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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Legislators are exporting wind energy jobs and torpedoing all renewables

From a commentary by Jeff Anthony, American Wind Energy Association, on BizTimes.com:

The Wisconsin Assembly recently passed a bill that would enable hydroelectric power from Manitoba, Canada, to be shipped to Wisconsin to meet the state’s 2006 renewable energy law requiring 10 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy by the year 2015.

If enacted into law, the effect of the Manitoba Hydro Bill will be to ship jobs to Canada and reduce Wisconsin’s ability to meet its clean energy requirement by building more homegrown Wisconsin energy projects.

One of the bill’s sponsors, State Sen. Frank Lasee (R-De Pere), was quoted saying, “This new law will keep electric bills from going up by making it more affordable for utilities to meet green energy mandates.”

Unfortunately, he was mistaken in assuming that other forms of “green energy” will raise electricity rates in the state. If he had gotten his facts straight, he would have found that wind energy costs are at near-record lows, and many utilities in the U.S. are reaping the benefits of lower electricity rates as wind energy expands on their systems. But the facts about wind energy costs, like many other facts, apparently weren’t relevant in the rush to pass this ill-conceived bill.

What Sen. Lasee failed to mention is that his bill will also have a significant impact on Wisconsin by sending good-paying jobs that would otherwise have been created in Wisconsin – to Canada instead.

Sen. Lasee and the other state legislators who voted for the bill would have the state import electricity from Canadian energy projects that use Canadian workers. Today, Wisconsin supports 2,000-3,000 workers in the wind energy industry alone, and the Manitoba Hydro Bill now threatens many of those jobs in Wisconsin.

This is just the latest example of legislative activities that are exporting good-paying, clean energy jobs out of Wisconsin. Why?

At the beginning of the year, another onerous bill was proposed to impose extreme requirements on where Wisconsin wind projects can be located. A few weeks, later a joint committee of the legislature voted to suspend Wind Siting Rules that had been developed through a collaborative, open, and fair process. This rule was suspended by the joint legislative committee on the very day that these far better new rules would have taken effect.

Combined, these actions have jeopardized approximately 700 megawatts of wind projects that were proposed in the state, resulting in the potential loss of $1.8 billion investments and 2 million construction job-hours. And guess what – those 2 million job-hours will not show up in Wisconsin, and will likely move to neighboring states.

So what will be the next step in the “Wisconsin Jobs Export Agenda”?

Well, another piece of anti-clean energy job legislation has emerged, Assembly Bill 146, which would significantly reduce the growth of renewable energy in the state. The Wisconsin clean energy law was originally created to incentivize new renewable energy development and increase fuel diversity. AB 146 would effectively remove that incentive.

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