November 2018 Director’s Note

The rapid transition to a green energy economy is complex and messy as utilities are having to change from their traditional models of make power – sell power while retiring and replacing their core generation infrastructure. Many of their clients are pushing to achieve high renewable energy goals rapidly as the world tries to stem rising global temperatures and their devastating impacts to life, health, safety, ecosystems, and economic stability (Fourth National Climate Assessment, Vol. II), In Wisconsin, several investor owned utilities have adopted 80 percent carbon reduction goals by 2050 and are investing heavily in renewable energy and electric vehicle charging. However, in keeping with their traditional role to own the power generation, utilities in regulated states with unclear state laws have challenged distributed energy generation (DER or customer-sited electrical generation) models in a variety of ways.
Case  in point, the City of Milwaukee was just denied interconnecting their solar project to the grid by We Energies who claims that the developer is acting as the public utility. The City has been partnering with Eagle Point Solar over the last nine months (after a public RFP process) to develop 1MW of solar on six city properties behind the meter as a co-owned project.  There are many similar solar projects across the state with a co-ownership solar service model (see Solar Energy Financing Guide ). They use Focus on Energy plus other funding as the local government and school ownership share. The Public Service Commission has not ruled on these  projects. Certainly, more clarity on this financing/ ownership approach would benefit the people of Wisconsin. However, given the unprecedented times we are in,  considering all viable options in an outcome-oriented approach to rapidly transition to an optimized clean energy portfolio that includes DER would be in everyone’s economic interest.

Sherrie Gruder