Renewable Energy RPS Law Passed in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed Senate Bill 459, the Energy Efficiency and Renewables Act, representing a sweeping overhaul of Wisconsin’s energy policy, and laying the groundwork for accelerated use of the state’s domestic renewable energy sources.

The legislation includes a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), requiring utilities to produce 10 percent of all their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2015, reforming the Public Benefits program, requiring more energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources by state government, and updating building codes to include higher energy-efficiency standards. The legislation is based on the recommendations by Governor Jim Doyle’s Task Force on Energy Efficiency and Renewables. Governor Doyle created the Task Force in 2003 with representatives from all corners of the energy community including customer groups, utilities, environmentalists, businesses and labor. “Groups that many times oppose each other on energy policy came together to develop a consensus on these recommendations,” Governor Doyle said. “And the result was a bipartisan, balanced policy that not only makes sense for our energy future — it makes sense for our environment and our economy.” The Energy Efficiency and Renewables Act focuses on three areas: increasing the use of renewable energy in Wisconsin, promoting the development of renewable energy technologies, and strengthening the state’s energy efficiency programs to maximize their benefit. Currently Wisconsin imports all of the fossil fuels it uses to generate electricity. Senate Bill 459 requires that by 2015, ten percent of the state’s electricity be generated from renewable sources. This is enough to supply the needs of 850,000 homes each year, and avoid more than 5.5 million tons of greenhouse gases by 2015. Additionally, by 2011, the state will leverage its buying power to purchase 20 percent of the energy for the six largest state agencies from renewable sources. The new law also requires the state to update building codes to include higher energy efficiency standards, and create special energy standards for state building projects and purchases. Senate Bill 459 also encourages the development of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, jump-starting new industries and creating jobs in Wisconsin. The bill requires the state to pursue additional funding for the research and development of agricultural digesters, and it also calls for a pilot program to test the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of burning leftover corn plants to heat residential space. Finally, Senate Bill 459 strengthens the state’s energy efficiency programs and positions Wisconsin as a national leader in spending on energy efficiency efforts. The law requires Wisconsin utilities to directly support energy efficiency programs, ensuring that $85 million a year is spent to promote energy efficiency. SB 459 also increases funding to local governments for energy efficiency projects, which will provide relief to property taxpayers. “This bill takes an important step forward in moving us toward energy independence by encouraging the use of the energy resources we have right here in Wisconsin,” Governor Doyle said. “This will keep more of our energy dollars in our local economies instead of purchasing fuels from outside the state. And investing in new renewable energy technologies will create more good jobs right here in Wisconsin.” Following enactment of SB 459 by the Governor, the process will move into the next phase, in which the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin will be tasked with crafting rules and regulations to support the new law.
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