Emissions, Wind

Energy efficiency backers in Wisconsin seek more stable funding

21 May 2004 – Supporters of renewable energy and energy efficiency on Wednesday called for Congress and the state to create more stable funding for such programmes.

More stable funding would allow expansion of the wind power industry to continue, they said, noting that wind power has become dramatically more competitive in recent years.

A tax credit pending before the US House of Representatives shouldn’t be viewed as “a crutch for the wind industry, but as a playing-field leveler,” said Jeff Anthony, manager of renewable energy strategy at Milwaukee-based We Energies.

Federal laws and tax policies already grant incentives for development of oil, coal and nuclear power, he said. The key difference facing the emerging wind industry, he said, is the “stop-and-start” nature of the incentive, which must be renewed every other year.

Anthony spoke at a conference sponsored by Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful, a non-profit environmental education group. The conference was held just weeks before an energy task force created last fall by Gov. Jim Doyle will unveil its initial policy recommendations.

Among other things, the task force is considering whether to increase the amount of renewable power that each utility should be required to generate under state law. Current law requires utilities to generate 2.2 per cent of all electric sales from renewable sources by 2011, but Doyle last year asked utilities to voluntarily commit to expanding that to ten per cent.

We Energies has proposed to have five per cent of its sales generated by renewable electricity by 2011. It proposed last year to build three wind farms in Dodge and Fond du Lac counties that would generate 212 MW of electricity – a commitment four times greater than all the wind power generated in the state today.

Advocates of energy efficiency want help from the state after Doyle and the Legislature diverted $48m of energy efficiency funds collected through a charge on ratepayers’ bills to help balance the current state budget.

The prospect of building $3.7bn in new power plants and spending $1bn in transmission lines in the next several years already has customers concerned about rising electric rates, and Wisconsin losing its competitive posture relative to other states, said Susan Stratton, executive director of the Energy Center of Wisconsin.