Written By: Nathan Vine
STEVENS POINT — Wisconsin utility companies would be required to have 30 percent of the power they provide to customers come from renewable energy by 2030 under a bill state Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, unveiled Wednesday.
The legislation, called The Wisconsin Renewable Energy Act, would replace the current requirement of 10 percent renewable energy by 2015, and would gradually increase from 20 percent in 2020 to 30 percent in 2030. The measure also included provisions such as requiring utilities to establish a system of advanced renewable tariffs, which are set prices for renewable energy generation such as wind and solar.
Shankland said recent polling shows 84 percent of Wisconsin’s residents support increasing the state standard to 30 percent, and the state spends about $12 billion annually with out-of-state companies to meet its energy demands. Shankland said having a higher renewable energy goal will reduce the amount the state will spend on that fuel, and encourage investments in renewable energy in the state which will create jobs.
“Wisconsin was a leader in renewable energy policy, and we have the opportunity to do that again, which will result in local job growth and economic development,” Shankland said.
John Baldus, director of laboratory services for the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, said the state needs to reduce the amount it pays for out-of-state energy. He also said support of companies and products focused on renewable energy will position the state for economic growth going forward.
“Every dollar we invest in local renewable energy helps us build towards a more sustainable future,” Baldus said.
Shankland, who announced the bill Wednesday with state Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, and state Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said it has yet to be introduced in the Legislature. She said she didn’t have a timetable for when it would be sent to the Legislature.
“I think there needs to be a lot of conversation across the aisle, which I am committed to. What we’re trying to do by announcing the bill is begin the discussion about the issue,” Shankland said.
Business groups — including Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the Wisconsin Paper Council and Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group — came out against the legislation Wednesday, saying it would drive up costs for utility customers.