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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Clean energy advocates: Group makes plans to support renewable-energy initiatives in 2013

Article: The Country Today – News
Wednesday,
January 16, 2013

MADISON - Wisconsin renewable-energy advocates would like to follow the example of Colorado when it comes to advancing their agenda for more solar, wind and bioenergy production in the state.

In recent years Colorado lawmakers have passed legislation to require that 30 percent of the energy produced by utilities must come from renewable sources by 2020 - legislation that even most of the state's utilities endorsed during the debate.

Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter told attendees at the Renew Energy Policy Summit Jan. 11 that while the debate over renewable- Ritter energy standards is generally highly politicized, it was proven in Colorado that the general public supports the use of more clean energy technologies.

"The public is there with us on this," Ritter said. "There is public will out there and it's incumbent on us to ask the question, 'How do you translate that public will into political will?' "

During Ritter's tenure as Colorado governor, from 2006 to 2010, the state passed 57 clean energy bills with economic development as a primary component of. most pieces of legislation. Ritter said at virtually every level of government, job creation is key to getting bipartisan support
for legislation.

For example, Ritter said Vestas, a Denmark-based wind-turbine manufacturer, located a production facility in Colorado because the state had passed a renewable energy standard that encouraged the growth of the industry. The company eventually sited three more plants in the state, totaling 1,800 jobs.

"They built them all in Colorado because we were making this big policy push around clean energy," he said. During the recession, clean energy was Colorado's only private sector industry in which there was job growth, Ritter said.

The policy summit was sponsored by Renew Wisconsin, a nonprofit organization that represents 115 renewable-energy companies and about 300 individuals and organizations who support the advancement of clean energy. Don Wichert, Renew Wisconsin interim executive director, said the goal of the policy summit was to shape policy initiatives with a goal of increasing renewable-energy installations in 2013 and beyond.

Attendees heard from renewable-energy users and policymakers and then participated in breakout sessions to prioritize issues for 2013.

Wichert said policy goals for 2013 include:

  • Third-party ownership of clean energy: This would allow customers to directly access renewable energy from third-party-owned renewable energy-systems on the premises. Customers would get fixed-rate electricity over a period of time while developers would own the solar, wind or bioenergy system and-sell electricity back to the utilities.
  • Net metering: This would allow customer-generators the ability to receive consistent terms for the power -they produce. If a system delivered more electricity ~an anticipated in a given month, the meter would go backward, allowing the owner to get credit if he or she produced more than was used.
  • Renewable-energy standard: Wichert said most Wisconsin utilities have already reached the state's standard of 10 percent of energy produced from renewable-energy sources by 2015. Neighboring states have more ambitious standards, he said, such as 25 percent by 2025 in Illinois and Minnesota. "It's time to increase our state's commitment to renewable energy to develop new business opportunities and jobs," a Renew Wisconsin policy letter states.
  • Community-owned renewables: The goal would be to modernize and streamline rules governing access by clean power producers to the grid, opening the market and making rules consistent across the state.
  • Defend Wisconsin's wind-siting rule: Renew Wisconsin members are predicting that the Wisconsin Realtors Association - concerned about the value of property located next to wind turbines - will work to appeal Wisconsin's wind energy standards in 2013. Renew Wisconsin officials said it will be their goal to "protect the rule from future legislative
    weakening."
Ritter said with the political debate over clean energy and climate change, clean-energy advocates should concentrate on making the "business case" for policies they want to endorse. "I think it's fair to say I that it's become sufficiently politicized that if (climate change) is the opening part of the dialogue, there are people in this country who will quit listening to you," he said. "But those same people will listen to you if there is a business case to be made." Ritter said renewable energy proponents should also look for "unconventional allies" in the push for future legislation.