After the administration of Gov. Jim Doyle pursued an aggressive agenda pushing the expansion of renewable energy, Governor-elect Scott Walker and the new Republican-controlled Legislature will take a second look at the costs of going green.
That’s the consensus of energy experts interviewed after the resounding Republican electoral victories last week.
“Energy has always been and will continue to be a critical component of not only the quality of life in Wisconsin but in the economic development of a state like Wisconsin, and its health,” said Ave Bie, who was chair of the Public Service Commission under Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson.
Under the renewable power mandate enacted under Doyle, the state’s utilities are bound to supply 10% of Wisconsin’s electricity from renewable sources – such as wind turbines, landfill gas, solar panels and biomass – by 2015.
Bie singled out two areas of focus for the new administration: taking a second look at the cost of complying with the renewable power mandate, and taking a go-slow approach to retiring old coal-fired power plants.
“Those types of things are mandates on the utilities that are going to add to the price of energy in this state, and in many ways it’s very piecemeal in fashion,” she said.
Jill Bader, a spokeswoman for Walker, said the new administration will meet with stakeholders to work on the energy challenges. “The governor-elect will pursue an energy policy that promotes job growth by ensuring a robust energy infrastructure from diverse sources of energy,” she said.
Other energy policy watchers said they expect lawmakers to take up a repeal of Wisconsin’s moratorium on construction of nuclear reactors.
Katie Nekola, energy program director at the environmental group Clean Wisconsin, said she hopes the Legislature will emphasize energy efficiency as a way for businesses to reduce energy costs.
“A key priority would be making sure that we continue to invest aggressively in energy efficiency, because it just makes sense not to waste the energy that we produce at great cost,” she said.
A We Energies spokesman declined to comment, but in recent presentations to analysts, company executives forecast changes in policy toward renewable energy in a Walker administration.
For instance, the deadline for complying with the 10% requirement could be delayed for cost reasons, We Energies Chief Financial Officer Allen Leverett said in a conference call in late summer.
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