July 5, 2011
Funding Hiatus Darkens Outlook for In-State Renewables
For the first time in its 11-year history, Focus on Energy is no longer accepting applications from Wisconsin businesses and nonprofit entities seeking to install renewable energy systems. This new policy took effect July 1.
According to Focus on Energy officials, this suspension of financial incentives is necessary to balance demand for renewable energy systems with available funds. In 2009, Focus on Energy allocated approximately $10 million to support customer-sited renewable energy systems. More than half of that allocation went to businesses, farmers, local governments, schools, and nonprofit organizations throughout the state.
“We recognize that Focus on Energy officials have a responsibility to ensure that outflows don’t exceed revenues. However, this suspension could not have occurred at a worse time for Wisconsin’s renewable energy contractors,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin.
“Unfortunately, this move coincides with Milwaukee-based We Energies’ decision to walk away from an agreement with RENEW Wisconsin to commit $60 million over a 10-year period to develop renewable energy within its territory,” Vickerman said. ‘We Energies disclosed its unilateral action in May, barely more than halfway into honoring its commitment.”
“Given the adverse environment for renewable energy right now in Wisconsin, we hope that the interruption amounts to nothing more than a brief timeout,” said Vickerman.
“Unless funding is restored quickly, 2012 will turn out to be a very lean year for contractors and installers,” Vickerman warned.
As of this moment, the renewable energy marketplace is bristling with new installations. Installations to be completed this summer with incentives from Focus on Energy include:
• Two small wind turbines serving a Monroe County cranberry grower;
• A solar hot water system serving a new apartment building next to the Hilldale shopping complex in Madison;
• Side-by-side solar hot water and electric installations atop a new classroom building at the UW-Oshkosh;
• An engine generator fed with biogas derived from the City of Appleton’s wastewater treatment plant.
However, without a fresh supply of Focus-funded projects, Wisconsin’s renewable energy development pipeline will slow to a trickle, forcing contractors and installers to either seek work in other states or lay off employees.
Wisconsin has more than 2,500 customer-sited renewable energy installations, the vast majority of which received either financial incentives or facilitation services from Focus on Energy. In total, these installations have a generating capacity of about 20 megawatts.