November 2019 Director’s Note

There have been no slow clean energy news months in 2019. With the holidays upon us, renewable projects are being completed and planned, state and federal energy policy is being made and challenged, and businesses, local and state governments, and utilities are adopting and undertaking increasingly rigorous clean energy and climate goals and programs.

Three hundred kW of local government solar PV projects were completed in Wisconsin November in Iowa and Bayfield Counties alone. An energy efficiency project completed for the City of Waterloo by e3 Lighting included installation of $91,000 of LED lighting fixtures indoors and out, with a $50,000 PSC grant offset, that will save the City 120,600 kWh per year.  Meanwhile, the City of Beaver Dam signed an innovative Memorandum of Understanding with Bluestem Energy Solutions to develop 625 kW of solar PV at two city facilities in 2020. The City is aggressively working to meet their ambitious 25 percent by 2020 Energy Independence goal adopted in 2017.

A survey of Energy Independent Communities released December 9 by UW-Madison Extension and the Office of Energy Innovation will gauge the activity of Wisconsin communities and tribes statewide toward their 25 percent local renewable energy goal by 2025 for government operations. Results will be key to shape outreach programs and funding going forward, and should help inform the Wisconsin Governor’s Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy and the Climate Task Force as they create a plan to achieve 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050.

Costs of solar continue to plummet worldwide, escalating solar development and coal plant closings. India cancelled building 14 GW of coal-fired power plants due to cheaper solar power; while, Australia generated over half of its electricity from solar and wind for the first time in November.

In the US, unfortunately, tariffs imposed on imported solar modules are costing the U.S. more than $10.5 million per day in unrealized economic activity  and will lead to the loss of 62,000 US jobs and $19 billion in new private sector investment by 2021 (SEIA). There would be additional impacts were it not for an international court ruling that just stopped the reversal by the administration of an exclusion to the tariff for double-sided panels (Bloomberg). In Wisconsin, local governments, tribes and schools await the court verdict on their use of the free-market through third-party financing as a means to afford the installation of solar PV projects.

Yet, even the US Chamber of Commerce just made a strong commitment to take on the challenge of climate change.  The Chamber asserted the importance of leveraging the free-market economy and the power of business and US leadership in climate science, technology, and innovation to protect our national security and support a healthier society for today and tomorrow. Their Path Forward to combat the magnitude of the climate challenge requires citizens, government, and business to work together to use less energy and make the energy we do use cleaner.

Sherrie Gruder