbon Emissions and Increase Renewable Energy

UTILITY
APPROXIMATE NUMBER OF CUSTOMERS
CURRENT WI RENEWABLES MIX
STATED GOALS OR RECENT ACTIONS
WEC (WE Energies and Wisc. Public Service)
1.1  million + 440,000
7% WE
7.8% WPS
80% CO2 reduction by 2050
Alliant (WI Power and Light)
460,000
13.3%
29% renewables by 2024
80% CO2 reduction by 2050
Dairyland Power
258,000
14.4%
PPAs for 98 MW Wind (2017), 20 MW solar (2016), 80 MW Iowa Wind (2016)
Xcel Energy
256,000
28% (systemwide)
80% CO2 reduction by 2030
100% CO2 reduction by 2050
WPPI Energy
200,000
14.5%
PPAs for 132 MW wind (2018) and 99 MW solar (2020)
Madison Gas and Electric
145,000
10.1%
30% renewables by 2030
80% CO2 reduction by 2050

How can you help accelerate clean energy?Increasingly, businesses and nonprofit organizations are also committing to renewable energy.  Solar for Good, the grant program managed by RENEW Wisconsin to support non-profits going solar, announced its most successful round of funding ever in 2018.   The program’s Fall 2018 round announced that 36 organizations have been allocated $445,000 in grants which will lead to $4.5 million in solar investment in Wisconsin.  At the same time major businesses are committing to clean energy.  On January 3, 2019, Advocate Aurora Health committed to 100% renewable energy by 2030 for its 27 hospitals and 500+ outpatient sites in Wisconsin and Illinois.

This tremendous momentum would not be possible without RENEW members and supporters of clean energy from all across Wisconsin.  One important thing you can do is to help us ensure the Badger Hollow Solar Farm is approved.  A strong showing of public support will help this project, which needs approval by the Public Service Commission.

Please support the Badger Hollow Solar Farm by adding your name as a supporter here.

Happy New Year!

 

 

IN MEMORIAM – JOHN BAHR and DAVID BLECKER

IN MEMORIAM – JOHN BAHR and DAVID BLECKER

It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of John Bahr and David Blecker—two long-time RENEW members who dedicated themselves to advancing a clean energy future in Wisconsin.  Though coming from very different backgrounds, John and Dave joined RENEW in the mid-1990s, and became effective champions for reducing Wisconsin’s overreliance on fossil fuels and redirecting capital and labor into nascent renewable energy technologies like wind, solar, and biogas.

After retiring from a successful career, John Bahr created a one-man speakers’ bureau under RENEW’s auspices, and directed his presentations to civic groups and congregations near his home in Wauwatosa.  Traveling to churches, libraries, and meeting halls, John engaged hundreds of small audiences, challenging them to think seriously about energy sustainability. Though his passion for clean energy came about through his environmental ethic, John’s advocacy was built on a solid factual foundation, upon which he would make the case for a systematic redesign of our energy system.

To those who knew him well, David Blecker was a special and multifaceted talent whose fierce commitment to clean energy belied a gentle spirit and an infectious sense of humor.  After completing his graduate studies through UW-Madison’s Energy Analysis and Policy Program, David founded Seventh Generation Energy Systems (SGES), a company specializing in small wind systems and wind resource assessment. With the help of Focus on Energy, SGES became one of the leading small wind installers in the nation, reflecting David’s mastery over small-scale generation. But running a business was only the beginning for David. He found time to teach classes at MREA, develop course work for technical colleges, and shape Focus on Energy’s renewable energy program. He took part in numerous collaboratives involving utilities and advocates in hopes of expanding the numbers of self-generating households and businesses throughout Wisconsin. In recent years, David transitioned over to solar energy, and offered his services to local contractors in need of his expertise in designing electrical systems. Powered by an unshakeable belief in renewable energy as a force for environmental protection and social justice, David made it his mission, whether as engineer, educator, business owner, or concerned citizen, to touch as many lives as possible with it.

 

The Path to Success for Focus on Energy’s 2019-2022 Renewables Program

The Path to Success for Focus on Energy’s 2019-2022 Renewables Program

For many years, Focus on Energy’s renewable energy incentive program has labored under an operating environment resembling a regulatory roller-coaster. It has weathered funding suspensions, mid-stream budget reallocations, and an effort to replace rebates with loans.

But that extended wild ride is finally coming to an end, the result of Public Service Commission orders that will restore stability and consistency to Focus’s renewable energy offerings.

The PSC’s ruling in June 2018 locked in $22 million in renewable energy incentives for the 2019-2022 funding cycle, split equitably between residential and business customers. That allocation amounts to a funding increase of $4.7 million, or 27%, over the previous four-year cycle.  In addition, the order granted flexibility to move funds between residential and business customers to better ensure all the funding is utilized.

A subsequent order in September 2018 locked in improvements to the business program, including a streamlined application process, a guarantee of request-for-proposals issued three times per year, and a funding set-aside for mid-size projects (between 20 and 100 kilowatts for solar power projects).

We are starting to see the results of these positive decisions!

The business program has an RFP on the street with applications due next week, on Tuesday, October 23rd, for the first round of projects that will be installed in 2019.

All in all, the PSC’s decisions tracked closely with the recommendations submitted by RENEW and its member businesses regarding funding levels and program design.

But before we dive into how it happened, RENEW wishes to thank PSC Chairperson Lon Roberts and Commissioners Mike Huebsch and Rich Zipperer for their votes in support of a strong, predictable, and consistent renewable energy program for Focus on Energy!

We would also like to thank the Commissioners’ Executive Assistants and the Commission’s Focus on Energy staff team for the role they each played in setting up success for 2019 through 2022.

The Anatomy of the Victory

Our goals for the 2018 planning process were twofold: first, to lock in a stable and well-funded operating environment for renewables; and second, to integrate needed process improvements to the incentive program targeting commercial installations. Our member businesses assisted us in formulating these recommendations which were based on an assessment of recently adopted tax and trade policies and their likely effects on customer appetite for onsite renewable generation.

Our success was made possible by the participation of several influential constituencies that weighed into the formal planning docket. For the first time in Focus on Energy’s history, associations representing general contractors, builders, and architects voiced their support for a well-funded renewable energy program.  Drawing upon his background representing contractors at the Capitol, Jim Boullion, RENEW’s Government Affairs Director, was instrumental in engaging these groups to submit a letter conveying their support for continuing current funding levels over the next four years.

In addition, renewable energy businesses and associations across solar, biogas, and geothermal technologies weighed in with support.  These businesses span the entire state, which helped us make the point that the renewable energy program serves rural and urban areas.

 

Geographic Representation of Signatories

 

Our success in 2018 was also made possible by RENEW’s organized media outreach and recognition swings across Wisconsin from 2015 through 2017.  Those events highlighted the increasing appeal of rooftop solar for commercial customers, school districts, and agricultural producers, and called attention to the Focus on Energy incentives that moved these installations to completion.

The ribbon-cuttings and award ceremonies in locations such as Racine, New Berlin, and Darlington proved effective in generating positive coverage from the press. RENEW complemented that effort with analysis documenting the renewable program’s statewide reach and effectiveness in supporting Wisconsin businesses, both at the customer and contractor level.

That effort first bore fruit in October 2016, when the PSC decided to scrap the sputtering loan program and replenish the incentive budget for 2017 and 2018 with unspent loan dollars totaling more than $8.5 million. With that commitment in place, renewable energy businesses could bank on a relatively stable and adequate funding base, and break free of the fits and starts that had hampered their ability to meet growing customer demand.

Getting the 2017 and 2018 programs in place and, through our members, showing them to be successful gave us a strong negotiating position to showcase “what is working” and to advocate for continued rebate funding for 2019-2022.

In the end, it was a combination of RENEW’s strong advocacy on behalf of our member businesses and allies, and the PSC’s desire to see the program succeed that led to this positive outcome. We are fortunate to have so many actively engaged members who understand the value of speaking up with a unified voice.

Said RENEW Executive Director Tyler Huebner: “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.”

Once again, thank you to our Members and Stakeholders who supported our positions, and to the PSC Commissioners, Executive Assistants, and Staff who all played instrumental roles in this process.

We look forward to a strong Focus on Energy renewable energy program for 2019 through 2022!

 

Milwaukee “Ride with RENEW”:  Sun, Fun, and Clean Energy

Milwaukee “Ride with RENEW”: Sun, Fun, and Clean Energy


On Saturday, September 29th, fifty bike riders enjoyed our sixth annual “Ride with RENEW” bicycle tour!  This year’s tour was in Milwaukee and we saw solar, wind, and biogas renewable technologies up close.

The day started off cool, but as the sun rose the temps came along with it.  Ingeteam hosted our morning breakfast and registration, and we learned about their factory and US headquarters which builds wind generators and supports solar and wind projects nationwide.

Next we visited the City of Milwaukee’s Public Library, where the City’s Elizabeth Hittman regaled our crowd with the City’s plans to install 1.1 megawatt of solar across six City buildings.  The Library will get a 121 kilowatt solar PV system as part of this project.

A block away, we visited the largest vertical solar PV wall in the U.S. according to project developer Convergence Energy The project is at the Milwaukee Public Museum, and Director Ellen Censky motivated our crowd with her story of getting sustainability done!

Next, we rode trails north to Shorewood where we saw solar on homes from a recent solar group buy through the City’s Milwaukee Shines Programand the Midwest Renewable Energy Association.

Then we headed to the lake, where we ate lunch at the Discovery World which includes geothermal heating and cooling, which ride sponsor HGA Architects helped integrate into the building.

Have you ever had solar-powered pizza delivered by an electric car?  We did! Our lunch was delicious and provided by Bounce Milwaukee. Bounce uses solar electricity to power solar ovens that cook pizzas, which are then delivered by electric cars.  Ice cream was also provided by Cedar Crest Ice Cream.

After lunch, we visited the Port of Milwaukee’s wind turbine which is close to producing 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and is coming up on six years of operation.

Then, two non-profit organizations showed how broadly solar has grown.  Mike Cornell of Arch Electric showed off their project at the School Sisters of St. Francis, which we believe is the largest solar project for a religious order in Wisconsin.  The solar panels at this project are made in Jackson, Mississippi, by Seraphim.

Escuela Verde was our second-to-last stop, where Catie Malcheski of Sunvest described the school’s vision and actions to get solar.  The panels had been donated by Helios when it was making panels in Milwaukee a few years ago, but the school needed to raise the money to complete the installation.  RENEW’s Solar for Good program was a key contributor to making the project happen!

Our last stop was at the Forest County Potawatomi Community’s Biodigester, which is located next to the casino.  The Biodigester takes food waste from the casino and other locations and turns it into biogas, which is then used to create electricity.  Waste heat is also piped to the casino in the winter.  Charlie Opferman of the Potawatomi Community told us how the biodigester is basically a big stomach in action.

We finished up by having a beer and snacks at City Lights Brewing Company.

We also once again enjoyed excellent financial support from our sponsors, RENEW Wisconsin members, and friends and family of our bike riders who donated to support the riders.  John & Mary Frantz offered to match up to $15,000 in donations towards our ride, and we exceeded our goal again!   All event proceeds will support RENEW Wisconsin’s ongoing work to advance renewable energy in Wisconsin.

Thank you once again to all of our riders, sponsors, and supporters!

 

RIDE SPONSORS

RIDE SUPPORTERS

RENEW Wisconsin September Legislative Blog

RENEW Wisconsin September Legislative Blog

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.