Why is A Wisconsin Program Shifting Away From Solar?

Editor’s Note: EarthTechling is proud to repost this article courtesy of Midwest Energy News. Author credit goes to Dan Haugen.

Wisconsin solar installers want to know why they’re being squeezed out of a state renewable energy incentive program.

A month after utility regulators voted to shift funding from solar to biogas projects instead, the state’s solar industry still has unanswered questions about the methods and numbers used to make the decision.

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image via Shutterstock

“From the outside looking in, it does appear that the numbers are skewed to benefit biogas,” said Jesse Michalski, a solar installer with Eland Electric in Green Bay.

Michalski and other members of a solar listserv have spent weeks discussing the theories, which range from politics to the use of outdated data.

Others say it makes sense for Wisconsin to focus on biogas, given the large potential for its dairy industry to convert manure into energy.

Incentives suspended

Focus on Energy is a utility-funded, state-managed program that’s offered renewable and efficiency incentives to Wisconsin businesses and residents since 2001.

In March 2011, Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission replaced the program’s longtime local administrators with a Louisiana firm called the Shaw Group.

Among Shaw Group’s first actions was suspending renewable incentives for businesses effective July 1, 2011. Residential incentives were suspended Dec. 31. The company said the renewable program wasn’t operating cost-effectively, and that it would announce a new set of incentives before the end of the year.

Virtually all renewable development in the state has been on hold since then, as customers wait to buy until new incentive programs become available. After months of delays and frustration, the Shaw Group said earlier this month that new incentives will be available beginning July 1.

They’ll come with some big changes, though.

Midwest Energy News, launched in 2010, is a nonprofit news site dedicated to keeping stakeholders, policymakers, and citizens informed of the important changes taking place as the Midwest shifts from fossil fuels to a clean energy system.