For solar energy in Wisconsin, the last 24 months have been nothing short of electrifying. After the best-year-ever in 2015 led by installations on businesses and homes, 2016 started with a jolt when La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative committed to 14 large projects scattered across the full length of western Wisconsin. About half of these projects will be fully operational by the end of February, and the remainder before July. Projects by Alliant Energy, Bayfield Electric Cooperative and Madison Gas & Electric delivered the next pulse of sun-generated power. Their installations span the state from Iron River near Lake Superior in the north to Beloit by the Illinois border in the south. Large arrays placed on 16 Wisconsin stores owned by national retailer Target also contributed to the ongoing surge of solar generation.
A plan floated by Minnesota lawmakers to exempt rural electric cooperatives from virtually all regulatory oversight would allow these utilities to restrict development of local solar power, even where their member-owners support renewable energy. Legislation introduced last month and working its way through the state’s House (HF234) and Senate (SF141) would put co-op boards themselves, rather than the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), in charge of resolving customer disputes over rates and other policies. Disguised as “local control,” the measure undermines the objective role of the Commission as a mediator between cooperatives and their members. Co-ops provide electricity across greater Minnesota, and have in recent years come under fire as sharp opponents of distributed solar generation. Customer have complained about outsize fees for having rooftop solar – sometimes masked as other charges, like for a new meter.
As dozens of states consider adopting fees and less-favorable rates to tilt the scales against net metering, advocates say a proposal in Indiana would offer rooftop solar customers the worst deal in the country. Senate Bill 309, authored by Republican Sen. Brandt Hershman, would end net metering by 2027 at the latest, and earlier than that for new panel installations by customers of utilities that hit caps on net metering capacity. The new rules would require customers to buy all the electricity they consume from the utility at a retail rate while selling everything they generate to the utility at a lower wholesale rate. If the bill passes, Indiana would be the only state in the country with a “buy all, sell all” model that doesn’t credit customers at the full retail rate for the energy they consume from their own solar panels, said Autumn Proudlove, senior policy analyst at the NC Clean Energy Tech Center, which tracks net metering rules around the country. “I don’t think that I’ve seen any other models proposed that would be less financially favorable to solar customers since most of them allow the customers to at least self-consume energy from the system,” she said.
Indiana coal advocates hope President-elect Donald Trump’s anti-regulation stance will bring a competitive boost to their beleaguered industry. But the state’s utilities have shown they’ll continue moving away from coal, driven by the low price of natural gas and the costs of meeting pollution regulations that won’t be easy to roll back.
This morning, the sun rose all across the United States of America, as it has every day since Election Day. We are no doubt a changed nation. The coming days and weeks will begin to show the depths and direction of that change. But today, the sun is generating power – clean, cost-effective power, thanks to solar PV projects on rooftops and fields in communities across America. The economics of solar and energy efficiency remain as strong today as they did before Election Day.
A recent analysis of the 2022-2025 national fuel-economy standards has us shaking our heads.
Whether purchasing a Tesla is in their future or not, consumers should have the option to make that choice based on their values, needs, and budget, unencumbered by government interference.
Ever notice how sometimes you can stare at a puzzle for a long time and never notice the obvious piece that puts everything in perspective? Well, that’s been happening with all the arguments about the value of consumer generated electricity, and especially rooftop solar.
While the United States of America is the most powerful nation in the world, many of our young men and women in uniform will argue that we are still not free of control by a distant ruler. The modern oppressor we face today is oil.
To usher in a new era of local, clean and equitable energy, supporting solar needs to be a national priority and the Midwest is well positioned to take the lead.