On Tuesday, February 10th, 2016, RENEW Wisconsin gave the below comments on AB 804, a bill that proposes to cut $7 million from the Focus on Energy program.
Comments of RENEW Wisconsin
To Joint Finance Committee
AB 804 – Public Service Commission Reform Bill
February 10, 2016, 10 AM Hearing
My name is Tyler Huebner, and I am the Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. RENEW Wisconsin is a membership-based organization that represents over 400 individuals and over 50 businesses in the renewable energy industry in Wisconsin.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear today. My comments today are confined to the Focus on Energy funding portion of this bill.
1. The Focus on Energy Program has historically been, and continues to be, an unqualified success for the state of Wisconsin’s citizens, businesses, and economy.
The latest evaluation report shows that in 2014, $3.33 in energy-related benefits were provided for every $1 invested in the program. These annual evaluations are conducted by an independent company.
When economic benefits such as job creation and dollar flows through the Wisconsin economy are included, the program returns double that: over $6.60 per dollar invested in the Focus on Energy Program.
2. Wisconsin’s electricity rates are now THE HIGHEST in the Midwest, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. Businesses and homeowners need programs like Focus on Energy to be able to control their energy bills.
Our electricity rates have increased steadily in Wisconsin over the past 15 years. From 2000 to 2012, Wisconsin’s average electricity rate increases were the third highest in the whole country – an increase of 80%.
There is very little that the average Wisconsin citizen or business can do to reverse that trend.
Therefore, having voluntary options for reducing energy bills are critical in this time of continuously rising electric rates. This is true for homeowners trying to manage their monthly budgets, and even more critical for our businesses who are competing in the marketplace.As one example, Letterhead Press, Inc., is a specialty printing company based in New Berlin. Recently Letterhead Press used the Focus on Energy program incentives for solar PV to install a large solar installation at their printing facility that would create about 25% of their electricity needs. The major driving philosophical reason for pursuing this project was, by their calculations, that their electric rates had increased 75% since the year 2000.
Feeling as though those continuously increasing rates were challenging their global competitiveness, the company started investigating ways they could lock in lower electric rates. They landed on a solar PV installation, which the Focus on Energy program incentives enabled to get the payback down to a level where this business was willing to invest in the project, as compared to other Return-on-Investments the company could make in its business investments.
As rates continue to increase, it is voluntary programs like Focus on Energy that enable businesses who are striving to be competitive to stay competitive, and residents to continue to have energy and dollar saving options to afford the basic benefit of electricity.
3. Investing in Focus on Energy SAVES all ratepayers by delaying expenses for large power plants
Although all customers pay into the program, in reality all customers benefit far beyond what they pay in. Without Focus on Energy, Wisconsin utilities would need to make larger investments in power plants that will ultimately cost all ratepayers more.
The Focus on Energy program is an unqualified success for Wisconsin’s energy policy and utility customers.
We urge you to find a solution that does not reduce the funding and effectiveness of the Focus on Energy program, specifically to amend this bill so that the $7 million is not cut out of the Focus on Energy budget.