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Committee Chairs Propose Wisconsin Feed-in Tariff Legislation

Article by: Paul Gipe


In a potentially groundbreaking development in the Midwest, the committee chairs of both the House and Senate of Wisconsin’s state legislature have proposed a comprehensive package of climate change legislation. Included in the massive overhaul of the state’s energy policy is legislation creating a system of feed-in tariffs.

The proposal incorporates the recommendations of Governor Jim Doyle’s task force on global warming in mid 2008.

Observers of Wisconsin’s legislature note that when the chairs of both the House and Senate’s committees on utilities and natural resources introduce the same legislation, the bill is likely to pass “in some form” and be signed by Governor Doyle this coming session.

Legislation calling for feed-in tariffs is also expected to be introduced in the coming legislative sessions in Minnesota, Michigan, and Indiana. However, in no other Midwestern state is the political alignment for feed-in tariffs as favorable as that in Wisconsin where the same party controls both the House and Senate and the Governor is likely to sign the legislation.

Of interest are proposed changes to Wisconsin’s Renewable Portfolio Standard that requires 10% of the state’s generation come from in-state renewables. According to RENEW Wisconsin’s Michael Vickerman, this requirement is equivalent to 7 TWh per year.

For a sense of scale, 7 TWh per year would require the installation of 7,000 MW of solar PV or 3,500 MW of wind generating capacity under Wisconsin conditions. In comparison, the target for California’s much maligned solar initiative is only 3,000 MW of solar PV.

Below are some of the key design features included in the proposed legislation, though much of the detailed program design is assigned to the Public Service Commission.

  • Includes most renewables
  • Tariffs differentiated by technology
  • Tariffs based on cost of generation plus a “reasonable rate of return”
  • Tariffs may be further differentiated by project size
  • Tariffs to include state or federal subsidies
  • Project size caps
  • Periodic review

However, several utilities, such as rural co-ops, are exempted from provisions of the legislation and utilities may continue to use their existing feed-in tariff programs if they are “consistent with the purposes of these provisions”.

Several Wisconsin utilities have extremely limited feed-in tariffs that have been largely ineffectual.

LRB-3883/1 Status

Description of Legislation