Efforts to develop the solar and wind energy industry in Wisconsin have taken another hit, although not a completely unexpected one.
Under orders from the Public Service Commission, the state has stopped offering grants to help homeowners and rural residents install solar or small scale wind projects.
The move stems from a previous PSC decision to shift renewable energy incentives offered through the Focus on Energy program to biofuel projects.
The Focus program is overseen by the PSC in conjunction with state electric utilities, who fund the effort via money collected from ratepayers.
Up to $10 million in renewable energy funds are available annually. The commission last year voted to commit 75 percent of that funding to biofuels, with the remaining 25 percent going to solar and wind projects.
The commission says biofuels in Wisconsin offer greater energy efficiency potential than solar or wind.
But biofuel projects — which include burning waste wood or using manure digesters to generate electricity — have been slow to develop and won’t come close to using all the available funding this year. Focus projects it will spend $3.05 million total on renewable, with a breakdown of $1.6 million for solar and $1.4 million on biofuels.
So to maintain a 75-25 split in renewable spending for 2013, the commission ordered a halt to the solar and wind grants through the end of this year.
Suspension of the grants was made public last week by the environmental group Renew Wisconsin, which is urging concerned citizens to weigh in with PSC prior to its meeting on Aug 13.