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Renewable Energy: Wisconsin Urged to Follow Illinois' Lead

Wisconsin is in the middle of the pack of states when it comes to solar and renewable energy. (Airubon/iStockPhoto.com)
Wisconsin is in the middle of the pack of states when it comes to solar and renewable energy. (Airubon/iStockPhoto.com)
December 16, 2016

MADISON, Wis. - Strides are being made in the Midwest when it comes to renewable energy, but there's still lots of room for improvement.

Illinois is being praised for last month's passage of the Future Energy Jobs Bill, with some calling it the most important climate bill in state history. Attorney Brad Klein with the Environmental Law and Policy Center hopes other Midwestern states will follow the lead. He said the legislation will lead to huge growth in solar and wind technology, combat climate change, create jobs and lower utility bills.

"This legislation has programs such as community solar programs and low-income programs that are going to help people access the solar market and benefit from solar even if they can't put solar on their own rooftops," he said.

Wisconsin is home to 166 solar companies, which puts the Badger State in position to take advantage of renewable-energy opportunities. However, Wisconsin ranks 31st nationally in installed solar capacity, so there's plenty of room for growth.

According to Klein, the Midwest has been a little slow to completely embrace the renewable industry, but things are starting to pick up.

"Over the last several years," he said, "there have been tremendous technology improvements and cost improvements for solar that are really putting us right on the cusp of a real boom of the solar market in the Midwest."

Klein said the outlook for renewable energy in Wisconsin is mixed.

"They've had fairly unfriendly state policies lately from the Public Service Commission and from the governor's administration there," he said, "but the solar industry is actually moving ahead nonetheless and taking advantage of opportunities to develop solar."

While advocates of renewable energy have expressed concern over President-elect Donald Trump's likely choice of Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Klein said he believes the industry will survive politics.

More information is online at elpc.org and seia.org.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI