This fact sheet examines how Wisconsin can use its existing policies and infrastructure to meet its emission standards under the Clean Power Plan while minimizing compliance costs, ensuring reliability, and harnessing economic opportunities. Read about additional analyses in WRI's fact sheet series, How States Can Meet Their Clean Power Plan Targets.

Key Findings

Wisconsin can get 63 percent of the reductions required under the CPP by taking the following steps:

  • Continuing the Focus on Energy program: Through this program, the state has adopted annual electricity savings targets of about 0.8 percent of sales through 2018.
  • Maintaining the existing renewable portfolio standard beyond 2015: Requires 10 percent of the electricity sold by investor-owned utilities to come from renewable sources.
  • Increasing the use of existing natural gas plants. Running existing combined cycle plants at 75 percent could cut additional emissions.
  • Increasing coal plant efficiency. Adopt low-cost operational improvements and best practices at existing coal plants.

Wisconsin could make up the remaining gap by increasing its efficiency target to 2.5 percent by 2025 and renewable generation to 30 percent of sales by 2030. This would nearly double the reductions required under a mass-based target.

Wisconsin can develop an implementation plan that maximizes the economic benefits to the state and achieves emission reductions cost-effectively by:

  1. Adopting a market-based carbon pricing program, which encourages cost-effective emission cuts and generates revenue that can be used for public investments or reducing taxes. The CPP encourages states to trade credits without formally joining a trading program. If Wisconsin surpasses its CPP target through the actions described above, it could generate over $100 million per year in revenue on average between 2022 and 2030 from out-of-state sources if emission allowances trade at $10 per short ton.
  2. Investing in energy efficiency. Efficiency can help Wisconsin cut its emissions while saving money on energy bills for homes and businesses. Every dollar invested in Focus on Energy from 2011-14 returned $3 in benefits, saving homes and business a cumulative $1.7 billion. 

Even with the stay on the Clean Power Plan, Wisconsin has every reason to move forward with its transition to a lower-carbon power sector. Weakening its clean energy policies—as the state legislature recently did by reducing funding for Focus on Energy—will decrease economic benefits to the state’s residents. But taking steps to harness more clean energy opportunities can scale up these benefits and put Wisconsin ahead of the game when EPA is able to move forward with regulating carbon pollution from power plants.

Executive Summary

On August 3, 2015, EPA finalized standards for existing power plants that will help drive additional CO2 emission reductions by 2030. EPA developed these state-specific standards by taking into account each state’s existing fossil fleet along with an estimate of the potential to increase the existing coal fleet’s efficiency, ramping down coal generation by increasing the utilization of the existing natural gas combined cycle fleet, and developing more renewable energy resources. The Clean Power Plan enables states to use a wide range of options to meet their standards, such as existing clean energy policies and electricity infrastructure (the focus of this analysis), other tools to cut electricity use and increase the use of renewables, and broader initiatives such as participation in a cap-and-trade program or use of a carbon tax. While the U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily halted CPP implementation while the courts consider legal challenges, this stay is not a reason for Wisconsin to stop planning for a lower-carbon power sector.