Second Wind? Is it time to revisit Wisconsin’s renewable energy requirements?

RENEW Executive Director, Tyler Huebner was interviewed by Tom Breuer for the May issue of InBusiness Magazine

“If you’ve managed to survive even one brutal Wisconsin winter (or unseasonably hot summer), you know that looming utility bills can often creep into your daydreams and nightmares on a moment’s notice, eating away at your peace of mind well before they have your kids’ college fund for lunch.

If you’re a small business owner who pays his or her own heat or electricity, you’ve got double trouble, and in addition to unpredictable weather, unforeseen rate increases can be the difference between shivering in the dark and avoiding a deep freeze.

So imagine if your utility bills ran into the hundreds of thousands every month instead of the hundreds. Well, there are plenty of Wisconsin ratepayers — big manufacturers and other commercial energy consumers — who don’t have to imagine. They live that reality. And they are skittish about a recent proposal to beef up Wisconsin’s renewable energy mandate from its current 10% threshold to 20% by 2020 and 30% by 2030 — a move that, many believe, would spike energy prices that are already high in comparison to other states.”

Read the rest of the article...

Wisconsin needs ambitious clean energy goal : Wisconsin State Journal

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.

Read more…

More on the Game-Changer Narrative

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.
–Michael Vickerman

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.

RENEW Proposes Improvements to WPS’s “Restrictive” Net Metering Service

testimony submitted yesterday in Wisconsin Public Service Corporation’s ongoing
rate case (Docket 6690-UR-1220), RENEW witness Michael Vickerman takes the
utility to task over its net metering service, which it proposes to weaken even
further. Vickerman’s testimony discusses specific elements of the utility’s net
metering proposal, which, if approved, would unreasonably discriminate against WPS
customer-generators compared to those located in the service territory of other
investor-owned utilities. These proposals include reducing WPS’s net metering
threshold from 100 kW to 20 kW and limiting availability of net metering to
energy-only customers. Vickerman’s testimony also describes the necessary
analysis that would be required for WPSC to claim that net metering customers
are not paying the costs they cause, i.e., that they are “subsidized.” WPS has
not performed such analysis. Vickerman concludes his testimony with recommendations
for aligning WPSC’s net metering tariff with the best practices offered by
other utilities. Click here to view his complete pre-filed testimony.

Service Commission witness Corey Singletary also submitted testimony on net
metering. He describes WPS’s offering as “the most restrictive net metering service
of any Wisconsin utility.” His positions on WPS’s proposals to weaken its net
metering service even further are similar to RENEW’s. Click here to access Singletary‘s pre-filed testimony.

The nocebo effect, and why it’s much more dangerous than wind turbines

David Perry’s article for the Renew Economy blog addresses health concerns surrounding the infrasound produced by wind turbines and concludes that they are just another unfounded claim by antiwind energy campaigners.True, wind turbines produce infrasound, but at levels far below what is necessary to cause harm. In countering these unfounded assertions, Perry relies on research by Prof. Geoff Leventhal on infrasound effects and finds that self reported health impacts are nothing more than textbook examples of the nocebo effect: If you believe something bad is going to happen, then chances are your brain will make it happen.

By David Perry

energy activists have shifted the goal posts over the years, with
aesthetic, birdlife, carbon abatement and even economic issues getting a
run. But by far the most cutting attack has been around noise, and the
supposed health impacts that result.

There is no question that wind turbines create sound, and
that in some circumstances this sound can be heard at nearby residences.
Rigorous noise standards are designed to give a reasonable level of
protection against sleep disturbance, taking into account the location
of turbines, the model, and existing background noise. This approach is
not unusual, and similar standards are applied to a range of man-made
noise sources, from pubs to freeways.

While this is good enough for most people, some still find
the residual noise levels annoying. At this point, noise level alone
isn’t a good predictor of annoyance — personality and existing attitudes
tend to dominate. Those residents with a clear view of the turbines
tend to find them more annoying,
while those receiving an economic benefit are more tolerant .
Compounding this, residents with negative-oriented personality traits
tend to perceive turbine noise as being louder.
At the extreme, I’m aware of at least two wind farms where complaints
have been received about excruciating, intolerable levels of noise, only
for the resident to be told that the wind farm was shut down at the

Just because these factors cannot be quantified with a
sound logger does not mean nothing can be done. Community engagement,
face-to-face discussion and education go a long way, as does ensuring a
lasting community benefit. In some cases landscaping or improved sound
insulation can solve the problem. While this undoubtedly affects indoor
sound levels in many cases, it also empowers residents with a sense of
control over the situation, improving their outlook more
generally. Developers are now keenly aware that listening to the local
community and sharing the financial benefits is pivotal in getting a
wind farm built, and keeping neighbors happy.

That should be the end of the story.

Alas, all manner of health issues (216, at last count)
have been attributed to wind farms, even when the wind farm is
completely inaudible, located tens of kilometers away, or, as mentioned,
not even operating. These physics-defying claims are largely a result
of fear mongering around infrasound.