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Wisconsin Energy Sources: “Too Many Eggs In One Basket”

PHOTO: Wisconsin is still too dependent on burning coal for electricity, according to the state's largest environmental group, which says at least there's progress being made on more renewable resources. (Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Watch)
PHOTO: Wisconsin is still too dependent on burning coal for electricity, according to the state's largest environmental group, which says at least there's progress being made on more renewable resources. (Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Watch)
June 18, 2014

MADISON, Wis. - There is mixed news regarding Wisconsin's future energy priorities, according to an official of the state's largest environmental organization.

The good news is that the state's utilities have hit their renewable-energy target two years ahead of schedule, said Keith Reopelle, senior policy director for Clean Wisconsin. That puts the state in a good position to achieve proposed new carbon-emission standards, he said.

"That proposal will need a number of responses from the state," he said, "but renewable energy will be an important part of it and the fact that our utilities have met their renewable-energy requirements two years early means that they're well-poised to develop more renewable resources."

The bad news, Reopelle said, is that Wisconsin is too dependent on burning coal for electricity.

"Right now we have too many eggs in one basket and that basket is coal, and we're so heavily dependent on coal that we're really vulnerable to price increases," he said. "The cost of coal - particularly its transportation, getting coal to the state - has really gone up dramatically."

Reopelle said the state spends more than $12 billion a year importing fossil fuels from outside Wisconsin. He said renewable-energy sources help keep that money where it will be better spent generating jobs for Wisconsinites.

Wisconsin's Renewable Portfolio Standard was implemented in 2005 with a goal of 10 percent generation from renewable sources by the state's utility companies by 2015. The latest figures show 10.17 percent coming from renewable resources.

"Northern States Power is actually up to 16 percent of their electricity coming from renewable resources, Wisconsin Public Power is up to 14 percent, I believe it is, and Dairyland Power is also in that ball park," Reopelle said. "We've got a number of utilities that have gone beyond and that's very helpful."

While that is encouraging, Reopelle said, Wisconsin's Renewable Portfolio Standard of 10 percent is the lowest of the 29 states nationwide which have such standards.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI