The Public Service Commission (PSC) met on October 20 to consider Focus on Energy’s budget for the next two years. Focus on Energy is Wisconsin’s energy efficiency and renewable energy program, as well as the states public benefits program, helping low income customers afford their energy bill. The outcomes of the budget meeting are covered below, but questions remain.
- Authorized $7.7 million in rebates spanning 2017 and 2018 to spur small, customer-based renewable energy projects throughout Wisconsin, such as solar, wind, and geothermal systems. Funding for this program was $8.5 million for 2015 and 2016.
- Consideration of $10 to $20 million on funding for biodigesters (“cow power”) that convert animal waste to electricity.
- Budget allocations for $20 to $35 million in rural parts of Wisconsin on energy efficiency programs tied to supporting increased access to broadband.
A press release from the PSC and the minutes from the meeting highlight the key decisions. The most controversial decision was the choice to expand the access of broadband service as an option for increasing energy efficiency in rural parts of Wisconsin. An earlier memo by the PSC investigated how increased access to broadband internet service in rural areas could expand access to energy efficiency and renewable energy programs offered by Focus on Energy. The commissioners instructed staff to present ideas for new rural programs in 30 days. It is unclear how the $20-$35 million will be allocated between energy efficiency and support for broadband.
Public comments have been submitted under the docket number 5-FE-100 to the PSC. Organizations and businesses fear the move as a method to use funding from energy utility customers for purposes other than energy efficiency and renewable energy. RePower Madison does not support using Focus on Energy funding for purposes other than energy efficiency and renewable energy. Formal comments from RePower Madison have been submitted to the PSC and can be viewed here.
Listen to the Commissioners’ discussion below.