Summary of Michael Vickerman’s (RENEW Wisconsin)
testimony before the
Assembly Special Committee on Clean Energy
February 2, 2010

RENEW Wisconsin strongly supports the provisions in SB450/AB649 to expand the state’s Renewable Energy Standard to 25% by 2025, which includes a 10% in-state renewable energy set-aside. RENEW has evaluated the availability of specific resources to reach that standard and has concluded that meeting such a target is technically feasible. If adopted, the in-state set-aside will become the most powerful engine for job development and capital investment over the next 15 years.

We expect such a requirement to be achieved through a combination of utility-scale power plants and smaller-scale generating units dispersed throughout Wisconsin. With respect to distributed renewable generation, we note the following:

1. The vast majority of the distributed renewable generating units installed in Wisconsin serve schools, dairy farms and other small businesses, churches and local governments.

2. Utilities are not in the business of installing these systems themselves.

3. In many cases the renewable energy installation went forward because there was a special buyback rate available to accelerate the recovery of the original investment made by the customer. Last week, I gave the example of the Dane County community anaerobic digester project that, once operational, will treat manure taken from several nearby dairy farms in the Waunakee area and produce two megawatts of electricity with it. The electricity will be purchased by Alliant Energy through a voluntary biogas tariff worth 9.3 cents/kWh. Unfortunately, Alliant’s biogas program is fully subscribed and is no longer available to other dairy farmers, food processing companies and wastewater treatment facilities served by Alliant.

4. Companies that install solar, wind and biogas energy systems are quintessentially small businesses, many of them family-owned. Renewable energy contractors and affiliated service providers constitute one of the few market sectors where young adults who have acquired the necessary skills to do the job well can find meaningful work at decent pay.

5. By its very nature, distributed renewable energy delivers nearly 100% of its economic punch to the local economy.

In stark contrast to other states, Wisconsin has a well developed market structure for supporting small-scale renewables. Through the ratepayer-funded Focus on Energy program, there is in Wisconsin a human infrastructure that trains and educates thousands of young people to work in the renewable energy arena. Indeed, Wisconsin is a leader in this area. Our expectation is that these workers will apply their skills in the state, fabricating and installing renewable energy equipment in a thoroughly professional manner.

But if we don’t take equal care to create and sustain demand for their skills and services, these workers are apt to leave the state for greener pastures, and Wisconsin’s investment in their education will have gone unpaid. This is why the issue of Advanced Renewable Tariffs is so important to RENEW members.

One final point: Last week several utility representatives recommended that the Legislature strip out the Advanced Renewables Tariff section. RENEW urges you not to heed their advice. While we would support a reworking of this section, including a program cap to limit rate impacts, we cannot support abandoning this initiative altogether and cannot further support a bill that is silent on policies to advance the distributed energy marketplace. That is a bottom-line priority with us.

Submitted by:
Michael Vickerman
Executive Director
RENEW Wisconsin
February 2, 2010