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Friday, August 30, 2013

RENEW Proposes Improvements to WPS’s “Restrictive” Net Metering Service

In testimony submitted yesterday in Wisconsin Public Service Corporation’s ongoing rate case (Docket 6690-UR-1220), RENEW witness Michael Vickerman takes the utility to task over its net metering service, which it proposes to weaken even further. Vickerman’s testimony discusses specific elements of the utility’s net metering proposal, which, if approved, would unreasonably discriminate against WPS customer-generators compared to those located in the service territory of other investor-owned utilities. These proposals include reducing WPS’s net metering threshold from 100 kW to 20 kW and limiting availability of net metering to energy-only customers. Vickerman’s testimony also describes the necessary analysis that would be required for WPSC to claim that net metering customers are not paying the costs they cause, i.e., that they are “subsidized.” WPS has not performed such analysis. Vickerman concludes his testimony with recommendations for aligning WPSC’s net metering tariff with the best practices offered by other utilities. Click here to view his complete pre-filed testimony.

Public Service Commission witness Corey Singletary also submitted testimony on net metering. He describes WPS’s offering as “the most restrictive net metering service of any Wisconsin utility.” His positions on WPS’s proposals to weaken its net metering service even further are similar to RENEW’s. Click here to access Singletary's pre-filed testimony.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New Berkeley Lab Study Finds No Statistical Evidence of Residential Property Value Impacts Near U.S. Wind Power Projects

In the study released yesterday, Berkeley Lab analyzed more than 50,000 home sales near 67 wind facilities in 27 counties across nine U.S. states.  In summary, the research did not find any statistically identifiable impacts of wind facilities to nearby home property values. Read the full 2013 report, the previously published 2009 report, and yesterday's press release below for more information.
Immediate release -- Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) analyzed more than 50,000 home sales near 67 wind facilities in 27 counties across nine U.S. states, yet was unable to uncover any impacts to nearby home property values.

“This is the second of two major studies we have conducted on this topic [the first was published in 2009 – see below], and in both studies [using two different datasets] we find no statistical evidence that operating wind turbines have had any measureable impact on home sales prices,” says Ben Hoen, the lead author of the new report.

Hoen is a researcher in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division of Berkeley Lab.

The new study used a number of sophisticated techniques to control for other potential impacts on home prices, including collecting data that spanned well before the wind facilities’ development was announced to after they were constructed and operating. This allowed the researchers to control for any pre-existing differences in home sales prices across their sample and any changes that occurred due to the housing bubble. 

This study, the most comprehensive to-date, builds on both the previous Berkeley Lab study as well a number of other academic and published U.S. studies, which also generally find no measureable impacts near operating turbines.

“Although there have been claims of significant property value impacts near operating wind turbines that regularly surface in the press or in local communities, strong evidence to support those claims has failed to materialize in all of the major U.S. studies conducted thus far”, says Hoen.  “Moreover, our findings comport with the large set of studies that have investigated other potentially similar disamenities, such as high voltage transmission lines, land fills, and noisy roads, which suggest that widespread impacts from wind turbines would be either relatively small or non-existent.”

The report was authored by Ben Hoen (Berkeley Lab), Jason P. Brown (formerly USDA now Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City), Thomas Jackson (Texas A & M and Real Property Analytics), Ryan Wiser (Berkeley Lab), Mark Thayer (San Diego State University) and Peter Cappers (Berkeley Lab). The research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit www.lbl.gov.
Media contact: Allan Chen (510) 486-4210, a_chen@lbl.gov
Technical contact: Ben Hoen (845) 758-1896, bhoen@lbl.gov

Monday, August 26, 2013

The nocebo effect, and why it’s much more dangerous than wind turbines

David Perry's article for the Renew Economy blog addresses health concerns surrounding the infrasound produced by wind turbines and concludes that they are just another unfounded claim by antiwind energy campaigners.True, wind turbines produce infrasound, but at levels far below what is necessary to cause harm. In countering these unfounded assertions, Perry relies on research by Prof. Geoff Leventhal on infrasound effects and finds that self reported health impacts are nothing more than textbook examples of the nocebo effect: If you believe something bad is going to happen, then chances are your brain will make it happen.

By David Perry
Anti-wind energy activists have shifted the goal posts over the years, with aesthetic, birdlife, carbon abatement and even economic issues getting a run. But by far the most cutting attack has been around noise, and the supposed health impacts that result. 
There is no question that wind turbines create sound, and that in some circumstances this sound can be heard at nearby residences. Rigorous noise standards are designed to give a reasonable level of protection against sleep disturbance, taking into account the location of turbines, the model, and existing background noise. This approach is not unusual, and similar standards are applied to a range of man-made noise sources, from pubs to freeways.

While this is good enough for most people, some still find the residual noise levels annoying. At this point, noise level alone isn’t a good predictor of annoyance — personality and existing attitudes tend to dominate. Those residents with a clear view of the turbines tend to find them more annoying, while those receiving an economic benefit are more tolerant . Compounding this, residents with negative-oriented personality traits tend to perceive turbine noise as being louder. At the extreme, I’m aware of at least two wind farms where complaints have been received about excruciating, intolerable levels of noise, only for the resident to be told that the wind farm was shut down at the time.

Just because these factors cannot be quantified with a sound logger does not mean nothing can be done. Community engagement, face-to-face discussion and education go a long way, as does ensuring a lasting community benefit. In some cases landscaping or improved sound insulation can solve the problem. While this undoubtedly affects indoor sound levels in many cases, it also empowers residents with a sense of control over the situation, improving their outlook more generally. Developers are now keenly aware that listening to the local community and sharing the financial benefits is pivotal in getting a wind farm built, and keeping neighbors happy.
That should be the end of the story.
Alas, all manner of health issues (216, at last count) have been attributed to wind farms, even when the wind farm is completely inaudible, located tens of kilometers away, or, as mentioned, not even operating. These physics-defying claims are largely a result of fear mongering around infrasound.

[READ MORE]

Friday, August 23, 2013

FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff: Solar ‘Is Going to Overtake Everything’

The FERC, GTM and SEIA predict that solar installations will double every year as prices continue to decline. Herman Trabish's article for the GTM  Newsletter below notes that solar's continuing growth will require a reformulation of distributed generation rate structures.
By Herman Trabish
If anybody doubts that federal energy regulators are aware of the rapidly changing electricity landscape, they should talk to Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  
“Solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything,” Wellinghoff told GTM last week in a sideline conversation at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas.  
If a single drop of water on the pitcher’s mound at Dodger Stadium is doubled every minute, Wellinghoff said, a person chained to the highest seat would be in danger of drowning in an hour.  
“That’s what is happening in solar. It could double every two years," he said. 
Indeed, as GTM Research's MJ Shiao recently pointed out, in the next 2 1/2 years the U.S. will double its entire cumulative capacity of distributed solar -- repeating in the span of a few short years what it originally took four decades to deploy.  
Geothermal, wind, and other resources will supplement solar, Wellinghoff said. “But at its present growth rate, solar will overtake wind in about ten years. It is going to be the dominant player. Everybody’s roof is out there.” 
And those other resources have not seen declining prices like solar has. “Solar PV is $0.70 or $0.80 per watt to manufacture. Residential rooftop is $4 to $5 per watt. But they are going to drive that down to $2 and then to $1 per watt.” 
Advanced storage technologies also promise lower costs, he said. “Once it is more cost-effective to build solar with storage than to build a combustion turbine or wind for power at night, that is 'game over.' At that point, it will be all about consumer-driven markets.”  
Wellinghoff was a consumer advocate early in his career and has not changed sides. “Even though the FERC oversees wholesale markets, utilities, and other jurisdictional entities at the wholesale level, the consumer needs to be our major concern," he said.   
If FERC does not ensure the grid is ready to integrate the growing marketplace demand for distributed solar and other distributed resources, Wellinghoff said, “We are going to have problems with grid reliability and overall grid costs.”  
Transmission infrastructure will be able to keep up with solar growth. The big changes will be at the distribution level where FERC has less influence, he explained. But the commission has been examining the costs and benefits of distributed generation (DG) in wholesale markets.

[READ MORE]

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How hospitals can help fight climate change

Midwest Energy News interviews Dr. Jeff Thompson of Gundersen Health System. Dr. Thompson, who was a guest speaker at RENEW's 2013 Policy Summit calls attention to the need to improve environmental health and sustainability in the healthcare sector.

 

 By Bob Herman
Midwest Energy News: The White House event honored several diverse voices within healthcare sustainability. What were you able to learn from it?

Thompson
: I was amazed by some of the stories that people had accomplished. Kizzy Charles-Guzman, the young woman who is responsible for sustainability efforts in New York City, came up to me and said, “It’s so amazing what you’ve done and how close you are to your goals.” And I said, “Kizzy, I’m responsible for a number of rural counties that have a population equal to one-tenth of one of your boroughs!”

Even though we have accomplished a lot, I still learn from individuals like her. And I also enjoy working with Gary and the Healthier Hospitals Initiative because of his ability to encapsulate what the big picture is and where [healthcare] needs to go. It is a great, free program for all hospitals that can give any organization a starting point.
Gundersen’s plan to be energy independent in 2014 is one of the most unique among U.S. hospitals and health systems. Can you give some examples of how Gundersen is trying to reach this goal, and is it saving your organization money along the way?
The first example I always use — because everyone worries it’s going to take a huge amount of money — is conservation. Our first investment was in conservation. I recommend all CEOs to go for this. In the first year and a half, we spent $2 million. That’s a lot of money, but every year thereafter, we’ve saved $1.2 million in energy expenditures related to that activity. Right now, I don’t know anything in the organization that can get that rate of return.

When you say “conservation,” what did you and Gundersen focus on specifically?

We started with an energy audit. We looked around all the places where we use energy — lights, motors, pumps, all the non-sexy things people don’t think about when it comes to energy issues. For example, there was a five-year-old, six-story outpatient building. It is very busy during the days, but nobody is there at nights, weekends and holidays. Its exhaust fans, though, were set to run 24/7/365. So we just switched that to run only when people were in the building. We saved $19,000 right there.
[READ MORE]


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

PSC facing key decision on solar and wind energy incentives

Paralleling Tom Content's article for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mike Ivey's story for the Capital Times offers his interpretation of the opinions and events influencing the PSC's deliberation over whether or not to finalize the decision to suspend Focus on Energy incentives for wind and solar. Commenting in this article, RENEW's Tyler Huebner notes that "Judging by the extraordinary outpouring of support for continuing incentives to solar and small wind, it's clear that the PSC's move to suspend incentives struck a nerve with the public". 

By Mike Ivey
Will Gov. Scott Walker’s Public Service Commission reverse course on renewable energy development in the state?
Clean energy advocates hope so and are reporting a "massive outpouring" of support for continuing incentives for residential solar or wind projects in Wisconsin.
Under its Focus on Energy Program, the state is authorized to spend up to $10 million per year on renewable energy incentives.
But the PSC voted 2-1 in July to suspend the incentives through the end of 2013.
The move stems from a previous directive from the commission to shift more renewable energy incentives to biofuel projects — such as manure digesters or waste wood burning — which some analysts say offer greater energy savings.
A final ruling is expected in the coming weeks, but since July, more than 630 comments were submitted to the PSC urging the panel to maintain the incentives. The three-member commission has two Walker appointees and one holdover from former Gov. Jim Doyle.
"Judging by the extraordinary outpouring of support for continuing incentives to solar and small wind, it's clear that the PSC's move to suspend incentives struck a nerve with the public," says Tyler Huebner, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin.
[READ MORE]

Monday, August 19, 2013

Libertarian Party of Wisconsin Endorses Clean Energy Choice

State Renewable Energy Initiative Picking Up Momentum

Statement by RENEW Wisconsin Program and Policy Director Michael Vickerman

RENEW Wisconsin is pleased to announce that our Clean Energy Choice initiative has earned the endorsement of the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin.  By its action, the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin joins more than 90 other organizations, businesses and local governments across the state that believe that customers should have the legal right to purchase renewable energy produced on their premises, regardless of who owns the energy system.
Most energy customers cannot afford the installed cost of a brand-new renewable energy generator to supply them with electricity. But most could afford to have a renewable electricity service if the equipment were owned by someone else. We thank the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin for standing up for the right of customers to enter into long-term contracts to access clean energy produced on-site. 

In the 22 states that have affirmed this policy, you’ll find many citizens, businesses and nonprofit entities working with local contractors to supply their buildings with renewable electricity produced on-site.  Clean Energy Choice provides the financing flexibility that enables these citizens to supply themselves with the technologies they prefer.  Because of that flexibility, those 22 states have some of the healthiest renewable energy markets in the country, and they are happily reaping the economic and environmental benefits associated with that policy.

Wisconsin’s energy policy should aim to make it easier for customers to host clean energy systems on their premises.  It should also aim to create jobs and expand business and investment opportunities for local firms. By adopting Clean Energy Choice, Wisconsin policymakers would in a single stroke affirm their commitment to freedom of choice, economic development, environmental protection and property rights.  We call upon the Legislature to seize this opportunity when it reconvenes next month and start working to adopt this policy.

A full list of organizations, companies and local governments supporting Clean Energy Choice can be accessed at the link below.  http://renewwisconsin.org/action/CleanEnergyChoice.htm

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why US power companies don’t want you putting a solar panel on your roof

In his article for the Quartz Daily Brief Tim Fernholz debunks electrical utility claims that increased solar panel reliance to off-set electrical costs will lead to increased rates for all customers. While the "death spiral" of increased solar energy use leading to increased electrical rates is revealed to be little more than a panicked response from power companies, Fernholz identifies that a regulatory solution must be crafted to facilitate our transition to a solar powered future.

By Tim Fernholz


In the US, electrical utilities are in a charged battle—complete with negative political ads—against solar panel distributors over rules that both sides say could put them out of business. Consumers are caught in the middle. 
A relatively new swathe of companies like Verengo, Sunrun, Sungevity and SolarCity have spent millions leasing solar equipment to homeowners and businesses. The cost of the lease is offset by savings on their electrical bill. Those savings come not just because of free power from the sun, but also through tax credits—and, most importantly today, because states allow those who have solar panels to sell any excess power back to the grid. 
The more than 200,000 “distributed solar generators” in the US produce less than 1% of the country’s electricity. But that’s growing thanks to the falling cost of photovoltaics and financing from investors like Google. And this worries the big power companies, particularly two of the country’s largest, Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison.

[READ MORE]

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Renewable energy firms, fans urges state to reverse course

Tom Content's article for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provides an informative summary of the events and motivations leading up the outpouring of comments submitted to the PSC on behalf of Wisconsin businesses in the wind and solar industry. Comments from RENEW, local solar installers and utility customers emphasize the negative economic repercussions that Wisconsin will experience if this decision is finalized.
By Tom Content
Supporters of renewable energy are weighing in urging the state Public Service Commission to reverse course and rethink a decision that suspended incentives for business and homeowners to install solar power systems. 
The state Focus on Energy program announced last month that it would suspend the granting of renewable incentives for the second time in three years. 
Program administrators cited a recent ruling by the PSC that gives preference to renewable energy projects that use biomass or biogas, which are more cost-effective than wind and solar projects. The PSC's decision ties funding of any solar projects to biomass projects, which take longer to develop. Because of the longer lead times, solar funding will stop while more biomass projects get closer to being built, according to Focus. 
The PSC was initially considering a final decision on the matter this week but that decision is now expected later this month. Instead, the agency asked for public comments, and the response was significant. 
Renew Wisconsin, an advocacy group, says 630 people or businesses have weighed with comments on the matter, 
“It’s really an impressive outpouring of support to continue these incentives,” said Tyler Huebner, who joined Renew Wisconsin as executive director earlier this year. “It’s clear that the PSC’s move to suspend incentives struck a nerve with the public.” 
The incentives are provided by the state Focus on Energy program, an initiative that’s overseen by the state PSC as well as the state’s utilities. Focus on Energy was created to help utility customers receive incentives to make homes and businesses more energy-efficient and install renewable energy systems. 
The PSC's rationale is to ensure ratepayers' dollars are spent wisely. Most of the Focus on Energy program's budget is allocated toward energy efficiency projects, which deliver a stronger payback than renewable energy systems. 
The move comes as utilities are also scaling back their commitment to customer-sited renewable generation. We Energies of Milwaukee in 2011 suspended a $6 million a year commitment to renewable energy, saying it was focusing its renewables spending on large projects like the state’s two biggest wind farms and a biomass power plant set to open this year in north-central Wisconsin.

[READ MORE]

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Massive Outpouring of Public Support for Continuing Incentives for Solar

 Wisconsin Residents Urge PSC to Reconsider Funding Suspension

Immediate Release -

Between August 2nd and yesterday, more than 630 individuals, businesses and organizations submitted comments urging the Public Service Commission (PSC) not to suspend Focus on Energy incentives for solar and small wind energy systems. The comments were posted following a preliminary PSC decision to suspend solar and small wind incentives for the duration of 2013.

“The overwhelming majority of Wisconsin residents favor clean energy development, and thousands of Wisconsin citizens and companies have built renewable energy systems with assistance from Focus on Energy,” said Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “Judging by the extraordinary outpouring of support for continuing incentives to solar and small wind, it’s clear that the PSC’s move to suspend incentives struck a nerve with the public.”    

At issue is the PSC’s decision in late July to base the level of funds available for solar and small wind on actual expenditures instead of obligations, which had been the standard practice with Focus on Energy’s renewable energy program since its inception in 2002.

“There is no need to let administrative formulas create an uncertain, unpredictable business environment for Wisconsin’s solar and small wind markets. There are simpler and less disruptive ways of balancing allocations among different renewable technologies, which would allow customers to continue accessing these incentives and our small renewable energy installation businesses to keep their doors open.“

“Though Focus on Energy is authorized to spend up to $10 million per year to help customers use more renewable energy, a suspension would ensure that funding in 2013 will fall well short of the target. We urge the PSC to take note of this show of support for clean energy and allow funding for solar and small wind to continue.” Huebner said. 

Update: RENEW Wisconsin was contacted by the Focus on Energy Rewards Program to notify RENEW that as of Wednesday, August 14, 2013, the PSC has not issued the final order. The Residential Rewards Program will continue to process new reservation applications for Solar Thermal and Solar Photovoltaic until the order has been issued OR funds have been exhausted. 
 

-END-

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.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

Wisconsin environmentalists slam PSC over ending clean energy grants for 2013: There is still time to add your voice!

With comments from RENEW's executive director Tyler Huebner, Mike Ivey's article for the Capitol Times dissects the Public Service Commission's decision to suspend Focus on Energy incentives for wind and solar. According to quoted Focus on Energy officials, the incentive program is looking to the PSC for direction, direction that Wisconsin residents must work to steer toward investment in the state's once growing wind and solar industry. You have the opportunity to voice your concern over the PSC's decision until 12pm today. Please add your voice to the 500+ comments that have already been submitted to the PSC.

Efforts to develop the solar and wind energy industry in Wisconsin have taken another hit, although not a completely unexpected one. 
Under orders from the Public Service Commission, the state has stopped offering grants to help homeowners and rural residents install solar or small scale wind projects. 
The move stems from a previous PSC decision to shift renewable energy incentives offered through the Focus on Energy program to biofuel projects.  
The Focus program is overseen by the PSC in conjunction with state electric utilities, who fund the effort via money collected from ratepayers. 
Up to $10 million in renewable energy funds are available annually. The commission last year voted to commit 75 percent of that funding to biofuels, with the remaining 25 percent going to solar and wind projects. 
The commission says biofuels in Wisconsin offer greater energy efficiency potential than solar or wind. 
But biofuel projects — which include burning waste wood or using manure digesters to generate electricity — have been slow to develop and won’t come close to using all the available funding this year. Focus projects it will spend $3.05 million total on renewable, with a breakdown of $1.6 million for solar and $1.4 million on biofuels. 
So to maintain a 75-25 split in renewable spending for 2013, the commission ordered a halt to the solar and wind grants through the end of this year. 
Suspension of the grants was made public last week by the environmental group Renew Wisconsin, which is urging concerned citizens to weigh in with PSC prior to its meeting on Aug 13.

[READ MORE]


Friday, August 9, 2013

More positive developments on wind turbine sound

Recently released research investigating wind turbine sound complaints in the province of Alberta Canada and infrasound and low-frequency sound levels near Australian wind farms provides a compelling argument for wind energy. Chris Long's article below highlights this research, showing that wind turbine sound complaints are uncommon unless instigated by anti-wind groups and that infrasound and low-frequency sound levels are not impacted by nearby wind farms.

By Chris Long
The last few weeks have been busy ones on wind turbine sound, with new developments continuing to cast doubt on anti-wind groups' claims.Perhaps the most telling is a new study from Canada's Pembina Institute, looking at wind farm complaints (or rather, the lack of wind farm complaints) in the province of Alberta, where some of the earliest wind farms in Canada were installed.
In a blog post about the study, Pembina's Benjamin Thibault explains, "[U]nlike some parts of the country, we don’t tend to hear much about [wind power in Alberta], so my colleagues and I wondered whether, in fact, we were just missing something."
In fact, it turned out, while the Alberta Utilities Commission, which regulates electricity in the province, has a 13-year-old database with the records of 31,000 contacts from members of the public, not one of those 31,000 contacts has been about the sound of operating wind turbines. That's a very striking finding, but it lends credence to the work of Australian Prof. Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney, who has a pending study finding that complaints about turbine sound in Australia are heavily focused on areas where anti-wind groups have been conducting public campaigns.

Pembina researchers went further to unearth evidence of complaints, Mr. Thibault says, contacting:

"- Operators of existing wind energy projects;
- Municipalities (municipal districts and counties) where operating wind energy projects are located;
- Local and provincial health authorities; and
- Municipal agricultural fieldmen."

The results?

"The operators of the wind farms did report some complaints during operations, noting eight unique complaints, most of which were resolved noise complaints (five), along with a few generalized complaints about wind energy broadly.

"Only three complaints about operating wind farms came to the seven Alberta municipalities with wind energy projects: one about ice throw that was investigated and dismissed, one about the density of wind turbines offering a terrorism opportunity, and one about noise, which was referred to the operator.

"No more complaints were found with the health contacts surveyed (two regional health inspectors covering municipal districts with over half of Alberta’s wind energy) or the livestock contacts (five agricultural fieldmen also covering the majority of the experience)."

[READ MORE]

Thursday, August 8, 2013

UPDATE: Incentives for Solar and Wind Energy Suspended Again. Thank you for standing up for renewable energy in Wisconsin!

Since last Friday over 430 individuals and local businesses have stood up to register their concern for Wisconsin solar and wind energy. 

The PSC announced that comments will be accepted through Noon on Monday, August 12th. Also, they issued a document that indicated comments are being taken on the five specific issues the PSC Commissioners decided upon. Please visit RENEW's website to learn more and add your voice by commenting in the PSC's open docket 05-GF-191 (some additional tips for your comments are below).  

On Issue #4 in your comment, please emphasize that obligations should be used rather than actual outlays to determine the amount of funding distributed for renewable energy incentives.
  • Businesses need predictability and certainty to flourish and hire more employees. The on-again, off-again history with Focus on Energy incentives undermines the ability of renewable energy companies to maintain staffing levels, let alone plan for future growth. Consistency in expectations is what nurtures a market, not a lottery style incentive structure that no one can bank on.
  • Ending these incentives for solar and wind renewables because the biogas, biomass, and geothermal projects are still in progress doesn't make any sense. Even though the accounting is difficult, it's not nearly as difficult as the impacts of lost jobs throughout Wisconsin.
  • In the last five years the price of solar energy has dropped in half, making it a more affordable and cost effective option for customers. That trend should prompt the PSC to reconsider the idea of having Groups of renewables, because market conditions have changed quickly.
  • Other states like Minnesota and Georgia have adopted pro solar policies to take advantage of this rapidly growing industry sector. How does Wisconsin gain from discouraging investment in clean energy and driving businesses to locate in other states?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Red Eye Brewing Co. Achieves Green Tier 1 Enrollment

Cathy Stepp, Secretary, Department of Natural Resources, headed a ceremony to enroll Red Eye Brewing Co. brew pub and restaurant in the Wisconsin Green Tier program at the Tier 1 level last week Wednesday at Red Eye, Washington Street, Wausau. Red Eye has the distinction of becoming the first brew pub and restaurant in Wisconsin to achieve this status and the only Green Tier 1 business in Marathon County.  Read last week's press below and Cassandra Vinch's article for WAOW to learn more.
To achieve enrollment, Red Eye had to demonstrate a satisfactory environmental record, commit to superior environmental performance and implement an Environmental Management System. Tier 1 is designed to encourage innovation, collaboration and new environmental goal setting. 
According to Brett Danke, an owner, Red Eye has since it opened in May 2008 implemented an environmental policy and practiced sustainability efforts throughout its business operation. The company’s environmental record was documented in its Green Tier application. (Red Eye Environmental Policy follows). 
According to the DNR, Green Tier Program legislation provides incentives such as regulatory flexibility and permit streamlining to environmentally responsible businesses. The law creates a program in which qualified businesses make legal commitments to superior environmental performance through contracts negotiated with the Department of Natural Resources. The businesses in exchange are allowed flexibility in how their environmental goals are achieved.
Ceremony in Shadow of Solar Panels 
Sec. Stepp will present the Green Tier 1 enrollment certificate to Danke during ceremonies to be held in the shadow of the solar voltaic panels car port in the Red Eye parking lot.  Alderperson Romey Wagner will speak on behalf of the City of Wausau. A reception and tour of Red Eye’s environmental business practices will follow. 
Applications of its environmental policy most obvious to Red Eye visitors are the solar voltaic panels car port installed in June, solar water heating panels on the roof and waterless toilets in rest rooms. A conversion to all LED lighting was recently completed. 
To reduce its carbon footprint, Red Eye purchases food ingredients locally and regionally, sends its spent brewing grains to local farmers for feed, uses recyclable containers for takeout foods, and serves beer only in glass mugs and glasses or refillable take away growlers. Excess baked goods are donated to a local food pantry.
Red Eye is located on a Metro Ride bus route. It promotes bicycle transportation by its guests. And it sponsors an adopt-a-highway cleanup effort.
-End Release

To learn more about Red Eye's environmental policy please visit their sustainability page

Friday, August 2, 2013

Focus on Energy Wind and Solar Incentives are Suspended: Please Stand up for Wisconsin's Renewable Energy Industry

Tom Content's article for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel examines the repercussions of the Public Service Commission's decision to suspend Focus on Energy incentives for solar and wind energy installations. Comments from RENEW Wisconsin are included in this article but please also see our website for key points to include in a comment to the PSC in docket 5-GF-191. By registering your concern over this chilling development you are standing up for Wisconsin jobs, 330-Wisconsin based wind and solar businesses, and clean, renewable energy.

By Tom Content 

Incentives that help homeowners install solar electric and solar hot water systems in Wisconsin are being suspended for the second time in three years. A recent decision by the state Public Service Commission means the state Focus on Energy program will stop awarding the solar incentives from mid-August through the end of the year.
Focus is an initiative that's overseen by the state PSC as well as the state's utilities. Focus on Energy was created to to help utility customers receive incentives to make homes and businesses more energy-efficient and install renewable energy systems.

"We understand that there will likely be some frustration due to any changes," Focus on Energy said in announcing the suspension. "However, the Commission's direction will help us create a clear plan for 2014. We anticipate the residential prescriptive incentives for Solar Thermal and Solar Photovoltaic to resume in January 2014."

Focus has been providing incentives of up to $1,200 for solar hot water systems and $2,400 for solar power systems.

After Aug. 13, when the PSC is expected to finalize a recent decision on the matter, Focus will no longer provide the incentives this year, said Tamara Sondgeroth, director of operations at Focus on Energy in Madison.

The stop-start approach to funding renewables is bad for small businesses that were hurt when renewable incentives were suspended two years ago, said leaders at Renew Wisconsin, a renewable energy advocacy group.

[READ MORE]




Thursday, August 1, 2013

Incentives for Solar and Wind Energy Suspended Again

PSC Delivers Another Blow to Beleaguered Renewable Energy Contractors

Immediate release -- For the second time in three years, state of Wisconsin incentives for customer-sited solar and small wind systems will be suspended, a result of recent Public Service Commission (PSC) decisions affecting Focus on Energy’s renewable energy budget . The suspension will take effect August 13, according to Focus on Energy, and will run through the remainder of the year. Incentives for biogas and biomass installations are not affected by the PSC’s decisions.

The impending cut-off of solar and wind incentives follows an across-the-board suspension of  
renewable energy incentives that lasted one year before being lifted in July 2012. Focus on Energy is authorized to spend up to $10 million per year on renewable energy incentives. 

Through May 2013, Focus on Energy had spent or obligated a total of $3,048,580 for projects  
expected to be placed in service this year. The suspension ensures that overall renewable energy awards in 2013 will fall well short of the $10 million maximum. 

In 2012, the PSC established a two-tiered funding formula that allocates renewable energy 
incentives based on resource type. So-called Group 1 resources—biogas, biomass and geothermal (ground source heat pumps)--are eligible for 75% of program expenditures up to a maximum of $7,500,000 a year. Funding for so-called Group 2 resources—solar and small wind—cannot exceed 25% of renewable energy expenditures. 

Under this structure, outlays for Group 1 resources determine the overall funding level for  
renewables, even though up to $10 million is available in a given program year.As a result of the funding suspension, no renewable energy incentives will be available to residential customers until 2014. Residential customers account for approximately 60% of Focus on Energy’s program dollars.

The following represents RENEW Wisconsin’s reaction to the suspension of incentives for solar and wind energy systems. RENEW Wisconsin’s advocacy was instrumental in creating a renewable energy component to Focus on Energy.

"First, let's not stop these incentives simply because the accounting is difficult,” said Executive  Director Tyler Huebner. “That may seem like the easiest fix for decision-makers in Madison, but this is going to cost jobs throughout Wisconsin, especially amongst the small businesses that do this work. Second, if the accounting is difficult, and we agree that it is, then let's change it. The decisions to make the accounting difficult were made by the same three Commissioners just last year, and this recent decision only adds to the complexity." 

“The disruption to solar and wind incentives will inflict measurable financial hardship on 
contractors operating here, and will result in a net contraction of sales and jobs. This decision will likely force these contractors to shift the focus of their business to other states that are doing a better job of supporting solar and wind.” 

“On several occasions before this decision, we communicated to the PSC the tenuous nature of the solar market today, and our best forecast of the likely impact from a disruption in the flow of incentives. By all appearances, the views of Wisconsin’s solar contractors were disregarded.”
 

“Yesterday, we sent a letter to the PSC asking it to reconsider this decision. This Friday, we will file comments with the PSC regarding future Focus on Energy planning, and our primary goal is to simplify the provision of incentives going forward. In our view, the current structure has proved to be an administrative nightmare, and this latest decision will worsen this already bad situation."
“Finally, we don’t believe that providing policy support for the advancement of solar energy should be a partisan issue. It certainly isn’t in Georgia, where that state’s all-Republican utility commission ordered Georgia Power to acquire nearly 800 megawatts of solar by the end of 2016, effectively tripling what the state’s largest electric utility had already committed to provide.”
“It’s time for Wisconsin regulators to see the light on solar and let it drive our state’s economy forward,” Huebner said.