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Monday, March 24, 2014

Bipartisan Clean Energy Choice Bill Introduced

Legislation would allow more customer options for renewable energy


On Friday, Representatives Gary Tauchen (R-6, Bonduel) and Chris Taylor (D-76, Madison) introduced a Clean Energy Choice bill that would allow Wisconsin farms, businesses, and citizens additional financing options for sourcing renewable energy produced on their property.

The bipartisan legislation would clear up a “gray area” of Wisconsin’s public utility law, which is stifling customer efforts to access renewable energy. If adopted, the law would affirm the property rights of homeowners, farmers, businesses, and local governments to use renewable energy produced on their own property, no matter how the project is financed.

In over 23 states, renewable energy developers can install, own and operate a renewable energy system, such as a farm biodigester or a solar power system, and sell the output to the host customer. These arrangements have proven tremendously popular in those 23 states, with over $3.4 billion invested into renewable energy through these arrangements in 2013. However, very little of this investment flows to Wisconsin because of the lack of clarity in current law.

“The present situation is like walking into an automobile dealership and being told, ‘You must own the car you drive, you’re not allowed to lease it’. This is a big barrier for many customers. We are advancing Clean Energy Choice to provide common sense financing solutions for important projects that put the power in consumer hands,” said RENEW Wisconsin’s Michael Vickerman.

“This policy also helps customers lock in a fixed electricity rate from these systems today and insulate themselves from increasing electric rates,” said Vickerman. “In particular, these financial arrangements benefit school districts, local governments, houses of worship, farmers, food processors, and retailers.”

Nationally, Kohl’s Department Stores and Wal-Mart are using developer arrangements to power more than 365 of their stores with solar power, at a cost savings to the companies.

A recent national poll conducted by Zogby Analytics found that 69% of homeowners want more choices when it comes to their own energy and electricity supply. “Consistent with that finding, this bill would empower citizens to chart their own energy future. We applaud Representatives Tauchen and Taylor for reaching across the partisan divide to launch the public discussion on a policy that will prove critical for Wisconsin’s energy future,” Vickerman said.

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