Wisconsin's Clean Energy Future
How Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Protect our Environment and Create New Jobs

Executive Summary

Wisconsin has begun a transition away from fossil fuels and toward a clean energy future. The state is developing local wind, biomass and solar energy resources, while using energy more wisely. These efforts are reducing our contribution to global warming, protecting our air and water quality, and improving public health.

At the same time, Wisconsin’s push toward clean energy is spurring economic growth. For example, the wind energy industry invested $400 million in Wisconsin in 2007, and consumers are now saving $85 million a year through energy efficiency.

Wisconsin has the potential to accomplish a great deal more. Deepening Wisconsin’s commitment to clean energy can be an important tool to protect our environment while helping to revitalize the state’s economy. Investing in clean energy can create new jobs, reduce Wisconsin’s expensive addiction to out-of-state fossil fuel resources, and put the state on sound footing for the future.

Wisconsin is making progress toward a clean energy economy.

  • Wisconsin now generates the equivalent of more than 5 percent of its annual electricity consumption from renewable resources. At this rate of growth, the state should achieve its target of 10 percent of electricity sales produced from renewable energy sources in advance of the 2015 deadline.
  • With the completion of four new wind farms in Fond du Lac and Dodge counties in 2008, Wisconsin increased its capacity to generate electricity from wind power by more than seven-fold. Local wind farms now produce enough electricity to meet the needs of 130,000 typical Wisconsin homes – or all the residences in the Appleton-Oshkosh-Neenah metropolitan area.
  • In 2008 Xcel Energy and DTE Energy announced plans to convert two Wisconsin power plants from coal to renewable biomass fuel, doubling the state’s biomass energy capacity. Xcel’s new facility will become the largest biomass power plant in the Midwest.
  • More than 400 homes and commercial buildings in Wisconsin have been outfitted with solar photovoltaic panels, and installations are increasing at a rate of 80 percent per year.
  • As of 2008, Wisconsin’s energy efficiency programs are saving enough energy to meet the annual needs of more than 160,000 households – or nearly all the residences in the Madison metropolitan area.

Clean energy prevents pollution, protecting public health and Wisconsin’s environment.

  • Wisconsin is generating nearly 4 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year of renewable electricity and saving more than 1.4 billion kWh per year through energy efficiency.
  • By displacing fossil fuels, this clean energy annually prevents more than 4 million metric tons of global warming carbon dioxide pollution, more than 10 million pounds of smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions, more than 15 million pounds of soot-forming sulfur dioxide emissions, and at least 80 pounds of highly toxic mercury pollution.
  • In terms of global warming pollution, the impact of clean energy in Wisconsin is equivalent to making more than one out of every 10 cars and trucks in the state pollution-free (800,000 vehicles).

At the same time, investments in clean energy benefit Wisconsin’s economy.

  • The wind energy industry invested $400 million in Wisconsin in 2007. More than 75 Wisconsin companies participate in the regional wind energy industry.
  • Through 2008, wind farms built in Wisconsin created an estimated 1,300 local jobs during construction and now support more than 190 long-term jobs.
  • Increasing regional demand for renewable energy is prompting companies to open new factories in Wisconsin, such as Energy Composite Corporation’s planned wind turbine blade factory in Wisconsin Rapids – a facility that will employ 400 workers.
  • From 2002 to 2007, Wisconsin’s energy efficiency programs created more than 1,400 local jobs, generated $181 million in sales for local businesses, and increased disposable income for Wisconsin residents by $85 million. By 2012, these impacts will more than double.

Renewable energy also benefits Wisconsin’s rural economies.

  • Wind energy in Wisconsin is providing about $1.2 million per year in additional income to farmers and other landowners.
  • In addition, Wisconsin wind farms are currently increasing local government tax revenues by about $850,000 per year. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, wind farms can provide more than double the tax revenue than either coal- or gas-fired plants, per unit of energy output.

Wisconsin has barely scratched the surface of its clean energy resources – the state has the potential to achieve much more.

  • Wisconsin has enough wind, solar and biomass energy resources to produce power equivalent to the entire state’s electricity needs. Total potential for wind power alone has been estimated at 53 billion kWh per year, equivalent to 75 percent of the state’s current electricity consumption.
  • At the same time, Wisconsin has massive potential for more efficient energy use. For example, the use of efficient motors and precise controls in commercial building systems and manufacturing processes could reduce statewide electricity consumption by as much as 15 to 25 percent.
  • Wisconsin’s clean energy resources are local, while its fossil fuels are imported from out-of state. Deepening Wisconsin’s commitment to clean energy will help keep more of the state’s money circulating in the local economy, providing a boost.

Increasing Wisconsin’s commitment to clean energy can help put the state on sound footing for the future.

  • Wisconsin should increase its renewable energy standard to ensure that at least 25 percent of the state’s electricity consumption comes from renewable sources of energy by 2025, matching Minnesota and Illinois.
  • Wisconsin should also increase its efforts toward energy efficiency, aiming to reduce electricity consumption by 2 percent and natural gas consumption by 1 percent per year, or more, at investor-owned, municipal and cooperative utilities.