Energy News Without the Spin

August 2019
Clean Energy Jobs – Wisconsin 100% Carbon-free Executive Order – Utility-Scale Solar – Wind – Cardinal-Hickory Transmission Line – Stranded Costs - Corporate Renewable Energy - Cities for Solar -
Five-Minute City

Labor Day is a good time to recognize the near quarter million jobs in the solar industry. In support of those jobs, a five-year extension of the 30 percent Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) was introduced at the end of July by both parties as the Renewable Energy Extension Act (HR 3961) and (S 2289).

First enacted in 2006 and extended in 2015, there has been 52 percent average annual solar growth since the ITC.  According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), this incentive has fueled $140 billion in investment with a 10,000 percent increase in solar capacity that resulted in almost 250,000 new jobs. Without the extension, the credit for residential solar will decrease in 2020 and 2021 and zero out in 2022, while the commercial incentive would drop to 10 percent in 2022.

Another challenge to the growth in solar jobs are the President’s trade tariffs. They accounted for a loss of 10,000 solar jobs in 2017 and another 8,000 in 2018, as reported in the National Solar Jobs Census.   In addition to solar panels, tariffs effect inverters, AC modules, steal, and non-lithium ion batteries. Yet, in Q1 of 2019, the biggest gain in solar capacity was realized even with the solar tariffs, according to the  Solar Market Insight Reports by SEIA and Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. This was due largely to utility scale installations.

Now that Wisconsin’s Governor has set in place a framework to move the state to carbon-free electricity and grow local jobs, federal incentives and trade policy can help support that growth in the clean energy economy or not. Wisconsin utilities are poised to build more than 450 MW of utility-scale solar in the next 2 years that will bring new jobs to the state. It is time to accelerate growth of a Wisconsin trained clean energy workforce.

Sherrie Gruder
Governor’s Executive Order Creates Path to 100% Carbon-free Electricity by 2050
Governor Evers signed an Executive Order (EO #38) creating the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy in the Department of Administration. The Office will work toward the goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity statewide by 2050 in partnership with other state agencies and utilities.  Originally, the goal was part of the Governor’s budget but was taken out by the joint finance committee.

The EO supports a clean energy economy to create thousands of family-supporting jobs, support Wisconsin’s agriculture industry, improve health and help mitigate climate change.
The EO includes:
  • Creating the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy that will be headed by Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes 
  • Fulfilling the carbon reduction goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord
  • Developing and implementing a clean energy plan through a stakeholder engagement process
  • Promoting clean energy workforce training
  • Fostering business development in energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainability
  • Developing energy efficiency and renewable energy standards for new and existing state buildings
Governor’s Press Releaseutilitydive

PSC Approves Cardinal Hickory Creek Transmission Line
The nearly $500 million Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line is southwestern Wisconsin was approved by all three commissioners of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. Their decision was based on improving access to wind energy from the west, reliability, and savings to ratepayers. This project was highly controversial, with large turnouts for the public hearings  (see Energy On WI, May, 2019).
Wisconsin’s share of the cost of the project, a joint venture between the American Transmission Company (ATC), ITC Midwest, and Dairyland Power Cooperative, is $67 million. WSJ

Settlement would limit We Energies rate increase to 1.3% in 2020
A settlement between WEC Energy Group and two major customer groups would limit We Energies’ overall electric rate increase to 1.3% in 2020 with no additional rate increase in 2021. The utility’s original request to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin would have increased electric rates 2.9% in 2020 and another 2.9% in 2021. Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group first notified the PSC of the settlement with Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group on Friday [August 27]…

The deal also seeks to address the remaining roughly $400 million in costs for the Pleasant Prairie Power Plant the utility shut down in 2018… The agreement calls for We Energies to securitize $100 million of those costs through a form of bonding at an interest rate well below 10%.
“This is a big step for this utility to include securitization,” said Tom Content, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board. Content said dealing with the stranded costs of older coal-powered plants is one of the more important issues as the utility works to shift toward more renewable energy sources…

PACE Wisconsin Remains a Commercial Financing Program
A bill being circulated in the Wisconsin legislature about property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing would not impact the commercial PACE Wisconsin program adopted by 42 Wisconsin counties and that is governed under uniform standards by a PACE Commission that has been delegated authority to assess special charges and administer PACE financing.  Currently, Wisconsin Statute 66.0627(8), (the “PACE Statute”) allows counties and municipalities to make PACE financing available only for the commercial sector or residential properties with five or more units. The intent of the bill by Representative Allen and Senator Strobel is to preempt issues that have arisen in other states related to PACE financing for residential projects.

PACE Wisconsin is a financing program that enables businesses to make energy efficiency and water saving upgrades and to add renewable energy via low-cost, upfront financing with private lenders that covers 100 percent of project costs. View Wisconsin PACE projects.

Curbs on Methane, Potent Greenhouse Gas, to Be Relaxed in U.S.
The Trump administration laid out on Thursday [August 29] a far-reaching plan to cut back on the regulation of methane emissions, a major contributor to climate change.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule aims to eliminate federal requirements that oil and gas companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from wells, pipelines and storage facilities. It would also reopen the question of whether the E.P.A. had the legal authority to regulate methane as a pollutant.

The rollback plan is particularly notable because major energy companies have, in fact, spoken out against it — joining automakerselectric utilities and other industrial giants that have opposed other administration initiatives to dismantle climate-change and environmental rules…
Local Stories
Historic Church Goes Solar
An historic church with a new addition, Redeemer Lutheran Church in Milwaukee is completing the structural engineering to add rooftop solar PV. The more than 60 panels will produce over half the annual energy use of the church and reduce their electric bill by approximately 54 percent. To be completed in October by Sunbadger Solar, this church is acting in the interests of future generations in their belief to be a caretaker of the planet.

Marathon County Wind Farm in Early Stages
Landowners in southwest Marathon county signed agreements to install large-scale wind turbines as early as 2021 with EDP Renewables North America, a Portuguese renewable energy company with North American headquarters in Houston. EDP has not released their plans or the number of participating landowners, but the project is expected to include 17-27 wind turbines. This will be EDP’s second project in Wisconsin after the 98 MW Quilt Block Wind Farm in Lafayette County.

The project was initially brought to the Marathon County Infrastructure Committee due to concerns about the weight of the turbines and current road agreements.  Agreements with the county, and towns of Eau Pleine and Brighton have yet to be made. Additionally, Marathon county plans to schedule a Towns Association meeting so people can get more information and ask questions about the project. Wausau Daily Herald

Chemical catalysis pioneer James Dumesic wins international energy prize
Prolific biofuels researcher James Dumesic has been named the winner of the 2019 Eni Energy Transition Award.
The internationally renowned Eni Awards were established in 2007 to recognize excellence in energy and environmental research. The Energy Transition Award honors recent research and technological innovation that promote the transition toward low-carbon energy systems. Dumesic, a chemical engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, was selected for his pioneering work on novel catalytic processes for converting plant material into advanced fuels, biodegradable plastics, and other renewable chemicals…
Solar Abounds in Bayfield Wisconsin
On a summer trip to Bayfield, the landscape was painted with solar on businesses. Highland Valley Farm, Bayfield Ferry Building, Gone Solar sign at rural craft store with a ground-mount PV system, and North Wind Organic Farm with a powered by the sun truck were a few.
Photos courtesy of Sherrie Gruder
Energy Projects
Wisconsin’s First Utility-Scale Solar Development Broke Ground in Manitowoc County
The 150 MW Two Creeks Solar Park in the Town of Two Creeks and the City of Two Rivers broke ground on August 30 with the Governor, Wisconsin Pub Service (WPS) and Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) at the ceremony. WPS will own 100MW and MGE 50 MW of power from the 800-acre solar park developed by NextEra Energy Resources, owner of the Point Beach Nuclear Plant nearby.  The solar project, which will produce the amount of electricity to power approximately 33,000 homes, should be completed by the end of 2020. ironmountaindailynews

We Energies and MGE Invest in Second 150 MW of Badger Hollow Solar Farm
We Energies, a unit of WEC Energy Group, and Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) filed a shared application with the Public Service Commissions (PSC) to obtain the second 150 MW of the 300 MW Badger Hollow Solar Farm in Iowa County. Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), also a unit of WEC Energy Group, and MGE were granted ownership of the first 150 MW in May (see EnergyOnWi news, April 2019 and February 2019). WEC Energy Group will own 200 MW in total and MGE will own 100 MW of Badger Hollow. The first phase is scheduled to begin generating electricity by the end of 2020 and the second phase, pending PSC approval, in 2021. Sun Prairie StarPower-Eng

Ashland’s Community Solar Garden is Making Electricity
The installation of Xcel Energy’s 1 MW solar garden in Ashland in complete. It could support the electric use of 225 average homes. As reported in Energy On WI news in July, this is the third 1 MW solar garden fully subscribed for Xcel’s Solar*Connect Community Solar Program in western Wisconsin. Xcel is working to be coal-free by 2030 and to provide all its customers with carbon-free electricity by 2050. WDIO
BENF: Corporate renewable energy purchases likely to set new record in 2019
This year is on track to be another record-setter for corporate renewables purchases, and while the U.S. is still the engine driving the market’s growth, China is now on the horizon.

So far in 2019, companies have signed deals for 8.6 gigawatts of clean energy globally, according to the latest numbers from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That outpaces last year when, at this time, companies had signed agreements for 7.2 gigawatts of wind and solar. Corporations purchased over 13 gigawatts in total last year.

The U.S. made up the majority of last year’s deals, accounting for 8.5 gigawatts of the global total. That trend holds this year, with companies in the U.S. signing up for nearly 6 gigawatts, or 70 percent of deals worldwide...

Of the various types of corporate deals, virtual power purchase agreements remain the default choice for many customers,...


IEEFA update: Renewables outpace coal for entire second quarter

First it was one month, with renewables topping coal generation in the U.S. for the month of April. Now it has been a whole quarter. Data in the Energy Information Administration’s Electric Power Monthly, released Monday, show that renewable generation (which includes wind, solar, hydro, biomass and georthermal) outpaced coal for the entire second quarter of 2019—another first for the U.S...
Shining Cities 2019: The Top US Cities for Solar Energy

Over the past six years, solar energy capacity more than doubled in 45 of America’s 57 largest cities, according to a new study released today [July 31, 2019] by Environment America Research & Policy Center. The report, Shining Cities 2019: The Top US Cities for Solar Energy, is the sixth annual edition of the most comprehensive survey of installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in major U.S. cities.

...One third of the cities surveyed in all of the report’s editions more than quadrupled their installed solar PV capacity over that period...

The difference between cities leading on solar energy and those that are lagging is effective public policy – at the state and local level,” said Abigail Bradford, report co-author and policy analyst at Frontier Group. “A dozen cities in our report have made commitments to use 100 percent renewable energy and many more have programs and policies that encourage residents to install solar panels.”
Tesla Offers Solar Panel Rentals
Tesla now offers customers in six states the opportunity to rent solar panels with no long-term contracts or installation fees. Customers who live in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Mexico and use a participating utility company, can choose a small system, 3.8 kW at $50/month, a medium system, 7.6 kW at $100/month, or a large system, 11.4 kW at $150/month. The monthly fee covers the cost of panels, other hardware, installation, support, and maintenance. 

While customers may increase or decrease their system size or cancel the rental at any time, a $1,500 removal fee will be charged for downsizing or cancelation and roof restoration. Contracts can be transferred, if a customer sells their home. Inhabitat, Tesla

Special Report: The Electric Car Comes of Age
Electric vehicles are becoming more visible on American roads, thanks to new manufacturer investment, batteries that are more technologically advanced and less expensive, and a higher consumer comfort level. This year, five automakers have introduced EVs that can deliver more than 200 miles of range. By the end of 2020, automakers plan to introduce eight more...

...American car shoppers can now find EVs across a range of prices and automakers.

Half of New 4 GW of Generation in MISO in 2019 Renewables, Half Natural Gas
The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) that delivers power across 15 states (including Wisconsin) and Manitoba, released a report in late August about 2019 energy generation. According to S&P Global analysis, “About half of the 4,000 MW [4 GW] of generation planned to come online in MISO’s service territory this year is from renewables, mostly wind power. 

In all, natural gas-fired generation makes up about 2,051 MW of what is slated to come online in 2019 in MISO, while 1,930 MW is to be renewable - 1,536 MW of wind, 325 MW of solar and 70 MW of hydropower.” Wisconsin has 30 MW of natural gas under construction.
The 1.5 GW of wind capacity under construction in MISO includes approximately 600 MW in Iowa, 504 MW in Indiana, 202 MW in Illinois, and 150 MW in Minnesota. S&P Global
Copenhagen - The "Five-Minute City" to Carbon Neutrality
The city of Copenhagen’s goal is to become the first carbon-neutral capital of the world by 2025. Already, it has cut emissions 42 percent. One key strategy is to become the “five-minute city” through urban planning and by improving transportation to the point that it takes only five minutes to walk from home to shops, schools and public transit. It will become easier to walk, bike, or take public transit than a car. They are striving to become one of the most bike-friendly cities as well.
Copenhagen’s energy, now at 158 MW wind, is planned to be at 460 MW by 2025.They have a waste-to-energy plant, and in the interim, a wood pellet plant. They are piloting geothermal energy and improving the energy efficiency of their existing building stock and designing new buildings to be energy efficient. FastCompany
Photos of the Month 
UW - Madison Extension Professional Development Training
Clean energy projects in Dane County included in a professional development course tour by UW-Madison Extension, Advancing Clean Energy In Wisconsin on August 19, 2019. Photos include presenters: John Welch, Dane County’s renewable natural gas (RNG) facility; Dave Toso, MGE’s Middleton Shared Solar system;  Sean Hyland, American Family SPARK Building; Prof. Ken Walz, Madison College’s 1.86 MW solar array. See link above for tour site descriptions.
Photos courtesy of Page Bazan, UW-Madison Energy Analysis and Policy program
NEW Focus RECIP Grants Coming September 13
Focus on Energy will post the RFP for the Renewable Energy Competitive Incentive Program (RECIP) on September 13th. Proposals will be due on October 15.
For more information

NEW Seeking Nonprofits & Schools for Solar Grant
As part of the Wisconsin Solar Corps initiative, MREA is looking to advance 10 high-impact/high-visibility solar installations on schools and non-profit organizations assisting underserved populations. Learn more about the program.
CRITERIA FOR CONSIDERATION • Must be 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization or school • Must be located within Eau Claire, City of Milwaukee, or Central Wisconsin (Wood, Portage, Marathon, or Lincoln counties) • Must serve low income or underrepresented groups • Site must be suitable for solar • Commitment must made by Oct 15, 2019 with solar installation completed by July 30, 2020

To submit your organization email:

Focus Incentive: Grain dryer tune-up
Starting August 1 through December 31, farm and agribusiness customers can earn a $150 incentive after completing a grain dryer tune-up with Focus on Energy.

For more information and to apply: Focus on Energy

Focus Incentive: Modulating dryer controls 
Beginning August 1 through December 31, business customers can receive an incentive for installing modulating gas dryer controls on commercial laundry equipment in their facilities. Incentives range from $50/dryer to $350/dryer based on capacity. For a table of incentives and the application for funding, visit Focus Business Programs website on or after August 1. 

For more information and to apply: Focus on Energy

Focus on Energy Appliance Recycling Incentive 
Wisconsinites can receive a $20 incentive check along with free pick-up through Focus on Energy to recycle a working standard size refrigerator or freezer (10-30 cubic feet). This applies to residential customers whose electric utility participates in Focus on Energy. Participants can recycle up to two appliances per year per household. 

For more information and to register: Focus on Energy

Focus Incentive Doubled for Rural Residents
New in 2019, Focus on Energy has doubled the incentive for rural homeowners to up to $4,000 toward solar PV installations. The Rural Residential Solar Renewable incentive is additional funding, up to $2,000 with a maximum total incentive cap at $4,000, or 12 percent of the project costs, for residential solar installations in eligible ZIP codes across Wisconsin. No additional application needed aside from the standard solar application.
Total Rural Residential Solar Renewable Budget: $140,000
Direct questions to

REAP Grants for Rural Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency
USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase or install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. Eligible applicants include agricultural producers with at least 50 percent of gross income coming from agricultural operations and small businesses in eligible rural areas.
For more information or to apply for a REAP grant
Direct questions to your State Rural Development Energy Coordinator.

BCPL Funds School Clean Energy Projects Again
The Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL) makes loan funds available to Wisconsin School Districts for school energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The Board recognizes the economic materiality of climate change and potential impacts of climate change on investments. BCPL manages $1.2 billion in State Trust Funds that benefit K-12 public schools and the University of Wisconsin. Press release
Applications found here
For more information about the funding opportunity
Direct questions to the BCPL Loan Officer.
The Inevitable Solar School: Building the Sustainable Schools of the Future, Today by Mark Hanson,  Director of Sustainable Design Services at Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction, August 2019. The purpose of the book is to encourage public and private schools to build zero energy solar schools. The book describes the two major forces that are driving public and private schools and other buildings to solar energy. These forces are the recognition of climate change and the cost advantage of on-site solar energy. Either force would be sufficient reason on its own to change the school market, but in combination they become indominable.

How Cities Are Paying for Climate Resilience: Playbook 1.0
The experiences of eight and other US cities that have begun to pay for large-scale climate-resilience projects, mostly to address sea level rise and flooding, amount to an initial approach—Playbook 1.0—for deciding who will pay for what and how city governments will generate the needed revenue. The Playbook contains eight distinct strategies. It is the foundation of an emerging financial capacity that cities are building in response to climate change.

Energy-Plus-Health Playbook was created primarily to support program administrators designing or developing energy efficiency programs. The 84-page Playbook outlines three program tiers with increasing levels of health and energy integration. Written and developed by Vermont Energy Investment Coporation (VEIC), with input from energy and health experts, funding for the Playbook was provided by E4TheFuture.

Renewables 2019 Global Status Report
This report on the global status of solar in 2019 from REN21, an alliance of governments, NGOs, industry groups and more, highlights the current status of the global solar and clean energy market. The report contains eight big ideas: a global overview, policy landscape, market and industry trends, distributed renewables for energy access, investment flows, energy systems integration and enabling technologies, energy efficiency, and renewable energy in cities. It points out that while renewables are surpassing fossil fuels in the power sector, energy systems need to be rapidly electrified and integrated everywhere. This will require policy support at all levels. Additionally, renewables have the largest growing job market along with economic and environmental improvement potential. 
Training Catalog 2019 

Focus on Energy: 2019 Training Session Calendar

ENERGY STAR Webinar: Ask the Expert
September 4, 2019

ENERGY STAR Webinar: How to Apply for the ENERGY STAR
September 5, 2019

Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum
September 5, 2019

E4Thefuture Webinar: Using the Energy-Plus-Health Playbook
September 9, 2019

ENERGY STAR Webinar: Portfolio Manager 101, 201, 301
September 11-24, 2019

Unison Solutions Webinar: Optimizing Biogas Treatment Systems - Improved O&M and RNG Production
September 11, 2019

ENERGY STAR Webinar: Discovering Energy Savings with Treasure Hunts
September 12, 2019

Institute for Sustainable Communities Webinar: Equity in Smart Mobility
September 12, 2019

Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum
September 12, 2019

Renew Wisconsin: Ride With RENEW Bike Tour
September 14, 2019
Appleton, WI

MREA: PV Installation Workshop
September 16-19, 2019
Luck, WI 
NABCEP Approved

ENERGY STAR Webinar: Managing Electricity Demand, Costs, and Resiliency with Onsite Battery Storage in the Industrial Sector
September 17, 2019

DOE webinar: How 2 Midwest hospitals are partnering with DOE to beat energy reduction goals
September 17, 2019

ENERGY STAR Webinar: Ask the Expert
September 18, 2019

ENERGY STAR Webinar: Saving Water in Restrooms with WaterSense
September 25, 2019

EPA Webinar: The Ins and Outs of On-Bill Financing
September 25, 2019

WI Sustainable Business Council: The Business Case for Renewable Energy
September 30, 2019
Madison, WI

MREA: Wisconsin Solar Tour
October 5, 2019

MREA: Fall PV Week
October 7-11, 2019
Custer, WI

AWEA Wind Energy Finance & Investment Conference
October 10-11, 2019
New York, NY

EUCI: Advanced Battery Storage
October 23 - 24, 2019
Denver, CO

EUCI: Safety in Battery Storage
October 25, 2019
Denver, CO

GREENBUILD: International Conference and Expo
November 19 - 22, 2019
Atlanta, GA
Sherrie Gruder, LEED APBD+C  
UW-Madison Extension
Sustainable Design Specialist
Energy Program Manager
(608) 262-0398

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