The 2021-22 legislative session in Wisconsin is now over. It was a busy session for clean energy initiatives with legislation introduced to allow more community solar, clarify the rules for leasing solar equipment, and update the regulations for electric vehicle (EV) chargers. Most of these bills were bipartisan, with support on both sides of the aisle. See the bottom of this article for a summary of this year’s major clean energy legislation.
The session started when Governor Tony Evers introduced his 2021-23 Budget Bill in February 2021. It included 28 provisions (many of them drawn from the Governor’s Taskforce on Climate Change) that would have advanced Wisconsin’s clean energy and energy efficiency. Among those provisions were recommendations to expand Focus on Energy, invest in the clean energy workforce, and support Wisconsin’s electric vehicle infrastructure. Unfortunately, by the time the Governor signed the Budget in July, those provisions were removed from the Budget and did not pass.
On November 15, several Democratic legislators introduced a package of 22 bills called Forward on Climate. The package proposed increased funding for Focus on Energy, on-bill financing of energy efficiency improvements from utilities, and a Wisconsin Climate Corp to provide training and opportunities in clean energy industries for Wisconsin’s youth. The session ended without any of these bills being adopted. Still, it outlined what kinds of initiatives they support to create good, family-supporting jobs, reduce inequality, and fight climate change through Wisconsin-centered policies.
What passed and what progress was made?
The only major clean energy bill that passed this session was a bill to modernize the PACE financing program. However, many clean energy initiatives made in-roads with legislators from both sides of the aisle. The new technology developments and dropping prices for renewable energy over the last few years is an excellent story for reducing emissions, bolstering economic growth, diminishing energy prices, and creating jobs. Even if there are still hurdles to overcome, everyone is interested in learning more.
There is growing interest among a wide range of stakeholders in clean energy legislation. The best example is SB 490, the community solar bill, where many diverse interests have registered in support. While some groups have expressed concerns with the bill, most business and public interest groups who registered support this kind of change.
Even though we didn’t pass them this session, electric vehicle legislation is also getting attention, especially in light of the volatile gas prices this year. As the price of EV battery production falls, the initial price of EVs will get more competitive, making the cost of EV operations compared to petroleum-powered vehicles very attractive.
The EV transition is coming fast, and we need to be ready. We need to finalize the rules and regulations over EV charging, determine how to pay for the roads if the gas tax generates less income, and streamline the buying process for new EVs coming into the market. One of the big things happening in the coming year is the millions in federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act money coming to Wisconsin for EV infrastructure. We need to work with all stakeholders to ensure that Wisconsin can utilize that money efficiently.
What happens next?
Over the summer and fall, RENEW Wisconsin will meet with candidates running for state and federal office. We will be educating them about new developments in clean energy and electric vehicles and discussing essential policy changes we need to make these advances available to everyone in Wisconsin.
You can also do your part by getting involved in your local elections, talking to your local candidates, and supporting the candidates who support clean energy with your votes, time, and financial contributions. This time of year, candidates are especially interested in what you have to say and will take the time to listen. Clean energy can have a big year in 2023, but only if we do the work this year to educate and help elect candidates who will support us!
If you would like information on any clean energy issues or the elections, please contact Jim Boullion, Director of Government Affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org,
2021-22 Wisconsin Legislative Session
Clean Energy and Electric Vehicle Issue Summary
- Expands type of projects that may be financed: Adds energy reliability improvements, weather-related resiliency projects, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and stormwater control measures.
- Financing: Defines the term of the repayment period, clarifies that financing may be repaid through a lien, and ensures that mortgage holders provide written consent before the issuance of funding.
- Performance Requirements: Removes the requirement for project savings to exceed project costs and would instead require a third-party assessment of the anticipated energy and water cost savings from the proposed project and confirmation of proper installation after work is completed.
- Excludes Residential PACE: Prohibits PACE financing for residential units of less than five units. PACE loans will remain only for commercial or industrial buildings.
Assembly: Passed on voice vote (2/23/2022) and sent to Governor for signature.
Senate: Passed 32-0 on 2/15/22.
RENEW Position: Support.
EV Charging Rules – (SB 573 – Sen. Cowles and Rep. VanderMeer) Clarify that selling electricity by the kilowatt-hour to electric vehicles (EVs) does not subject EV charging station owners to utility regulation. No city, village, town, county, school district, special purpose district, or state agency may own, operate, manage, lease or control a charging facility. Local governments can authorize a utility or private entity to operate a charger on their property. Requires that all energy come from the local utility, limiting Solar+Storage EV charger availability.
Senate: Passed on vote of 19-13 (2/15/2022). Did not concur with Assembly Amended bill 3/8/22
Assembly: Passed on voice vote, with amendment, (2/24/22). Failed to pass.
RENEW Position: Oppose due to restrictions on non-utility energy sources and restrictions on the State and local governments from owning or operating EV chargers.
Expanded Development of Community Solar – (SB 490 / AB 527 – Sen. Stroebel and Rep. Ramthun) Would authorize the development of non-utility-owned community solar projects, allowing more individuals and businesses to access clean energy, save money and create good-paying jobs. Require local investor-owned utilities (Cooperative and municipal utility territories would be exempt) to provide credits on utility bills of subscribers for the energy generated by the system. Directs the PSC to develop rules that will establish fair credit rates and compensation to utilities for the use of utility infrastructure and billing.
Energy Storage Sales Tax Exemption – (SB 672 /AB 710 – Sen. Cowles and Rep. Duchow) Clarify that battery storage devices installed as part of a renewable energy system should be included in the sales tax exemption for renewable energy system equipment.
Use $10 million of VW Settlement Funds for EV Charging Station Grants – (SB 663/AB 695 – Sen. Cowles and Rep. VanderMeer) Grants from these funds will be used to install electric vehicle charging stations at key locations throughout Wisconsin. Requires the PSC and DOT to study how the growing number of EVs will impact the transportation fund and determine methods to ensure they contribute to that fund equitably. Grant recipients can only resell electricity obtained from the local electric utility. $5m for EV Corridors; $3m for businesses or multifamily; $2m to be determined by PSC.
Direct Purchase of Electric Vehicles – (SB 462 / AB 439 – Sen. Kooyenga and Rep. Neylon) Would enable electric vehicle manufacturers to deliver and service vehicles in Wisconsin using online sales or manufacturer-owned dealerships without going through a 3rd party dealership.
- DATCP shall establish voluntary and market-driven standards for quantifying the carbon emissions produced directly and indirectly from an animal agriculture operator’s activity.
- DATCP must facilitate trade in products and services related to transactions between animal agriculture operators and other parties for carbon emission offsets and may operate an electronic marketplace for selling and purchasing carbon emission offsets.
- PSC shall develop a statewide master plan for collecting, transporting, and commercializing renewable natural gas produced from animal wastes, biomass, and other organic sources.
- PSC will establish standardized power purchase agreements and standardized agreements for the provision of energy as a service between animal agriculture operators and electric utilities