July 2019’s news reflects Wisconsin’s escalating engagement in a rapid transformation to clean energy. Strong opposition to We Energies’ filing for a solar surcharge on individuals and small business that have installed their own solar projects prevailed. Protest came from local government officials, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and individuals. Sierra Club and 350-Milwaukee delivered a petition and letters to We Energies. A billboard went up across the street from the utilities’ headquarters and Wisconsin Solar Coalition mobilized and held a press conference.
People of Wisconsin are involved in their local energy decision-making and showing up at the state level too. The sizable participation in hearings on large energy infrastructure decisions, like the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line, is notable (Energy On WI News, May 2019).
Wisconsin mayors across the state have signed onto support the Paris climate agreement; and, six cities and one county have adopted 100 percent clean energy resolutions (beyond the 150 that adopted a 25% renewable goal by 2025). In July, the City of La Crosse adopted a 100 percent goal city-wide and the Milwaukee City Council introduced a resolution to commit to a 100 percent clean energy future through a task force on climate and economic justice. The City of Racine is evaluating its codes, permitting and plans with SolSmart assistance to streamline solar adoption, as are 9 other Wisconsin cities.
Local investment in renewable energy projects from solar, to biogas, to clean fleets are being made. Wisconsin tribes just brought in $2 million in federal grants to install solar and storage in their move toward local resilience. Forty-two of 75 county governments have adopted PACE financing to support clean energy projects for their businesses.
Also, in July and through to the fall, the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum, which supports free-markets for renewable energy, is continuing their tour of renewable energy projects to educate and engage state and local officials.
While Wisconsin public utilities are retaining ownership approaches of renewable generation through rent-a-roof programs, renewable energy riders (RER), and limited net metering, which restrict faster free-market progress toward a clean energy economy, they are making large investments in decarbonizing their power and partnering with municipalities. MGE’s first RER with Middleton and the Middleton-Cross Plains School District for 1.5 MW of a 5 MW community solar garden, will be followed by an RER with Dane County for an 8 MW solar project, both on local government airport land. Xcel just sold out its last 1 MW of 3 community solar gardens to Ashland area residents and businesses. Alliant is working to site a 1MW solar garden in Fond du Lac. On a large scale, We Energies and MGE just filed to invest $195 million into 150 MW of solar from the Badger Hollow solar development.
It is clear that the transition to a clean, low carbon energy economy is happening in Wisconsin and, that there is growing robust public engagement in how that happens and the pace to success.