Despite acknowledging that it will not pass, Democratic legislators introduced the Wisconsin Renewable Energy Act, which would mandate a 30 percent renewable energy production requirement for utility companies by 2030.
Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, said the proposal is a way to start the conversation of decreasing reliance on fossil fuels and ramping up focus on the generation of green energy in Wisconsin, as increases in Environmental Protection Agency pollution standards are imminent.
“As you go into election season, I think it’s important to talk about a comprehensive long-range strategy for energy policy with a robust renewable requirement,” Miller said.
Wisconsin’s current renewable energy goal for utility companies is 10 percent by 2015. The legislation that mandated this requirement was one of the first laws of its kind anywhere in the country, David Hunt, a Clean Wisconsin spokesperson, said.
However, as other states have continued to increase focus on green energy production, Wisconsin has fallen behind to 29th, Hunt said.
Several groups that represent the largest energy consumers have spoken out against the legislation, saying the bill would raise energy rates and threaten job creation.
“Wisconsin already has among the highest energy rates in the Midwest. These extremely expensive energy mandates would only serve to drive these rates even higher, thus jeopardizing our competitiveness and stifling our job creation efforts,” Jeff Landin, president of the Wisconsin Paper Council, said in a joint statement with the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group.
Tyler Huebner, Renew Wisconsin executive director, said at 30 percent renewable energy production, the state would be back among the leaders in renewable energy production.
“This bill would really get us back into being a leading state again in the development of renewable energy,” Huebner said.
According to a report by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, achieving a 25 percent renewable portfolio would cost $15 billion in capital and increase electrical prices, which the report said will deter employers from the state.
A statement from Miller said polls show 84 percent of Wisconsin residents support the bill. However, the WMC report said that when informed of the estimated price, polls show a three-to-one opposition of the mandate.
The report also said Wisconsin already has a 30 percent surplus in electrical generating capacity. Requiring more production of renewables would increase that surplus, which WMC said forces Wisconsinites to pay for something they do not need.
However, advocates of the bill say a higher renewable portfolio mandate will help spur economic growth in the state.
Hunt said Wisconsin spends $12 billion annually importing fossil fuels. With the proposed regulation, he said money will stay in the state, creating jobs through the increased demand in locally sourced renewable energies.
Clean Wisconsin and Renew Wisconsin both claim that more regulation would not necessarily cause energy prices to increase.
“There are 11 other states right now that have been increasing the amount of renewables in their electric grids and in the past five years they’ve seen their prices come down,” Hunt said, adding that there is plenty of room for innovation in the field, which will drive prices down.
A single 250-megawatt wind farm has the capacity to create 1,075 jobs over its lifespan, Hunt said.
Huebner said in the last five years, the price to produce wind energy has dropped significantly, making it a viable economic option for energy production.
“Whenever the wind is blowing, that energy always gets used first. Basically, when that wind is online, it’s free and higher cost power gets pushed out,” Huebner said.