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United States

Wisconsin mandates new renewables

Wisconsin utilities must build 50 MW of renewable energy plant within the next three years to meet the requirements of a law passed by the state legislature last month. According to the mandate, each utility in the state will be required to generate a portion of the 50 MW of new capacity.

The utilities are required to issue Requests For Proposals by the end of September and generate the power by April 2000, says Karen Jaeckels, manager of Wisconsin Electric Power's "Energy for Tomorrow" program. The Wisconsin mandate is welcomed by Randy Swisher of the American Wind Energy Association. He says it is the result of strong support from a number of environmental organisations, including RENEW Wisconsin.

"What they are doing is tying the renewables requirement to the move toward competition. It's unlikely, as they go to competitive markets, utilities will find a way of assuring they will recover costs. The state has given them the go-ahead to set up a green pricing tariff, and that makes a difference. There is public support and an express willingness to pay higher rates if that is what is required," says Swisher.

Turbines bought

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Electric in Milwaukee has announced it will install two 600 kW wind turbines by June 1999 to supply electricity to its "Energy For Tomorrow" green pricing program. With 7000 customers signed up, the program is the largest of its kind in the US, although it has been criticised by green advocacy groups for not leading to the development of new renewable energy generation (Windpower Monthly, April 1998).

Energy for Tomorrow customers are required to pay $0.005-0.02/kWh extra for renewable energy provided under the program, started two years ago. Currently, 85% of this energy is bought by Wisconsin Electric from hydroelectric sources and 15% from biomass, says Jaeckels. Until the new wind turbines come on-line, the utility has no renewable resources of its own

"The wind turbines will be another source and they will be in-state, which was important to our customers," says Wisconsin Electric's Mary Carpenter. The utility has not settled on a site for the wind turbines, which are expected to cost about $1.2 million, she adds.

Under the Energy For Tomorrow program, customers pay $0.02/kWh above standard rates if 100% of their power comes from renewable energy; $0.01/kWh more if 50% of their power is renewable; and $0.005/kWh more if 25% of their power is green. About 5000 customers have signed up for the 25% level, 1300 are at the 50% level and 700 customers buy 100% renewable energy, says Jaeckels. Seven commercial customers are taking part in the program, she notes.

Jaeckels adds that the success of the program is due in part to an aggressive marketing campaign and the support of two local environmental groups, RENEW Wisconsin and Wisconsin's Environmental Decade. "Also, giving customers the opportunity to participate at three different levels allows them to begin to afford it," she says.

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