Wisconsin needs ambitious clean energy goal : WSJ
See also the April 27, 2014 response by Keith Reopelle, Clean Wisconsin
The paramount environmental issue this Earth Day, which arrives Tuesday, is climate change. Wisconsin, our nation and the world need solid steps forward to stem the worst impacts of rising temperatures.
The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests the world could quickly transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and lose just 0.06 percent of annual economic growth.
But the IPCC’s rosy prediction ignores some realities. Foremost, many industrial nations, including the United States, lack the political will to make such wholesale changes.
Yet change is possible and necessary. Even as nations search for common ground, state and local actions hold promise.
In a very surprising move on Monday, March 31st, the Wisconsin Senate took up and passed an updated “renewable energy standard” that would put Wisconsin among the top 4 states nationally. The new target is to get 50% of our state’s electricity from renewables by 2030. Wisconsin’s current renewable energy standard of 10% by 2015 is currently the lowest of any state which has such a target.
The impetus for the quick action appears to be that the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team made the Final Four over the weekend. “The Badgers are in the Final Four. Not Minnesota, not Iowa, not any team from Michigan, not Illinois. I just couldn’t stomach the fact that we were dead last in renewable energy standards but the among the best in basketball,” said a leading Republican Senator. “I love basketball, but renewable energy is just as important, and it takes us as legislators making good policy for our state to make this happen!”
Iowa already gets over 25% of its electricity from wind power, and Minnesota and Illinois are on track to reach 25% by 2025. The new standard would leap Wisconsin past these neighbors and into a leading position nationally. “These states can’t beat us in basketball so they shouldn’t beat us in renewable energy, either,” said the Senator.
The Assembly is expected to return for a special session just to vote on this bill!
RENEW Wisconsin will keep you apprised as more details emerge on this fast-breaking news.
If you’ve made it this far, we appreciate your interest in renewable energy, but it’s time to break the news to you….
Happy April Fools Day!
RENEW: “It’s Time to Put Renewables Back to Work in Wisconsin”
For Immediate Release – 2/26/2014
Today, Sen. Mark Miller and Representatives Katrina Shankland and Cory Mason introduced comprehensive legislation to expand pathways for powering Wisconsin’s economy with renewable energy. Titled the Wisconsin Renewable Energy Act, this is the first energy bill introduced since 2010 that aims to strengthen the state’s commitment to locally available renewables and ratchet back its dependence on $12 billion of annual imported fossil fuels.
Among the bill’s principal provisions are (1) a boost to Wisconsin’s Renewable Electricity Standard, (2) additional targets for in-state bioenergy production, and (3) improved state policies to facilitate “distributed generation” such as solar, wind, and bioenergy production facilities that are owned by customers.
If adopted, the bill would raise the percentage of renewable energy supplying Wisconsin’s electricity customers to 20% by 2020 and 30% by 2030, up from the current requirement of 10% by 2015.
“Adopting the Wisconsin Renewable Energy Act would help re-establish Wisconsin’s long-standing leadership in renewable energy and Wisconsin-based job creation,” said RENEW Wisconsin Executive Director Tyler Huebner.
“Renewable energy means business opportunities for Wisconsin-based companies that are regional and national leaders in wind, bioenergy, solar, and hydropower project development, engineering, and supply chain manufacturing. Wisconsin was one of the first states to pass a renewable energy standard like this back in 2006, but now we’re quite a ways behind our neighbors, and the gap is certain to widen unless we pursue and pass worthy legislation like the Wisconsin Renewable Energy Act,” Huebner said.
“It’s time to put renewables back to work in Wisconsin,” Huebner said.
Note: This update follows my commentary posted last week documenting emerging changes in the U.S. natural gas market picture and discussing whether the altered picture will occasion additional repricing upward to balance supply with expected demand increases.
On February 6th, EIA reported that natural gas storage volumes were 270 billion cubic feet (bcf) under last week’s withdrawal numbers. That number reflects data submitted to EIA on January 31st.
Going into February this year, the quantity of natural gas in storage (1.923 bcf) is half of what it was at the start of the current heating season (3,834 bcf). The heating season generally ends around April 1.
I expect the next EIA report (February 13) to easily surpass the 200 bcf threshold.
In the previous 10 years, the largest amount of gas withdrawn from inventories during the entire heating season was 2,311 bcf. That occurred during the winter of 2007-2008. Thus far this season, a total of 1,911 bcf has been taken out of storage. If the next two reported withdrawals (Feb. 13th and 20th) exceed a combined total of 400 bcf, this winter’s withdrawals will exceed that total, and that will happen before the end of February.
Though this is shaping up to be the coldest winter in 20 years, the price of natural gas still remains below $5.00. How many more weeks of below-average temperatures will it take to move the floor price of natural gas to $5.00 and higher? The game-changer narrative is still hanging tough.
Over the weekend, I checked Chicago and Madison weather forecasts for the week of February 10th. To the extent there is a warm-up in sight, it will happen Thursday and Friday. This respite will bring temperatures back to seasonal levels, but don’t expect it to last. The weather forecast in Madison for the Valentine’s Day/President Day weekend heralds a return to below-normal temperatures.
The cold weather is also taking a bite out of current extraction volumes, as evidenced in the highlighted passage of the Bloomberg News article below. While pace of extraction will definitely pick up as winter gives way to spring, the question going forward is whether supply can increase by a record-setting 2.7 trillion tcf between the end of the current heating season and the beginning of the next. We’re starting to enter uncharted territory.
Below is RENEW’s statement on AB 596, a bill to expand the universe of renewable
energy credits that utilities can use to comply with Wisconsin’s
Renewable Electricity Standard. The bill would allow utilities to apply
renewable energy credits from certified generators toward their
renewable electricity requirements, irrespective of when the generator
was placed in service. The current PSC rule on renewable energy credits
permits utilities to apply renewable energy credits created by
qualifying generators only if they were placed in service in 2010 or
Statement of RENEW
Wisconsin in Opposition to AB596
on Energy and Utilities
January 9, 2014
RENEW Wisconsin leads and represents businesses,
organizations, and individuals who seek more clean renewable energy in
Wisconsin. RENEW Wisconsin has been advancing a sustainable energy future for
Wisconsin since 1991. Of our 300+ members, more than 60 are companies
headquartered in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin’s renewable electricity standard (RES), which
requires electricity providers to increase their renewable energy supplies by
six percentage points, has been the primary mechanism for expanding renewable
energy’s share of the state’s electric energy resource mix. I say “has been”
because the utilities are now effectively in full compliance with the law’s
2015 target, according to the Public Service Commission. Without a change in
the 10% target, We Energies’ 50 MW biomass generation plant at Rothschild,
which was placed in service in late 2013, shapes up to be the last
utility-owned renewable power plant leveraged by the RES. As of this moment,
none of the electric providers subject to Wisconsin’s RES has publicly
announced plans to expand their renewable generation portfolio.
The aim of AB 596 is to allow renewable energy credits
created by qualifying renewable facilities older than 2010 to be applied to
Wisconsin’s RES. Because these facilities are already producing renewable
electricity today, the adoption of this bill would not add new kilowatt-hours
to the state’s renewable energy supplies. Moreover, as noted above, Wisconsin’s
electricity providers are already in compliance with the state’s Renewable
Electricity Standard. Therefore, they have no need for the renewable energy
credits (REC’s) that would be created through the adoption of AB 596.
RENEW does not object in principle to policy changes that
allow electricity providers to acquire RECs created by older generators for the
purpose of satisfying their renewable energy requirements, provided that there
is a need for this additional supply of RECs. But that need would be created by
raising our 10% standard, which AB 596 does not do. Absent any provision to
increase the RES above its current levels, this legislation would have no
practical effect on utility resource decisions if adopted.
This legislation begs the question: what is the logic
behind creating new REC’s without creating a rationale for electric utilities
to use them?
We would support the provision proposed here if it were
grounded in legislation to expand the current RES. Sadly, no growth in the RES
is contemplated in this bill, which is why we oppose it.
Why is an expanded RES off the table?
Surely it can’t be the experience of neighboring states.
Wisconsin’s electricity rates are at the high end among Upper Midwest states,
yet it has less installed wind power per capita than its neighboring states.
In 1999, Wisconsin was the first Midwest state to adopt a
Renewable Electricity Standard. In 2006 the Legislature strengthened the
standard, from 2.2% by 2011 to 10% by 2015. Between that time and today, it has
been a highly effective mechanism for creating jobs, spurring demand for
locally manufactured equipment, and increasing the flow of tax revenues and
supplemental income into rural landowners and businesses. All the economic and
environmental objectives that can be achieved with a 10% standard have been
achieved. But the current RES has no capacity left to leverage new supplies of
renewable electricity, and the only way to continue reaping the benefits of a
cleaner, healthier and less financially risky energy mix is to expand and
extend this policy tool. Such a move
would not be rash or radical; indeed, Wisconsin has done it before.
Other states are not sitting still. By the end of 2014, renewable
energy is expected to account for more than 30% of Iowa’s electricity. By 2020,
Minnesota will become the regional powerhouse for solar. By every economic
measure, those two states are outpacing Wisconsin, and their cleaner,
lower-cost energy mix is a significant element in their ability to attract and
sustain new investments. If Wisconsin is serious about competing with Iowa and
Minnesota for new jobs and business opportunities, it needs to put itself back
on a growth track for renewables, and a higher RES is the best vehicle for
accomplishing that. The current policy
drift on energy is not going to get the job done.
Wisconsin Board member