January 2018 Director’s Note

Global 100% Renewable Energy is a transformative initiative for a renewable energy future for power, heating/cooling and transportation widely adopted globally in 2017 ISES. In the US, more than 50 cities committed to 100% renewable energy goals (including Madison, WI) and are taking control of their energy choices UtilityDiveSierraclub. Five are already powered by 100% renewable electricity.

In 2017, utility-scale solar made grid-connected solar electricity market-competitive with other forms of energy, without subsidies, reaching US Department of Energy’s SunShot program 2020 goal early. Residential and commercial sectors are on target to meet their SunShot goals by 2020.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) report with data through September, 2017 showed renewable energy (hydro, geothermal, solar, biomass, wind) rose by 14.7% over Q1-3, 2016. Fossil fuel based electrical generation dropped by 5.4% while electricity generated from solar (utility and small scale PV and solar thermal) rose by 43.2% to outpace biomass and provide almost four times the combined electric output of fossil fuel sources. Wind generation grew by 11.5% and accounts for 6% of the 10% non-hydro electrical generation.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics published a report in October that found that the two fastest growing occupations in the US are wind turbine mechanic and PV solar installer reflecting the shift to clean energy.

In Wisconsin in 2017, a new 98 MW wind farm in Lafayette County was completed bringing $23 million to farms hosting the turbines and hundreds of thousands of dollars to the local township and county governments.

Wisconsin now has 85 MW of solar generating capacity up from 45 MW in 2016 (RENEW WI). Just two of the planned utility scale solar farms will increase WI solar generation by another 450 MW. Solar installations increased across sectors and types in 2017 with more community solar gardens (see photo below), and solar projects by local governments, schools, faith-based communities, residents and businesses.  Organic Valley Launched its Community Solar Partnership that will generate over 12 MW of solar in WI. The first net-zero-electricity subdivision in New Berlin broke ground by Neumann Developments and Tim O’Brian Homes. Solar Group Buy programs doubled over 2016 to 152 individual systems generating almost 1 MW of distributed solar (see EOW News Nov). In 2018, the Chequamegon Bay Solar Group buy alone is on a path to exceed the 2017 milestone.

PACE Wisconsin grew in 2018 to 27 counties from 11 in early 2017, and to nine lenders that will provide $100 million in financing. The first commercial project began accessing $1.5 million in PACE financing. EOW NewsPACE Wisconsin

In 2018, planning for grid modernization will be the big initiative. PSCW currently is gathering input from utilities and stakeholders. It’s not only that our grid is aging, but that the grid we have today is not the grid we need. Rather than building an improved version of the current grid, there is an opportunity to optimize electric power generation, distribution and use. Already, there is a move to smart integration of distributed renewables, energy storage, advanced controls and sensors, demand response programs, and microgrids. The grid of the future will include utility and consumer-owned renewable generation with large energy storage.

Finally, how the advanced energy market will fare in 2018 will not be left to market forces alone but impacted by federal and state policies. There have been several federal funding deadlines in January 2018 already (see solar tariffs below) and more to come with the expiration of funding for the federal government, repeal of the Clean Power Plan ACEEE, changes to the Energy Star program, funding US DOE, the expected infrastructure bill, etc. How the tax reductions will impact advanced energy markets will be noteworthy too.

Sherrie Gruder