October 2019 Director’s Note

October was marked with significant progress toward the clean energy transition in Wisconsin and globally. In Wisconsin, the major advancement was Alliant Energy’s announcement to build 1,000 megawatts (1 gigawatt) of solar energy in Wisconsin by 2023. This is ten times the current amount of energy in Wisconsin from solar and twice the amount of all large scale solar projects in Wisconsin’s queue for the next two years. More than one-third of Madison Gas & Electric’s owned capacity will be generated from solar in Wisconsin in the next three years from an estimated 12 percent currently as the company adds 34 MW within their service territory by 2020 and another 150 MW in the state.

These Wisconsin solar developments are helping to boost rural economies and provide much needed revenue to municipalities and counties. Additionally, they provide savings from the cost of buying power. For example, the Solar Shares project in Middleton is expected to save the Middleton Cross Plains school district and the City of Middleton more than $1 million each over the 30-year life of the project.

Coal-fired power still provides about half of Wisconsin’s electricity, while coal now produces less than one quarter of US electricity. The transition to clean energy will improve public health and reduce related health care costs as well.  This is especially the case in the Upper Midwest, which would gain the most health benefits from less coal and more renewables, according to a recent study by Harvard University’s School of Public Health.

Globally, the International Energy Agency forecasts 50 percent growth in total renewable-based power between 2019 – 2024, from 26 percent of global power generation in 2019 to 30 percent in 2024. Almost two-thirds of that growth is from solar PV installations. Distributed PV from commercial and industrial sectors will account for three-quarters of the distributed growth through 2024 due to cost decreases of 15-35 percent.

Also, globally, the green energy transition is happening faster than predicted due to massive investments in new battery technologies and applications, according to a study by Rocky Mountain Institute. The cost of battery manufacturing capacity is expected drop more than half in 5 years. Already, this is contributing to cancellation of planned natural-gas power generation.

Sherrie Gruder