Search This Blog

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Focus on Energy, Intervenor Compensation Win in State Budget

Co-Chairs of the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance
Committee, Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. John Nygren.

Positive steps were taken today on two issues of importance for clean energy and Wisconsin power customers!

The State Legislature's Joint Finance Committee met to set the budget of the Public Service Commission for 2017-2019, which includes both Focus on Energy and intervenor compensation funds.

Both of the wins described below gained 16-0 bipartisan votes by the Committee, which is made up of 12 Republicans and 4 Democrats.


First, the budget for intervenor compensation was partially restored after a 66% cut two years ago.  The budget going forward will double to $742,500 annually.  These funds enable nonprofit and citizen-based organizations to bring technical and legal expertise to proceedings at the Public Service Commission.  RENEW Wisconsin has historically used this fund to support our advocacy in utility rate cases, power plant proposals, and numerous other proceedings at the PSC that impact renewable energy.  

In addition, the Citizens Utility Board frequently uses this fund to bring expertise to cases in order to keep utility rates as low as possible for residential and small business customers across Wisconsin.  Governor Walker had proposed this restoration of funds in his budget, and the Committee adopted it.  This is great news, and we applaud Governor Walker and members of the Joint Finance Committee for adopting this provision.

Secondly, Focus on Energy's budget will remain unchanged, allowing for the most cost-effective energy efficiency and renewables projects to be funded.   The Governor has proposed to eliminate the ability for school districts to borrow above their revenue limit to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements (commonly called "Act 32" projects).  To backfill that change, the Governor proposed allocating an additional $10 million from Focus on Energy's budget for schools above what they spent last year, which would have earmarked nearly $15 million out of the total $93 million for schools alone.

Solar PV installation on Lakeland Union High School in Minocqua,
part of an energy improvement project funded under the "Act 32" school district
revenue exemption. See the full case study from SunPeak.

Concerns had been raised that schools would not be able to use that much Focus on Energy funding.  The proposed earmark could have siphoned funding away from private business installations in energy efficiency upgrades, leading to unspent dollars in the Focus on Energy program and a less cost-effective set of investments.

The Committee voted 16-0 against the Governor's proposal, leaving the Focus on Energy budgets unchanged.  This is very good news since the program returns over $3.50 for every dollar invested, and schools will still have ready access to incentives through existing programs.

This sets up an important vote later in the Joint Finance Committee schedule regarding the Governor's proposal to repeal the Act 32 school district revenue exemption.

RENEW Wisconsin was supportive of both of these successful measures through our participation in the Customers First Coalition.

The biennial budget needs the approval of both the Assembly and the Senate before being signed by the Governor.  Typically, the budget process lasts through June.

For more information on these topics and the state budget, please see RENEW's Clean Energy Summary of Governor Walker's Budget, and our recap of the 2015-17 state budget.


Finally, please support our work:  become a member of RENEW Wisconsin today!



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Press Release: Madison and Middleton select winning offer for solar program

For Immediate Release

More Information:
Katie Crawley, Mayor’s Office

Katherine Klausing, RENEW Wisconsin
614-406-1105

A team from Full Spectrum Solar installs a solar array
for a 2016 Group Buy Participant
May 9, 2017 – Madison. The Cities of Madison and Middleton have selected the winning offer from contractors who competed to serve the MadiSUN Solar Group Buy program, which helps residents easily and affordably invest in solar electric systems on their homes. The cities have selected a collaborative bid from Full Spectrum Solar and Midwest Solar Power, two solar installation companies based in Madison.

The MadiSUN Solar Group Buy program allows Madison and Middleton residents to “go solar” together.  MadiSUN used a competitive Request for Proposals process to seek offers from solar companies across the region, and dozens of companies were invited to bid. For the first time, the program selected a collaborative bid from two companies, who will offer the same price and services.
The 2017 MadiSUN solar program launched on April 24, 2017
Katherine Klausing, MadiSUN Program Manager, said “we were really pleased with the competitive offers we received.” The program evaluated bids based on pricing, work quality, customer service and the company’s qualifications.  “This is going to be a great deal for families who are interested in going solar this year. Our participants say that they feel better knowing there’s a trusted company that has been vetted by our program. By going with the group buy and benefitting from the low price we negotiate, families can save an extra 10 percent compared to what they would pay to go solar alone.”

Alarik Rosenlund, Co-Owner of Midwest Solar Power, says his company is happy to partner with the program to bring more solar energy to local residents. "This year may be a real sweet spot for anyone looking at installing solar, especially with the tax credits and rebates available," Rosenlund said. But it's not just about the economics. "This is a great way for people to take action on something really important." 

The cost of installing solar has never been lower, and households can receive a Federal Tax Credit for 30 percent of the system cost, while Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program offers up to $2,000 in additional rebates.

New solar education events were also announced, aimed at helping residents learn more about solar energy and the options available for installing solar. All events are free and open to the public. The dates, times, and locations information sessions are available at www.madisunsolar.com/upcoming-events and enclosed below.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin
accepted a SolSmart Gold award
Madison earned a “gold” designation from SolSmart, the highest level of recognition from a national program under the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative. The “gold” designation recognizes the city’s efforts to accelerate solar development, from improving permitting and zoning for solar, to investing in financing and solar workforce training programs. The announcement took place at on Monday at the National Planning Conference in New York City.

“Madison’s commitment to continued utilization of solar energy is genuine,” said Madison Mayor Paul Soglin in a statement.  “We have our Green Power Program in which we train new workers to install solar, our goal of producing one Megawatt of Solar by 2020 and incredible partnerships like SolSmart and others.  We are on our way!”

As a SolSmart Gold designee, Madison received national recognition for adopting programs and practices that make it faster, easier, and cheaper to go solar. A SolSmart designation is a signal that the community is “open for solar business,” helping to attract solar industry investment and generate economic development and local jobs. Madison recently became the first community in Wisconsin to commit to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy.

About SolSmart
SolSmart is a national designation and technical assistance program that recognizes leading solar communities and empowers additional communities to expand their local solar markets. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, SolSmart strives to cut red tape, drive greater solar deployment, and make it possible for even more American homes and businesses to access solar energy to meet their electricity needs. Learn more at SolSmart.org.

About MadiSUN Solar Group Buy
MadiSUN works to expand solar energy adoption through a comprehensive, community-wide approach. This group purchase program is operated by RENEW Wisconsin Inc., a nonprofit organization, on behalf of the City of Madison, with support from the City of Middleton. The goal of the program is to increase solar education and adoption in the Madison and Middleton areas through a group purchase and competitive bidding process. In conjunction with this program, RENEW Wisconsin and the City of Madison will partner with Summit Credit Union to provide a special solar loan program for Madison residents. This summer, participants can learn more and sign up at madisunsolar.com.

Solar Information Sessions
All events are free and open to the public. Participants should RSVP to MadiSUN@renewwisconsin.org.

1. Madison College, Truax Campus
Tuesday May 16th at 6pm
Protective Services Building, Room 215,
1701 Wright St, Madison

2. Goodman Community Center
Tuesday June 6th at 6pm
Merrill Lynch Room, 149 Waubesa St, Madison

3. Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Tuesday June 13th at 7pm
Peterson Hall, 5701 Raymond Rd, Madison

4. Middleton Public Library
Wednesday June 28th at 6:30 p.m.
7425 Hubbard Ave, Middleton

5. Catholic Multicultural Center
Thursday July 6th at 7pm
1862 Beld St, Madison

6. Capital Brewery & Bier Garten
Monday July 17th at 5:30pm
7734 Terrace Ave, Middleton

7. First Unitarian Society
Sunday July 30th at 12:30 p.m.
900 University Bay Dr, Madison

###

Monday, April 24, 2017

Madison and Middleton launch solar buying program; Madison earns “Gold” designation from national SolSmart program

For Immediate Release

More Information:
Katie Crawley, Mayor’s Office

Katherine Klausing, RENEW Wisconsin
614-406-1105

April 24, 2017 – Madison. Today the Cities of Madison and Middleton announced the launch of the MadiSUN Solar Group Buy program, a collaborative program that helps residents easily and affordably invest in solar electric systems on their homes. The announcement continues the steady stream of renewable energy commitments and solar projects announced in Wisconsin, and follows 2016’s successful solar group buy program—the largest in Wisconsin to date.

Jay Edgar and Josh Feyen participated in the
2016 MadiSUN Group Buy.
The MadiSUN Solar Group Buy program will enable Madison and Middleton residents to “go solar” together.  Through the group buy program, a team of community members requests offers from solar companies across the region. The program then pre-qualifies a price and service provider to make it as easy as possible for people to join the program. The City’s investment in marketing and competitive bidding will drive down the cost for each participant. The cost of installing solar has never been lower, and households can receive a Federal Tax Credit for 30 percent of the system cost, while Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program offers up to $2,000 in additional rebates.

The program, through its contractor RENEW Wisconsin, has begun recruiting interested households to participate. This summer, citizens can learn more and sign up at madisunsolar.com.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin lauded the group buy program. “These programs are proven vehicles for making rooftop solar more accessible and affordable for homeowners in the community, and that’s why we thank MadiSUN,” he said.

The City will partner Summit Credit Union to offer a special Solar Energy Loan Program where residents can finance 100 percent of a solar electric system with no fees or collateral. “Summit Credit Union is thrilled to continue partnering with the City of Madison bringing solar technology to the area,” they said in a statement.  Details on the MadiSUN loan program can be found on the website summitcreditunion.com or by calling 800-236-0985.

Six educational events were also announced as part of the program, aimed at helping residents learn more about solar energy and the options available for installing solar. All events are free and open to the public. The dates, times, and locations information sessions are available at www.madisunsolar.com/upcoming-events.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin accepts
SolSmart's "Gold" designation.
Madison earned a “gold” designation from SolSmart, the highest level of recognition from a national program under the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative. The “gold” designation recognizes the city’s efforts to accelerate solar development, from improving permitting and zoning for solar, to investing in financing and solar workforce training programs.  Madison recently became the first community in Wisconsin to commit to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy. The City is already progressing toward that goal, including initiatives like a citywide solar apprenticeship program whose trainees will install another 100 kilowatts of solar on city facilities.

Middleton Mayor Gurdip Brar pointed to the city’s many solar developments in recent months, such as the 100kW atop the Middleton Police Station. “We at the City of Middleton are proud to work with our neighbors to bring the benefits of solar energy to all of our communities here,” he said. “Going forward, Middleton and Madison are going to be cooperating a lot more,” he said.

“2017 is going to be a great year for solar, and we encourage Middleton families to take advantage of this opportunity,” Brar said. “This is a great day for our communities.”

Jay Edgar and Josh Feyen use their solar panels
to power their hybrid-electric car.
Homeowners Josh Feyen and Jay Edgar hosted the event outside their home, where they installed 6 kW of solar panels in 2016 as part of that year’s MadiSUN Group Buy program.  The array also powers their new car, a hybrid-electric Chevrolet Volt.  Feyen estimates that the system will pay for itself through energy cost savings in about 10 years “and then we’re going to be getting about 20 years of free electricity, including charging our car three times per week. So if you think about it, we’re saving a lot of money from the energy we’re creating and the gasoline we’re not putting in our car,” said Feyen. They were also able to take advantage of the federal tax credit and rebates from the Focus on Energy program.

Feyen and Edgar have also been talking to family and friends about the benefits of the MadiSUN program. “We’ve kind of been Johnny Appleseed,” Edgar says.
Katherine Klausing, MadiSUN Program Manager,
gives concluding remarks at the 2017 launch.

MadiSUN Program Manager Katherine Klausing concluded by saying, “We’ve built a lot of momentum leading to this event. As successful as the past year has been, we believe 2017 is going to be even better.”

Sign up to learn more about the program at https://madisunsolar.com.




**END**