On May 26th two petitions were filed at the Public Service Commission (PSC) seeking rulings to clarify the long-simmering issue of third party-financed renewable energy generation serving individual customers behind their meters.
In one of the petitions (Docket No. 9300-DR-106), Vote Solar, a national nonprofit advocacy organization with 500 members residing in Wisconsin, asks the agency to affirm the legality of a tax-financed solar system installed at the residence of one of its Wisconsin members. In the other petition (Docket No. 9300-DR-105), Custer-based Midwest Renewable Energy Association seeks a similar affirmation, based on relevant case law precedents, enabling customers to host third party-financed electric generation systems on their premises without fear of being designated a public utility. You can read the petitions online at the above-referenced docket numbers on the PSC’s website.
Although the two petitions take different approaches to the legal question at issue, a positive ruling from the PSC on either or both of these filings would achieve the desired result: the ability of individual customers to access electricity generated on their premises from installations owned by third parties. For that reason, RENEW is urging stakeholders—solar contractors, climate and energy justice advocacy organizations, local governments, and legislators–to signal their support for both petitions through statements of support filed at the PSC.
When the PSC receives a Declaratory Ruling petition, it is obligated to open a 20-day initial comment window prior to deciding whether or not to accept that petition. Accepting the petition is a prerequisite for rendering a decision on the legal merits of the case.
RENEW is asking stakeholders to submit statements in both proceedings urging the PSC to accept the petitions and convene a proceeding to affirm third-party financing on its merits, emphasizing the following themes:
- Businesses need clarity on this legal question before they will commit to providing renewable energy to customers with equipment they would own. Though customer demand for solar PV is growing, the ongoing legal ambiguity acts as a powerful disincentive to businesses contemplating investments in equipment and staff to serve that part of the market. The risk of fighting expensive legal battles with utilities also diminishes business appetite for doing business in Wisconsin.
- Third-party financing eliminates the upfront financial commitment that often stops low and middle-income households from pursuing solar. As a market-building tool, third-party financing can expand the residential customer base more effectively than either rebates or tax credits. Third-party financing is a linchpin mechanism for securing a just energy transition that engages customers of all income levels.
- The lack of legal clarity on this issue is an unjustifiable restriction on property owners’ ability to supply themselves with clean energy produced on their premises. The PSC has had several opportunities in recent years to settle this issue but declined to do so. It is past time for the PSC to clear a path for the homeowners, businesses, and nonprofits desiring to access onsite solar power owned by a third party.
Currently, Wisconsin case law allows for third-party financing of energy projects, but some electric utilities have denied interconnection to installations that would have been owned by third parties. They contend that such installations should be regulated as public utilities, even though they are designed to supply energy to only one entity: the host customer. In our view, a business that installs and operates energy equipment on a customer’s property for that customer’s exclusive use should not be regulated as a public utility.
PSC affirmation for third-party financing is essential to spreading the benefits of clean energy to all Wisconsin utility customers.
The deadline for submitting comments is June 14th.
If you have questions or represent a business or organization that would like to engage on this issue, please contact Michael Vickerman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Akinlana Abdalla is tall and self-assured with a gentle, almost playful demeanor. He was “the kid who always got in trouble for taking his toys apart to see how they worked.” This curiosity and innate engineering mind make him particularly good at his job as a Wind Turbine Repair Specialist at Ingeteam in Milwaukee, WI, where teams of engineers and technicians specialize in supporting solar, wind, hydro, and other renewable energy products.
Akinlana was born in Milwaukee, where he now lives with his wife and children. He has an extensive background in commercial construction and is a Journeymen Carpenter by trade. His career took him from deep tunnel mining through Laborers’ Local 113 to building bridges for Zenith Tech, later starting a business with his wife, and eventually earning an undergraduate degree in general management. He was attracted to Ingeteam because he wanted to move away from management and get back to a more “hands-on” work environment aligned with his values.
Ingeteam is a global renewable energy solutions company. Their 140,000 square-foot state-of-the-art production facility in Milwaukee is the only place in the United States where wind turbines are built by an American workforce.
Ingeteam customers send wind turbine generators that cannot be repaired up the tower. Akinlana and his team perform mechanical and electrical diagnostics on the generators to determine their failure. Ingeteam then submits a report to the customer and a cost estimate for the needed repairs. If the customer decides to move forward with the repairs, Akinlana and his team “repair it and send it back to the customer like new,” adhering to the Code of Excellence established by IBEW 2150.
“You never know what you’re going to get,” Akinlana said. “There’s no monotony. Every day is something different. We could get the same [generator] models coming in on one truck, but all of them will have different issues. When we open it up, it’s just fun trying to get to the bottom of what the root cause of a failure is.”
While it seems as if Akinlana was born to do this work, he thinks his success is determined by having a positive attitude and complementing it with aptitude.
“If you have a good attitude, that’s 90% of it,” he said. “Developing your mechanical aptitude and other skills to complete a repair is something that can be taught. But it starts with just having a can-do attitude and just appreciating the opportunity to be able to do what you do.”
His passion for his work extends beyond his enjoyment of taking things apart and then putting them back together. Akinlana has a deep sense of the impact of his work.
“Ingeteam provides something imperative for preserving and conserving the future environment, not only for ourselves but for our children and generations to come,” he said. “Because we know that we have not learned to discipline ourselves from gluttonous consumption, we have to have green energy.”
“This job aligns with my personal social responsibility.” Akinlana continued. “It’s nice to work for an entity where you share a passion for ensuring that we preserve our environment. Being an avid outdoorsman, being out in nature with my children, fishing, and hiking, it’s important to me that I give back. To be able to work doing something that allows me to do that, I think is absolutely profound.”
His team appreciates his passion and skills. Garan Chivinski is the Human Resources Manager at Ingeteam and the one who introduced him to RENEW Wisconsin.
“He’s a wealth of knowledge,” Garan said. “We’re seeing a time when those units [wind turbine generators] are coming back in, and they need to be serviced. They need some love and care to renew themselves and not create excess waste that they weren’t intended to create. AK [Akinlana] has really led that here for us, to get absolutely every single last spin, every single last value out of that resource possible for our customers and for the community. That’s why when you asked about somebody who might be your boots on the ground, somebody who’s the future of the wind industry in Wisconsin, this is the guy.”
Akinlana IS a wealth of knowledge. He’s also the kind of person who considers his work and actions and their effect on the world. This kind of thoughtfulness and passion is inspiring, and it’s easy to see why he is so respected and valued at Ingeteam.
“It’s nice to watch Elon Musk trying to fly off into another part of space,” Akinlana added. “But ultimately, when you see them go up in the rocket, you’re just going into another part of where you already are. Interesting, right? The reality is that we have this one small globe to live on, and no amount of money will get you away from that reality. Even if you set up something on Mars, you would have to come back here to get resources to live off of there. We have this [Earth], and we have to take care of this. Our level of consumption without trying to curb the adverse effects is damaging for the future. So that’s why this work is really, really important to me. I enjoy it every day. It’s not even work, not work at all.”
RENEW Wisconsin has launched two state-wide communications campaigns to promote the benefits of clean energy investments in Wisconsin. The two campaigns, “Clean Energy Works for Wisconsin” and “Clean Energy is Made in Wisconsin,” include print and digital ads and shareable communications assets for partners and clean energy advocates.
Wisconsin’s clean energy workforce is 70,000 strong, with good-paying local jobs like installing solar and electric vehicle charging stations, manufacturing energy storage systems, servicing wind turbines, and retrofitting buildings. Clean energy job growth is gaining momentum from state and federal clean energy and electric transportation commitments, federal funds to support these goals, and an increased interest in clean energy investments from the public sector. The “Clean Energy Works for Wisconsin” campaign highlights the job potential of continued investment in electric transportation and Wisconsin clean energy.
“Over the next five years, Wisconsin can expect to receive $79 million in federal funds from the bipartisan infrastructure law,” said Francisco Sayu, Emerging Technologies Director at RENEW Wisconsin. “Wisconsin will also have the opportunity to apply for $2.5 billion in competitive grant funding dedicated to electric vehicle corridors and community charging. Building a network of electric vehicle charging stations will reduce emissions, improve air quality, and create thousands of good-paying jobs and is a tremendous opportunity for Wisconsin residents.”
In 2019, Governor Evers set a goal that all electricity consumed in the state will be 100% carbon-free by 2050, and in 2022 introduced Wisconsin’s first-ever Clean Energy Plan. Currently, renewable energy only accounts for 13% of all electricity sold in Wisconsin. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Wisconsin consumes almost six times as much energy as it produces and spends billions on coal, oil, and natural gas every year. The “Clean Energy is Made in Wisconsin” campaign presents a vision of keeping more energy dollars in-state by investing in homegrown renewable energy.
“State and federal investments are moving us toward our clean energy goals, but we need to maximize the benefits of this energy transition for Wisconsin residents,” said Heather Allen, Executive Director at RENEW Wisconsin. “We will need an ‘all of the above’ and ‘all hands on deck’ approach to shape our clean energy future. This means smart investments in homegrown renewable energy and clean transportation.”
Print and digital ads are already circulating in media outlets across the state. To learn more and help amplify Wisconsin’s clean energy opportunities, please visit the “Clean Energy Works for Wisconsin” and “Clean Energy is Made in Wisconsin” landing pages.
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.
Digestion of manure is, on paper, a relatively simple process. Similar to how a cow digests food, digesters further break down manure, capture methane, purify the gas and then convert it to pipeline-grade renewable natural gas (RNG).
Investors of all backgrounds have been touring dairy farms in the U.S. about RNG projects. I’ve heard stories with comments being made such as, “all your nutrient challenges will be gone,” to “we’ll pay you big money for your manure,” to “let’s be in partnership in this project.”
As a former owner of digester facilities, I can tell you that each project is a unicorn. How you bed your cows, frequency, method of manure spreading, and other aspects are just the tip of the iceberg of how farm practices impact the financial outcome of RNG projects.
Incorrect assumptions of owners/investors:
- The stuff coming out the back end is worth money
- Operations and management can be done with a few people
- It’s predictable
- This is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow
Let’s dig a little deeper into each of these points.
The stuff coming out the back end is worth money.
The effluent does have nutrient value, and it is carbon-based. If separated, the liquid is easy enough to apply. The solids are commonly used as animal bedding, the base for compost, or spread on fields. Additional cost factors come in with the solid not being an easy form to spread on fields. Also, a watershed may require the removal of solids, which can be an added cost for transportation and negatively impact the project’s carbon intensity (CI) score.
Operations and management can be done with a few people
These facilities require people with specific knowledge. At first glance, the facilities are comprised of pipes, pumps, and poop. But there are by-products generated from manure –hydrogen sulfide and ammonia. Those two gasses deliver quite a punch to the equipment.
It is predictable
The aforementioned hydrogen sulfide and ammonia will humble even the best maintenance plan. Additionally, if manure is piped underground, it will require regular jetting due to buildup.
This is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
RNG projects can be attractive financially, thanks to the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) in California and Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) at the federal level. Many factors can influence the actual income, primarily based on the CI score of a project, as mentioned earlier with farming practices and trucking costs. Historically, costs for maintenance have been underestimated. Equipment will break, and spare parts will be needed to keep projects running smoothly. Remember, if you’re not producing gas, you’re not making money.
Most large farming operations have already or are actively considering a biogas facility. The larger the number of cows, the better a project will pencil out. There are still plenty of opportunities for medium to smaller size farms to create a cluster project. These will depend on proximity to a pipeline.
Being mindful of these common misconceptions will put your team on the right track to a successful project. A legislative effort is underway for Wisconsin farm operations to increase access to the pipeline, therefore making projects more accessible. Click here to learn more about this.
Clean Fuel Connects
Email Jessica Niekrasz
On Tuesday, March 22, 2022, the City of Madison and RENEW Wisconsin announced the 2022 MadiSUN residential solar group buy program. MadiSUN is for Madison-area homeowners looking to install solar-electric systems.
In its seventh year, the program offers Dane County homeowners easy access to qualified solar contractors at a competitive price. MadiSUN has spurred approximately $3.5 million in solar energy investments since 2016 and has added over 1,000 kilowatts of renewable electricity to the local electric grid. Over 200 homes in the Madison area have installed solar through the program.
“The MadiSUN program helps make it easy for residents to select an installer and get a cost-effective and high-quality solar system for their home,” said Stacie Reece, Sustainability Program Coordinator for the City of Madison. “Each additional rooftop installation gets us closer to our goal of 100% renewable energy for the City.”
Two local solar installation firms, Arch Solar and Full Spectrum Solar won a competitive bidding process and will design and install arrays for MadiSUN participants. Many solar design firms across Wisconsin anticipate a busy year for installations as Federal Investment Tax Credits begin to wind down in 2023.
“With tax credits at 26%, and utility rates increasing across the state, 2022 is a great year to go solar,” said Stanley Minnick, Head of Sales at Arch Solar, one of the participating contractors for MadiSUN. “This will likely be a record-setting year for residential solar.”
MadiSUN also provides homeowners with multiple options for financing. Loans are available through greenpenny bank and the Clean Energy Credit Union. However, homeowners may choose any financing mechanism they prefer, including home equity lines of credit or loans from other banks.
“Residents of Dane County can count on greenpenny for fast, easy, and affordable financing for their solar projects,” said Jason MacDuff, President of greenpenny. “Our team works hard to find a loan term within our residential solar program that allows for the borrower to trade their current electric bill for a solar financing payment.
In addition to financing and access to local solar contractors, MadiSUN participants have access to additional education sessions, which help them understand the benefits of at-home solar energy.
“Modern solar electric systems are still relatively new technology to many Wisconsin homeowners,” stated Sam Dunaiski, Distributed Resources Director for RENEW Wisconsin and administrator of the MadiSUN program. “The main goal of MadiSUN is to make going solar easy and affordable for any Madison area resident. We want to make sure everyone in the community understands how beneficial solar energy can be.”
Residents can receive a complimentary solar assessment by visiting madisunsolar.com and filling out the “I’m Interested” form. Applications for the Group Buy program must be submitted by August 31, 2022.