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Monday, July 15, 2013

Utility Data Confirm Retreat from Renewables, Policy Rollbacks Slow Installation Activity

Utility Responses submitted to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission report that the electrical providers received far fewer requests to connect renewable energy systems to the energy grid in 2012 than in previous years. Read the press release below to learn what this means for utilities, energy consumers, and ultimately the future of renewable energy in Wisconsin.

Immediate Release -- 
In filings submitted to the Public Service Commission (PSC), most of Wisconsin’s electric providers reported that they handled far fewer customer requests in 2012 to interconnect renewable energy systems to the grid than in previous years. Last year’s decrease followed several years of steady growth in customer-sited renewable energy installations. 
 The solar and small wind energy sectors were hit hardest by this slowdown, while biogas installation activity remained steady through 2012. Solar electricity systems account for more than 90% of customer interconnection requests.        “These reports confirm our fears that ongoing utility resistance to customer use of clean energy is sucking a lot of oxygen out of Wisconsin’s renewable energy marketplace,” said Michael Vickerman, program and policy director for RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide renewable energy advocacy organization.        According to data submitted by Milwaukee-based We Energies, the utility processed only 56 interconnection requests in 2012, compared with 120 requests in 2009, 146 in 2010, and 172 in 2011.
   Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service and Madison Gas & Electric also reported declines in customer-sited renewable systems since 2011. According to Madison-based Wisconsin Power & Light, interconnections involving renewable energy peaked in 2009 and 2010, and have fallen off since. 
“The slowdown in Wisconsin stands in stark contrast to solar’s rapid expansion in other states. This contraction is occurring in spite of declining installation costs and higher electric rates,” Vickerman said.              
   Vickerman attributed the fall-off in installation activity to a number of policy changes, including
  •   Service changes adopted by several utilities to make net metering a less economically attractive option for customer-generators;
  •   Across-the-board elimination of special buyback rates for solar-generated electricity; and
  •   Recently adopted restrictions to the amount and availability of Focus on Energy incentives for solar and small wind.
“Solar is a proven generator of jobs as well as electricity. Lately, it seems that utilities are doing their level best to keep solar out of their resource mix,” Vickerman said. 
     “Other states such as Minnesota and Georgia are warming to solar, because they see how this clean resource drives business start-ups and investment opportunities. What will it take for Wisconsin to see the light?” Vickerman asked.                The utility filings were submitted as part of a PSC investigation to determine whether the state’s interconnection rules should be modified to facilitate more customer-sited renewable energy systems. The docket number is 05-GF-233.


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RENEW Wisconsin is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that leads and represents businesses, organizations, and individuals who seek more clean renewable energy in Wisconsin.  More information on RENEW’s Web site at www.renewwisconsin.org. 

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