Fresh attack on Wisconsin wind energy

Very few major new renewable energy projects would be built in Wisconsin, threatening the state’s economic development, job creation, and clean energy future, if a bill now facing action in the Wisconsin Assembly is enacted, said the American Wind Energy Association.

Those would be the practical effects if Wisconsin Assembly Bill AB-146, introduced in the Assembly on May 20, were to pass.

A recent statewide public opinion poll, conducted by St. Norbert College for Wisconsin Public Radio, found that residents of Wisconsin overwhelmingly endorsed wind power, despite recent action by the state’s legislature that has caused the developers of two wind farms to shelve their projects.

Wisconsin has a number of thriving and growing businesses in the renewable energy field, especially in the renewable energy supply chain and wind turbines component manufacturing.This bill would threaten those companies and the workers they employ in the state.

This week during a CEO panel at AWEA’s annual WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition, Steve Trenholm, Wisconsin resident and CEO of E.ON Climate and Renewables North America and chair of AWEA’s Legislative Committee, told thousands of wind industry members that the industry has tried to work with the legislature, but that, "in Wisconsin, we’re seeing onerous proposals and direction. The industry has tried to work with leadership there and has not met with much success.

"From our perspective, we’re active in other states in the Midwest for development. Investment that might be needed in their state is basically going other places. They’re getting left behind." Trenholm added, "We would welcome the chance to sit down and talk with the governor and policy leaders in Wisconsin."

The specifics of AB-146 focus on renewable energy credits, used by utilities to comply with the state Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Currently, renewable energy credits (RECs) have a four-year expiration. This encourages new renewable energy development by limiting the banking of large numbers of credits for use in future years while at the same time providing flexibility for the state to meet its renewable energy goals. Nearly all states with an RPS limit credit banking through an expiration date or some other mechanism. Without some type of limiting mechanism, utilities could bank enough credits such that they would not need to create or purchase any renewable energy in future years.

Wisconsin’s existing wind farm projects bring direct economic benefits to Wisconsin each and every day – not to mention cleaning the air residents of the state breathe. Each year, these operating wind power projects provide:

– Annual property tax payments by wind project owners of $870,000

– Annual land lease payments to property owners of $1.35 million

Wisconsin has new wind farm projects ready for development, but these wind power projects may not come to fruition if the state cannot establish a stable set of siting requirements and keep intact the RPS law. Already this year, three utility-scale wind turbines projects have been canceled or suspended due to continued regulatory uncertainty in the state. These projects would help keep electricity rates lower.