When Governor Doyle signed the state budget last Friday, he authorized transferring US$47 million from a ratepayer-funded conservation and clean energy program into general revenues, according to Renew Wisconsin. This program, called Focus on Energy, is designed to assist Wisconsin households and businesses in reducing their consumption of electricity, thereby forestalling the need for new power stations and transmission lines.Madison, Wisconsin – July 28, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] By taking US$47 million out of Focus on Energy, which would normally have a biennial budget of US$124 million, the Governor and the Legislature have effectively imposed a 38 percent tax on energy conservation, good through June 30, 2005, said the organization. Of that total, US$27 million was proposed in the Governor’s budge, which the legislature then raised it by US$20 million. The cut amounts to 28 percent for the current fiscal year, rising to 48 percent in FY 05, said the Renew Wisconsin, which fears the cuts will have striking impacts to clean energy projects in the state. “Make no mistake, these cuts will inflict significant and possibly lasting damage to what has been a very successful economic development program,” said Renew Executive Director Michael Vickerman. “If our energy policy is likened to a three-legged stool, then what Wisconsin’s political leaders have accomplished with this budget is to saw the conservation leg in half. The result is a dangerously unbalanced energy policy that favors building coal plants before saving energy, and squanders long-term economic development in exchange for short-term budgetary relief.” Renew said recent evaluations document that Focus on Energy returns US$5.70 in combined energy, environmental and economic benefits for every US$1 spent. Thus a 38 percent cut over the next two years will result in a far larger reduction in economic activity than just the amount of funding that will be siphoned off into less productive activities, said the organization. “The conclusions that Focus on Energy’s business partners and allies are likely to draw from this experience is that Wisconsin is not ready to welcome clean energy development,” Vickerman said. “And they would be right. They can point to other states facing projected deficits, like New Jersey and New York, that refrained from dipping into their segregated clean energy funds to balance their budgets.” The organization said that Focus on Energy is the only program in the state that can improve system reliability while saving ratepayers millions of dollars in avoided infrastructure upgrades. The organization said this recent cut flies in the face of the state’s energy priority law, which expressly favors energy efficiency and renewable energy for meeting future energy needs. “With this action, Wisconsin’s political leadership has forfeited the right to say: ‘We’re doing everything we can to help people save on their energy bills and promote renewable power.’ It simply isn’t true any more.