Using existing policies and infrastructure, Badger State can meet future emissions standards

WASHINGTON —New analysis of Wisconsin’s power sector finds the state has opportunities to make significant emissions reductions and put it on track to meet expected future emissions standards. The analysis, conducted by the World Resources Institute, shows that by extending the state’s existing clean energy policies and increasing utilization of existing infrastructure, Wisconsin can reduce its emissions 43 percent by 2020 (below 2011 emissions levels).

By achieving these reductions, Wisconsin would be well-positioned to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) expected carbon pollution standards for the power sector. The EPA proposed standards for new power plants in September 2013 and is expected to propose standards for existing power plants in June 2014.

These are important actions that are part of the national Climate Action Plan announced by President Obama last June. “Wisconsin is a leader when it comes to clean energy policies, and the state has the means to drive even greater emission reductions ahead,” said Michael Obeiter, a senior associate at WRI who led the analysis. “These steps can spur innovation and create new opportunities for businesses that are looking to embrace a low-carbon economy.”

Following are ways that Wisconsin can help meet these reductions.

Extending existing state policies:

  • By meeting the state’s 2006 Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requiring 10 percent of its electricity to come from renewables by 2015 and by continuing to increase new renewable generation by 1 percent per year beyond 2015, Wisconsin can reduce CO2 emissions 6 percent by 2020 compared to 2011 levels;

  • By continuing the statewide energy efficiency program, Focus on Energy, beyond 2015, Wisconsin can reduce CO2 emissions by 9 percent in 2020 (compared to 2011 levels), while expanding energy efficiency opportunities for consumers.

Using existing infrastructure to achieve further emissions reductions:

  • Increasing the state’s utilization of existing natural gas power plants to 75 percent of capacity would reduce emissions by 9 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels;

  • Increasing efficiency of existing coal-fired power plants would reduce emissions by 1 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels; and

  • Increasing the use of combined heat and power (CHP) at commercial and industrial facilities by 60 percent would reduce emissions by 11 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels.

Last month, the Badger state saw growth in its renewable energy sector as Half Moon Ventures (HMV) broke ground on the state’s first stand-alone utility-scale solar energy project in Jefferson. In addition to helping Wisconsin meet its RPS, HMV’s solar project has bolstered employment with local contracting.

Focus on Energy has similarly benefited Wisconsin consumers; a 2011 audit of the program found that it produced $2.30 of benefits for every dollar invested in the program.

“Building on Wisconsin’s commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy production is a win-win,” Obeiter said. “Along with creating jobs and raising demand for in-state manufacturing, continuing the shift to renewables could further lower consumers’ annual electric bills in the future. These are important steps to help reduce U.S. emissions and reduce risks from climate change.”

Read more about WRI’s analysis here:

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