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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Policies that can Restore Wisconsin’s Bioenergy leadership

From testimony given to Senate Committee on Energy Consumer Protection and Government Reform on April 10, 2013

RENEW Wisconsin has been leading and representing businesses, organizations, and individuals that seek more clean, renewable energy in Wisconsin since 1991.

I have been involved in bioenergy for over thirty years in designing and administering policies and programs at the Wisconsin Energy Office, as director of the Focus on Energy Renewable Energy program, and for the past year with RENEW. I have personally been involved in many of Wisconsin’s more than 100 biogas facilities over my career. These facilities include municipal wastewater treatment plants, landfill gas operations, dairy operations, and food waste.

Wisconsin has the natural resources, the supply chain infrastructure, the mix of industrial and agricultural producers, and a past history of success to once again lead the nation in biogas production and utilization. Currently, New York, Pennsylvania, and California are about to overtake our lead if they have not already done so. All it takes for Wisconsin to regain the lead is the right public policies that can overcome the remaining economic and institutional barriers.

RENEW believes that Wisconsin has the very doable potential to quadruple the number of biogas facilities in the next ten years from roughly 100 to 400. This would allow Wisconsin to have a similar number of biogas facilities per capita as Germany, the world biogas leader. RENEW prepared a list of 12 specific policies that together can retake Wisconsin’s leadership role in biogas and allow us to quadruple the number of local, environmentally beneficial, and job creating biogas facilities.

The four policies that are most important and have an immediate potential include:
  • Allowing third party contracting arrangements that would reduce the financial and technical barriers to biogas system hosts;
  • Allowing reasonable and flexible interconnection requirements as defined in RENEW’s current petition at the PSCW in docket 05-GF-233. For example, current requirements allow utilities to designate the type of telemetry (a communication link between generator and substation).
    • By designating the most expensive type of telemetry (fiber optics) instead of other much less expensive, but just as reliable options, utilities can increase the cost of a biogas system by hundreds of thousands of dollars and effectively kill projects.
  • Higher buyback rates or production tax incentives that recognize the social benefits of:
    • locally produced energy
    • environmental benefits to air, water, and land
    • the economic benefits of building and operating biogas here in Wisconsin.
  • Property tax reductions, similar to those given to wind and solar
We urge the Senate Committee on Energy, Consumer Protection, and Government Reform to seriously consider recommending these policies to your legislative colleagues and to agencies that have jurisdiction over these responsibilities.

It’s time to move forward and create the climate that once again makes Wisconsin the national leader in biogas.

Thank you.

Don Wichert, Interim Executive Director, RENEW Wisconsin

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