Wisconsin unveils its first clean energy plan

Rows of wind turbines at sunset (Courtesy Jenny Hager Photography).

Officials from Wisconsin have released the state’s first ever clean energy plan. It is claimed to put Wisconsin on the path towards achieving the Paris Agreement carbon reduction goals and reaching 100% carbon-free electricity in 2050.

The plan includes a variety of recommendations, such as the implementation of an integrated resources plan, clean energy standard, or consideration of a market for carbon. Significant pieces of the plan, however, would need to be considered and passed into law by the Republican-controlled state legislature.

Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat said that “bold, urgent solutions” are required to address the climate crisis. He stated that Wisconsin’s Clean Energy Plan would accomplish this while also creating new jobs and clean energy opportunities.

The Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy in Wisconsin identified four areas that would help achieve the state’s goal. These include: accelerating clean energy deployment, maximising energy efficiency, modernizing buildings and industry, and supporting the transition to low-to no-emission vehicles.

Wisconsin claimed it is attempting reduce dependence on out-of state energy resources and protect itself against volatile oil and gas prices influenced geopolitically, such as Russia’s invasion Ukraine.

The Center of Wisconsin Strategy found that in 2019, the state sent more than $14 billion to energy suppliers.

Source: Wisconsin Clean Energy Plan

The Wisconsin Clean Energy Plan is centered on decarbonizing power generation. Nearly a third of state’s greenhouse gas emissions were caused by power generation in 2018.

The plan recommends that greenhouse gas emissions goals, which were established in a 2019 executive orders, be updated to achieve 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050. The report recommended that net carbon emissions be reduced by 60% by 2030 from 2005 levels, and by 100% by 2050.

Source: Wisconsin Clean Energy Plan

A Wisconsin could also develop an integrated resource planning process similar to what is used in other states. This would allow Wisconsin to better understand how generation sources relate to the state’s climate goals. A clean energy standard could be added to the IRP to force increased renewable energy generation.

Interconnection, which is a headache for renewable energy developers from almost every state could also have a huge impact on meeting clean electricity goals.

Wisconsin’s interconnection standards were not updated since 2004 and are not compatible with advances in clean energy or energy storage technologies. The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin works on this issue.

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reported that the amount of new electric capacity in interconnection review queues nationally is “growing dramatically,” with more than 1,400 GW of total generation and storage capacity seeking connection to the grid.

The plan stated utilities can and should lead a collaborative process for grid modernization and distribution planning to achieve these goals.