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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Keynotes and Theme Set for January Renewable Energy Policy Summit

Event to Spotlight Mainstreaming of Clean Energy

Immediate release                    
December 20, 2016

More information
Tyler Huebner, Executive Director
608.255.4044 x 1

RENEW Wisconsin will host its sixth annual Renewable Energy Policy Summit on Thursday, January 19th, 2017, at Monona Terrace in Madison. The theme of the event, "Clean Energy Goes Mainstream," will highlight the significant expansion of renewable power underway in Wisconsin, both at the customer and utility level.

This one-day event will feature two keynote speakers.

- Barbara Nick, CEO of La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative, which has entered into contracts to supply its member co-ops with renewable electricity from a large wind power project in Lafayette County and 14 solar arrays across western Wisconsin. Barb will explain why Dairyland decided to accelerate its own clean energy transition and how its new sources of solar and wind energy will benefit its member cooperatives.

- Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar, which is working to make solar power the go-to energy resource in all 50 states. As the afternoon keynote, Adam will highlight solar’s dramatic expansion in recent years, including its impact on the national economy and on local economies throughout the United States. He will also discuss the critical role that state policy will play in maintaining solar’s momentum.

Ms. Nick will kick off the summit program with her keynote address, followed by a panel session discussing the driving forces behind the clean energy transition and its broadening appeal among homeowners, businesses, and policymakers.

After lunch, RENEW will recognize the most noteworthy clean energy installations launched or energized this year in Wisconsin, as well as the individuals, organizations, and communities that made them happen.

Adam Browning will launch the afternoon program with his keynote, followed by an industry panel session examining the factors propelling the clean energy expansion, and identifying the mix of policies and practices for sustaining that expansion.

The program will feature networking opportunities with exhibitors and attendees, as well as a social hour following the close of the formal program.

RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director Tyler Huebner says, “We chose this year’s theme to highlight the acceleration of clean energy across corporate America, utilities, and everyday homeowners.  Solar energy is poised to continue its growth in Wisconsin, while wind power and biogas appear on the verge of making comebacks.  All these resources are cost-effective today, and can provide significant value to Wisconsin if deployed more aggressively.”

Summit registration is open and over 150 individuals have already signed up.  Rates are $120 for Members of RENEW Wisconsin, $150 for non-members, $90 for government and non-profit employees, and $35 for students. Membership with RENEW starts at $35 for individuals and $200 for businesses and organizations.

For more information on the 2017 program agenda, speakers, and registration, please visit our website.  

An impressive list of corporate and organizational sponsors has already signed on to support the event, which are showcased on the final page.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Businesses Lead the Way on Solar at Wisconsin Sustainable Business Conference

By Katherine Klausing, Engagement Manager

Wisconsin’s businesses are leading the way on solar, and they’re encouraging their colleagues do the same. That was the message last week in Onalaska, as RENEW Wisconsin’s Tyler Huebner convened a panel at the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Conference.

RENEW Wisconsin brought together executives from Gundersen Health System of La Crosse, Reynolds Transfer of Madison, and Phillips Medisize of Phillips to talk about how investing in solar energy has helped their companies save money and meet their sustainability goals.

Gundersen Health Systems' Sparta Clinic
Photo credit: Gundersen Health Systems.
Gundersen Health Systems’ Alan Eber explained that his company is able to save significant costs by building its clinics to use about half as much energy as a typical healthcare facility. “We take the architecture guidelines of 2030 and apply them today,” said Eber, explaining how this results in much lower costs over the life of its buildings. “For us, it’s all about reducing waste.” Gundersen has invested in a 100kW solar array on top of its new clinic in Sparta. To meet its full commitment to energy independence, the company will also buy the output from 220kW of Xcel Energy's shared solar array under development. Gundersen Health Systems has been recognized as RENEW Wisconsin’s Energy-Independence Enterprise of the Year.

Reynolds Transfer and Storage's solar
array. Photo credit: SunPeak.
Ben Reynolds of Madison-based Reynolds Transfer and Storage also shared his positive solar experience with the crowd. Reynolds, a sixth-generation member of the family-owned business, led the procurement and installation of 48kW of solar on the company’s two warehouse facilities in Madison. Reynolds estimates that the solar array will save them about $7,500 every year, not including the money the company has saved by converting some of its power load from gas to electricity and timed its use to capitalize on the solar panels’ production. Read more about Reynolds Transfer and Storage’s solar project here.

Jonathan Roberts of SoCore Energy shows off Dairyland
Power Cooperative's latest solar array, located near New Richmond.
 Photo credit: SoCore Energy.
Dan Andersen of Phillips Medisize explained that his company took a different approach. The medical device manufacturer’s leaders looked into installing solar on-site, but decided they liked the ease and simplicity of investing in a shared solar array. So Phillips Medisize will buy a portion of its power every month from two new community solar arrays built in New Richmond and Eau Claire.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Content kicked off the session by sharing new national polling showing the vast and diverse support that renewable energy garners nationwide. Polling conducted by Public Opinion Strategies immediately following the November elections found that 76% of Americans support installing more solar energy.

The fact that solar energy is so popular should be of interest to businesses considering solar, pointed out RENEW’s Huebner. “Businesses that invest in solar and renewables are on the correct side of the citizens and therefore customers, suppliers, and employees.”

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Statewide Funding for Renewable Energy Incentives Increased to $8.6 million

Today, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin finalized decisions related to Focus on Energy’s renewable energy program for 2017 and 2018.

Overall Funding: The first item to note is that the total funding for renewable energy incentives is now $8.6 million over the 2017-18 two-year period.  This is up from $7.7 million decided in their previous meeting of October 20th, and reflects an additional $900,000 from unspent funds remaining in the now-terminated Renewable Energy Loan Fund.

Funding by Program:  The Commission decided to fund programs at the following levels, largely agreeing with recommendations RENEW Wisconsin put forth in late October. Business customers will be able to take advantage of Prescriptive Incentives, which offer pre-determined levels of funding for eligible technologies like solar PV and geothermal projects, as well as the Renewable Energy Competitive Incentive Program (RECIP), which accepts competitive proposals and awards grants for larger projects.

Based on RENEW Wisconsin’s understanding of the Commission’s discussion today, we estimate the budgets accordingly.

Note that these figures may change as more information becomes available.
Incentive Level for Solar PV:  The Commission also adjusted the incentive levels and caps on project sizes for solar photovoltaic systems. The commission lowered the incentive from about 16% of the cost of an average project--$600 per kW--to 12% of the project cost, which will adjust yearly with average market prices. At this year's prices, the incentive would be $450 per kW, according to Commission Chairperson Ellen Nowak. Nowak noted that the solar incentives have been very popular and fully spent down in each year and that reducing the incentive level to match falling market prices would allow more installations to be funded.

Following recommendations from staff and RENEW, the Commission also agreed to raise the maximum eligible project size from 4kW to 8kW for business customers. Residential incentive eligibility will remain capped at 4kW.

“We applaud the Commission’s decision to continue to fund these critical projects,” said Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “These highly successful incentive programs will ensure that renewable energy thrives in Wisconsin, keeping our energy costs low and our energy jobs local.”

In addition, the Commission directed $20 million in funding to expand biogas production on dairy farms. An interagency working group will release a joint RFP for a network of interconnected anaerobic digesters, which will allow manure from dairy farms to be converted into renewable natural gas. The Commission noted the many benefits that anaerobic digesters have to offer in Wisconsin, from improving water quality, to nutrient management and local, renewable energy. RENEW Wisconsin has closely followed and supported statewide initiatives to deploy biogas technologies. For more information and our take on Governor Scott Walker’s recent announcement, visit our blog.

Finally, the Commission outlined new programs for rural customers that will align greater access to broadband with participation in Focus on Energy’s efficiency programs. The Commission announced $16 million in funding for new programs that provide broadband-connected energy efficiency devices like smart thermostats and smart power strips, $4 million for energy efficiency retrofits for broadband providers’ facilities and $6 million in additional programs for agricultural energy management, rural small business support and others.