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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

RENEW Wisconsin Applauds Dairyland Power Cooperative’s Solar Energy Leadership

More information
Tyler Huebner, Executive Director
608-575-2201 (cell)
tyler.huebner@renewwisconsin.org

RENEW Wisconsin Applauds Dairyland Power Cooperative’s Solar Energy Leadership

Overhead shot of Eau Claire Energy Cooperative's
2015 865 kW Community Solar Project in Fall Creek, WI

Madison, WI – Feb. 24, 2016

Today, Dairyland Power Cooperative announced that it is contracting to build 12 solar projects throughout western Wisconsin which will provide 15.5 megawatts of solar power capacity.

The projects will provide enough energy to power over 2,500 homes, according to Dairyland Power.

“We congratulate Dairyland Power Cooperative’s leadership in advancing solar energy in the State of Wisconsin,” said Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin.

“Wisconsin is coming off its best year ever for solar power, with 7.5 megawatts installed in 2015, three times more than any prior year.  Dairyland’s announcement ensures that 2016 will surpass that and become Wisconsin’s biggest year ever for solar.  In fact, it’s quite possible that the amount of solar generation coming online in 2016 alone may double the 25 megawatts already in place when the year began,” added Huebner.
Map from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Other utility solar projects previously announced expected to come online in 2016 include:

- Alliant Energy & Hanwha Q Cells USA – 2.25 megawatts in the Town of Beloit

- Xcel Energy – 3.5 megawatts near Chippewa Valley Airport

- Xcel Energy – 2 megawatts of community solar projects in western Wisconsin

The Xcel Energy community solar projects were also announced Wednesday, and will be the largest community solar arrays in Wisconsin.  Madison Gas & Electric has also filed with the Public Service Commission to build a 0.5 megawatt project.

“We also applaud Xcel Energy’s announcement to continue the momentum of community solar arrays in Western Wisconsin. With the cost of solar projects down 60% in the past six years, utilities, businesses, and average citizens alike are taking advantage of affordable and clean solar power,” added Huebner.

Media coverage of the announcements:

- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

- La Crosse Tribune

Thursday, February 11, 2016

RENEW Wisconsin Comments on AB 804

On Tuesday, February 10th, 2016, RENEW Wisconsin gave the below comments on AB 804, a bill that proposes to cut $7 million from the Focus on Energy program.


Comments of RENEW Wisconsin

To Joint Finance Committee

AB 804 – Public Service Commission Reform Bill

February 10, 2016, 10 AM Hearing


My name is Tyler Huebner, and I am the Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin.  RENEW Wisconsin is a membership-based organization that represents over 400 individuals and over 50 businesses in the renewable energy industry in Wisconsin.

Thank you for the opportunity to appear today. My comments today are confined to the Focus on Energy funding portion of this bill.

1. The Focus on Energy Program has historically been, and continues to be, an unqualified success for the state of Wisconsin’s citizens, businesses, and economy. 

The latest evaluation report shows that in 2014, $3.33 in energy-related benefits were provided for every $1 invested in the program.  These annual evaluations are conducted by an independent company.

When economic benefits such as job creation and dollar flows through the Wisconsin economy are included, the program returns double that:  over $6.60 per dollar invested in the Focus on Energy Program.

2.  Wisconsin’s electricity rates are now THE HIGHEST in the Midwest, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.  Businesses and homeowners need programs like Focus on Energy to be able to control their energy bills.

Our electricity rates have increased steadily in Wisconsin over the past 15 years.  From 2000 to 2012, Wisconsin’s average electricity rate increases were the third highest in the whole country – an increase of 80%. 
There is very little that the average Wisconsin citizen or business can do to reverse that trend.

Therefore, having voluntary options for reducing energy bills are critical in this time of continuously rising electric rates.   This is true for homeowners trying to manage their monthly budgets, and even more critical for our businesses who are competing in the marketplace.As one example, Letterhead Press, Inc., is a specialty printing company based in New Berlin. Recently  Letterhead Press used the Focus on Energy program incentives for solar PV to install a large solar installation at their printing facility that would create about 25% of their electricity needs.  The major driving philosophical reason for pursuing this project was, by their calculations, that their electric rates had increased 75% since the year 2000. 

Feeling as though those continuously increasing rates were challenging their global competitiveness, the company started investigating ways they could lock in lower electric rates. They landed on a solar PV installation, which the Focus on Energy program incentives enabled to get the payback down to a level where this business was willing to invest in the project, as compared to other Return-on-Investments the company could make in its business investments.

As rates continue to increase, it is voluntary programs like Focus on Energy that enable businesses who are striving to be competitive  to stay competitive, and residents to continue to have energy and dollar saving options to afford the basic benefit of electricity.

3. Investing in Focus on Energy SAVES all ratepayers by delaying expenses for large power plants

Although all customers pay into the program, in reality all customers benefit far beyond what they pay in.  Without Focus on Energy, Wisconsin utilities would need to make larger investments in power plants that will ultimately cost all ratepayers more.

Conclusion:

The Focus on Energy program is an unqualified success for Wisconsin’s energy policy and utility customers.

We urge you to find a solution that does not reduce the funding and effectiveness of the Focus on Energy program, specifically to amend this bill so that the $7 million is not cut out of the Focus on Energy budget.

Sincerely,

Tyler Huebner
Executive Director

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wisconsin Solar Industry Employs Over 1,900

Immediate release
February 10, 2016

More information
Tyler Huebner, Executive Director
608.255.4044 x 1
tyler.huebner@renewwisconsin.org

Wisconsin Solar Industry Employs Over 1,900

Today, The Solar Foundation released the state-by-state results of its annual “Solar Jobs Census.”

Wisconsin’s solar industry employs 1,941 workers according to the Census, across installation, manufacturing, sales and distribution, project development, and related sector employment.  That places Wisconsin 26th nationally for the number of solar jobs in the state, and 27th nationally in solar jobs per capita.

The full state-by-state report can be found at http://solarstates.org/, where there is a national map and each state’s data can be accessed.

Milwaukee, Waukesha, and Dane Counties are the three counties with the largest number of solar jobs.  Installation jobs account for over half of the total in Wisconsin.

Nationally, the industry grew again at a 20% clip to over 208,000 workers. The report shows there are now three times as many solar workers nationally as coal workers.

“Solar energy is a job-creation engine,” said Tyler Huebner, RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director.  “While Wisconsin’s solar industry employment is holding steady, nationally, the solar industry grew by 20% for the third straight year. In Wisconsin we are not fully harnessing solar energy’s job creation and economic development opportunities to move Wisconsin forward."

"Wisconsin’s economy will benefit from improved rules and regulations to unlock solar energy’s true potential – rules like better net metering policies, clarifying third-party ownership (solar leasing), and interconnection policies that govern how simple it is for a home or business to connect solar to the local utility grid,” said Huebner.

The Solar Foundation report shows that Wisconsin gets a “D” grade for both net metering – a policy that determines how a customer is credited for extra energy they produce and put on the local electric grid - and interconnection policies.

Selected images from the Wisconsin page of http://solarstates.org appear below:



Registration Now Open for Coulee Region Solar Energy Seminar

Registration is now open for a Coulee Region solar energy seminar at Western Technical College (WTC) on March 1st. 7 Rivers Alliance, a La Crosse-based economic development organization, will host this half-day forum in partnership with WTC, Dairyland Power Cooperative, and Xcel Energy.

Targeting Coulee Region community and business leaders, the seminar will bring together energy professionals from the area to discuss best practices in developing both customer-sited solar systems as well as community-scale projects. John Farrell, director of the Economic Democracy Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Minneapolis, will be the featured speaker.

Where: Lunda Center, Western Technical College, La Crosse
When: March 1, 2016, 9:00 AM - 12:30 PM

For program and registration information, visit their website here.