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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Legislature should restore funding to Focus on Energy

From a guest commentary by Keith Reopelle and Charlie Higley in the Janseville Gazette:

In spring 2011, Gov. Scott Walker and legislative leaders significantly cut funding to Focus on Energy, the energy efficiency program that helps residents and businesses lower energy bills. A recent legislative audit demonstrates that the benefits of Focus on Energy more than double the program’s costs, and legislators should quickly restore lost funding in order to maximize the program’s cost-saving potential.

Focus on Energy was created in 2001 to help homeowners and businesses reduce energy costs. More than 2 million Wisconsin residents and businesses have participated in the program.

The statewide program helps keep energy bills affordable for all Wisconsinites by reducing energy use and preventing the need to build expensive new power plants and transmission lines that we all pay for with increased electricity bills.

In addition, Focus on Energy helps reduce the amount of money we spend to fuel our power plants. Wisconsin spends $12.5 billion every year on imported electricity and dirty, out-of-state fossil fuels. Much of that is spent on coal, oil and natural gas to generate electricity and heat our homes. Investing in energy efficiency is the No. 1 way we can reduce that and keep money circulating within our own economy.

The audit released by the bipartisan Legislative Audit Bureau confirms that Focus on Energy successfully lowers energy bills and provides environmental and economic benefits that far outweigh program costs. For every $1 invested, residents and businesses save more than $2 on energy bills, according to the audit. This helped save more than $264 million on energy bills in 2010 alone. Since its inception, Focus on Energy has helped residents and businesses save more than $2 billion. . . .

Keith Reopelle is senior policy director at Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization. Contact him at kreopelle@cleanwisconsin.org. Charlie Higley is executive director of the Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin. Contact him at higley@wiscub.org.

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