Wisconsin Utility Renewable Energy Production Incentives

Wisconsin investor-owned utilities have adopted production incentives for renewable energy in response to public pressure for a feed-in tariff, but their efforts fall far short.  As a result, the utility programs collectively scored an ‘F’  in feed-in tariff expert Paul Gipe’s recent analysis of North American feed-in tariff policies.

Several utilities have offered programs and all are quite limited.  The program by Alliant Energy offers 10 year contracts for solar, landfill gas, wind, biomass and anaerobic digestion.  Project size caps vary by technology, but are highest (2 megawatts) for biomass and biogas.  Program caps are extremely low, with only 683 kilowatts (kW) of solar permitted, and no more than 0.5% of total electric sales for all other technologies combined.  Prices are also low, with a flat $0.25 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for solar and split prices for other technologies based on the time of production rather than the cost of production ($0.12 at peak and $0.0735 per kWh for off-peak).

The Madison Gas & Electric “solar buyback” program is even more modest, with only a single technology allowed.  It provides $0.25 per kWh for 10 years to solar PV systems 1 to 10 kW, with a program cap of 1 MW.

The River Falls Municipal Utilities also has a solar buyback program, with systems limited to 4 kW with a 10 kW program cap.  It pays $0.30 per kWh over 10 years.

We Energies has a biogas incentive program that pays for electricity generated via anerobic digestion.  The program offers contracts of up to 15 years for systems up to 2 MW, with a 10 MW program cap.  The contract prices are split into peak and off-peak, with payments of $0.155 for peak and $0.0614 per kWh for off-peak, respectively.

Xcel Energy also offers production incentives for wind, biogas and biomass systems that are too large for net metering (20 kW and larger) but no bigger than 1 MW (or 800 kW for biomass/biogass).  Xcel provides $0.066 per kWh for wind and $0.073 per kWh for biogas over 10 years.  Other renewable technologies can get contracts, but only by negotiation.  The program is capped at 0.25% of retail sales.

Ultimately, the shorter contract terms, very low program and project size caps, and low prices make calling these incentives a feed-in tariff impossible.  Rather, the Wisconsin utilities, under threat of a feed-in tariff law, have established modest production incentives for select renewable energy technologies.

More detail on each utility’s program can be found at the DSIRE website under Performance-Based Incentives.