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Senate gives big yes to wind, solar energy - State bill would require 10% of electricity to be from renewable sources

More power would be generated by wind turbines and solar panels in Wisconsin under a bill that the state Senate passed overwhelmingly on Tuesday.

The bill, expected to be taken up by the Assembly as soon as next week, is expected to help trigger billions in investment in new wind-power projects in the state, said Michael Vickerman, executive director of the clean-energy advocacy group Renew Wisconsin.

The bill requires that 10% of the state's electricity must be generated by renewable sources by the year 2015.

Vickerman said the overwhelming nature of the Senate's vote sends a message that "the best way to get our energy house in order is to invest in those technologies and resources that reduce Wisconsin's dependence on increasingly insecure supplies of imported fuels."

Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) credited the approval to compromises made by energy stakeholders, from utilities and manufacturers to customer and environmental groups.

"The timing was right for this, and it remains right," said Cowles, citing a combination of high energy prices, the improvement of wind- and solar-power technologies and political will.

Sen. Tom Reynolds (R-West Allis) cast the lone vote against the bill because he said it would drive up energy bills because energy is more expensive to produce from wind than from fossil fuels.

Cowles disputed that, saying the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
The bill, expected to be taken up by the Assembly as soon as next week, is expected to help trigger billions in investment in new wind-power projects in the state, said Michael Vickerman, executive director of the clean-energy advocacy group Renew Wisconsin.

The bill requires that 10% of the state's electricity must be generated by renewable sources by the year 2015.

Vickerman said the overwhelming nature of the Senate's vote sends a message that "the best way to get our energy house in order is to invest in those technologies and resources that reduce Wisconsin's dependence on increasingly insecure supplies of imported fuels."

Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) credited the approval to compromises made by energy stakeholders, from utilities and manufacturers to customer and environmental groups.

"The timing was right for this, and it remains right," said Cowles, citing a combination of high energy prices, the improvement of wind- and solar-power technologies and political will.

Sen. Tom Reynolds (R-West Allis) cast the lone vote against the bill because he said it would drive up energy bills because energy is more expensive to produce from wind than from fossil fuels.

Cowles disputed that, saying the legislation would lead to $2 billion in investments from energy companies that would drive down the cost of producing renewable energy. Utilities could receive more time to reach the 10% renewable target if the Public Service Commission determines that doing so by 2015 would be too expensive.

Supporters noted the dramatic impact that fossil fuels are having on energy bills, with the run-up in the price of natural gas and coal in the last two years. A recent analysis by the commission found that the skyrocketing price of natural gas in 2005 accounted for most of the $714 million in electric rate increases authorized by the PSC.

Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie) praised the bipartisan measure.
"We should have done this five or ten years ago, but where there's crisis, there's opportunity," Wirch said.

The most visible change to result from the bill would be a dramatic expansion of the state's wind power. Proposals on the drawing board include an 88-turbine wind farm We Energies plans to build in Fond du Lac County and the recently approved Forward Wind Energy Center, a 133-turbine project in Dodge and Fond du Lac counties.

The bill also restricts governors and legislators from tapping money earmarked for energy efficiency and using it for non-energy purposes. In the past two budgets, more than $100 million, or about 40% of the money that was designated to be spent for energy efficiency, has been diverted to balance the budget.

"Because the bill strengthens the state's energy efficiency programs, it will help protect consumers against rising utility prices due to increases in fossil fuel prices," said Charlie Higley, executive director of the Wisconsin Citizens' Utility Board.

Assembly Speaker John Gard (R-Peshtigo) said Monday that he expected the Assembly to pass the bill next week.

Source: http://www.jsonline.com/sto...

FEB 21 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/1407-senate-gives-big-yes-to-wind-solar-energy-state-bill-would-require-10-of-electricity-to-be-from-renewable-sources
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