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Friday, November 18, 2016

PSC Nearly Doubles Monthly Fixed Charge for Alliant Electricity Customers


For Immediate Release - November 18, 2016
For More Information:  Tyler Huebner, Executive Director, 608-255-4044 ext 1


(Madison, WI).   In today’s open meeting, the Public Service Commission sharply hiked the monthly “fixed charge” that Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin Power & Light residential electricity customers will face by 95%, from $7.67 per month up to $15 per month.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin building in Madison.
The “fixed charge” is the base fee which all customers must pay each month, no matter how much energy they use.  Overall, Alliant’s residential customers will see their monthly electricity bills increase by 4-5%.

By contrast, the fixed charge that Alliant’s Iowa customers must pay every month remains at $10.50.

“Increasing the fixed charge will raise bills for customers that use smaller amounts of electricity monthly, such as seniors, apartment-dwellers, and energy-conscious customers including those who have installed solar panels,” said Tyler Huebner, RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director.

RENEW Wisconsin and a broad set of stakeholders have opposed hikes in fixed charges since 2014,
when these requests first appeared.

“Wisconsin electricity customers now pay dramatically higher fixed charges than their counterparts in other states,” said Tyler Huebner, RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director.  Our testimony documented that the vast majority of state agencies nationally are either rejecting these fixed charge hikes outright, or granting much smaller increases, and only in Wisconsin are these fees being nearly doubled.”

As documented by RENEW in testimony, the increase in fixed charges granted to U.S. investor-owned utilities since 2014 has averaged about 14%.  But for the five investor-owned utilities in Wisconsin, the average fixed charge increase has been 83%.

-END-

RENEW Wisconsin leads and accelerates the transformation to Wisconsin’s renewable energy future through advocacy, education, and collaboration. More information on RENEW’s web site at www.renewwisconsin.org.

RENEW Wisconsin Statement on Governor Walker’s Biodigester Announcement

For immediate release                    
November 18, 2016                  

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

Governor Scott Walker at Heritage Farm in Kewaunee,
with RENEW's Tyler Huebner in the background.
Yesterday, RENEW Wisconsin was in the audience as Governor Scott Walker announced the State of Wisconsin’s intention to invest in biodigesters that will turn dairy manure into renewable energy while assisting with improvements in water quality.

Governor Walker announced that the Public Service Commission, Department of Natural Resources, and Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection are working together to deliver a Request for Proposals in January 2017.  The request for proposals will allow private firms to submit bids to meet the goals and specifications set out by the agencies.

A major goal of the initiative is to aid with water quality problems in environmentally sensitive areas of the state, and the announcement was made in Kewaunee, one of those regions.  Governor Walker indicated that this initiative is one of a series of steps, and not in and of itself the only solution, needed to aid water quality in Kewaunee County.

Wisconsin is the national leader in deploying biodigesters, also known as anaerobic digesters, on farms.  We have 34 farms with digesters in Wisconsin.  These systems turn cow manure into solids, liquids, and methane, which is an energy resource that is the primary component of what we commonly call “natural gas.”

In many of the digesters on farms in Wisconsin today, the methane is cleaned and passed through a generator to create electricity, which is sold to the local power company.  Most of these digesters are located right on the premises of the dairy farms.

The system envisioned by the Governor’s announcement, according to a recent interim order from the Public Service Commission, might collect manure from farms of all sizes, and process it in a centralized biodigester.  Instead of using the methane to create electricity, it could be further cleaned and then injected into the natural gas delivery system.  Natural gas is used to heat homes and businesses as well as power industrial processes.  (The PSC’s interim order can be found here, see pages 9 thru 11).

“Biodigesters present a win-win-win for renewable energy, the environment, and farmers.  These systems are the ultimate recycle and reuse operation,” said Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “Moreover, Wisconsin is blessed with companies that know how to design, engineer, build, and operate these systems such as Chilton-based DVO, Inc., BIOFerm Energy Systems of Madison, Miron Construction of Neenah, Symbiont of West Allis, and Clean Fuel Partners of Madison.”

Digesters process manure in a way that can enable water quality improvement technologies to be added onto the system. Dane County has been investing in these systems over the past half-decade to accomplish similar water quality improvement goals, and their recently passed County Budget includes $18 million to inject methane collected at the landfill into the natural gas pipeline system, similar to what the state may be envisioning.

“Digesters can provide a lot of benefits when they are designed, engineered, and operated with proven technologies and by companies that have delivered solutions that work.  Leadership, collaboration, and transparency will be needed throughout the process to ensure the project’s success. The State’s leadership and funding commitment is a solid next step to bringing more digesters online in Wisconsin,” concluded Huebner.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Dairyland’s Network of Solar Arrays to Expand Further

Anticipating the completion of a dozen solar projects in Wisconsin, La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative signed contracts this month to add three more arrays to its generation portfolio. With these three arrays Dairyland now has more 20 MW of solar generation under contract, almost all of it located in the Badger State (see table below). These arrays will produce emission-free power for Dairyland’s 25 member distribution cooperatives and 17 municipal utilities.

Chicago-based SoCore Energy will build and
own the three new arrays. Two of the three arrays will be located in Wisconsin, and the third will go up in northeast Iowa. SoCore is also the developer of 11 of the initial 12 arrays announced by Dairyland in February.

All 15 arrays are located in the service territories of Dairyland’s member distribution cooperatives. In conjunction with Dairyland’s utility-scale arrays, many of the host cooperatives are adding their own panels to these installations, to serve customers who subscribe to their shared solar programs.

The environmental benefits from these arrays will go beyond clean energy. Every project site will be revegetated with native plants to create bee and butterfly habitat. When revegetation is complete, SoCore will seek certification of its projects as “pollinator gardens.”

One of the projects under construction, St. Croix Electric Cooperative’s Sunflower II array in Roberts, provided the backdrop for a solar media day on Monday, November 14th. RENEW's Michael Vickerman took part in the open house, providing RENEW's perspective on the rapid growth of solar generation throughout Wisconsin. The Sunflower II project is about 30 miles east of St. Paul, Minn., and 55 miles west of Eau Claire, Wis.






















Of the 45-50 MW of Wisconsin-based solar generating capacity likely to be operational by April 2017, Dairyland’s projects will account for nearly 40% of that total. As of today, the only multimegawatt array producing power under contract to a Wisconsin electric provider is the 2.25 MW installation in Rock County owned by Hanwha Q CELLS USA, which supplies electricity to Wisconsin Power & Light.

For more information on Dairyland’s newest solar projects, see: http://www.dairylandpower.com/dcontent/article/DPCannouncesadditionalsolarcontracts.pdf

As a reminder, Barbara Nick, CEO of Dairyland Power Cooperative, will speak at our 2017 Energy Policy Summit, Clean Energy Goes Mainstream, on January 19, 2017. Learn more and register today!