Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission (PSC) is transferring $7.7 million in funds for renewable energy loans to rebates for its solar rebate programs for homes, businesses and non-profits. The rebates will offer enough rebates to benefit over 500 residential home installations between 2017 and 2018. The PSC made the shift because the rebates proved more successful than its loan programs over a two-year period. The commission also freed up $25 million leftover from previous years to be distributed to its renewable energy incentive programs in 2017.
“Continuing the highly successful renewable energy rebates for 2017 and 2018 is a great win,” said Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin, which is working with the PSC on the programs. “This level of renewable energy rebate funding should support upwards of 500 solar electric home installations, 70 or more home geothermal installations, and dozens of larger business renewable energy projects for each of the next two years. The program will help our residents save money and our companies stay cost-competitive.”
RENEW Wisconsin will provide PSC with recommendations on how funding should be allocated to residential and business customers. A focus on incentive levels for solar installation will draw significant consideration due to recent drops in costs of solar equipment and emerging energy system integration. PSC will also investigate spending $10-$20 million to develop biogas programs within the farming and dairy industries. By creating an interagency evaluation of biogas production through anaerobic digesters, PCS seeks to expand the benefits of this technology in studying its environmental and economic impact on large-scale and rural farms.
“We applaud the commission freeing up millions of dollars of ratepayers’ money from previous years to be put into programs now that will enable energy and dollar savings for customers across Wisconsin,” added Huber.
The reallocation of investments into renewable energy technology, particularly solar, has been contentious in the state of Wisconsin since 2014. With the support of outspoken advocate of solar development, former Green Bay Packers player turned broadcaster, Mark Tauscher has used his local hero status to confront privately owned utilities throughout the state that proposed to raise the fixed charge on customers who install solar arrays on their homes and businesses. He argued that it would stifle freedom of energy choice for the consumer, ignore future energy grid diversification and restrict economic growth.
Tauscher’s and others’ actions, including RENEW Wisconsin, have had an impact. For instance, Judge Peter Anderson struck down rate increases purposed by We Energy to raise monthly fees to customers that installed solar arrays in 2015. His decision had wider implications in that it set precedent for similar cases in other states, like Hawaii, where utilities have attempted to push against competition from rooftop solar without presenting evidence justifying rate increases.Tweet