Energy Law Wisconsin Blog

Topic: Energy Efficiency

Notes from Solar Power International’s 2014 Conference

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

solar-raysEnergy Law Wisconsin was in attendance at Solar Power International, the country’s largest solar conference and trade show held in in Las Vegas October 20-23, 2014. Highlights of the conference included presentations by then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and many industry leaders.

One of the items that jumped out: Wisconsin is figuring increasingly prominently in national discussion for solar, both as a potential market and a cautionary tale due to the utility rate-making proceedings that are ongoing for several of Wisconsin’s investor-owned utilities.

Solar industry leaders, such as Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity, who recently weighed in on the We Energies rate case, Ed Peo of Coronal Management, LLC, an active solar developer on behalf of Panasonic Corporation (who spoke to the author of this blog about the circumstances under which his company would be interested in developing solar in Wisconsin), and others offered insight on many issues that are currently quite fluid.

There were also presentations by a variety of investor-owned utilities, indicating that one size does not fit all when it comes to utility involvement in solar.

Finally, there was a considerable amount of conversation as to what might happen if and when the energy Investment Tax Credit is reduced from 30% to 10% at the start of 2017.

If you have specific issues you’d like to receive an update on that were discussed at the conference, please contact us.

In Honor of President’s Day…

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

In belated honor of President’s Day, we offer you a quiz to test your presidential (and vice presidential) energy IQ by posing a few trivia questions. These questions ask which Presidents/Vice Presidents made notable statements about energy issues or signed into law legislation or made decisions that have garnered considerable interest in the media.

1. Solyndra. The loan to Solyndra, solar PV manufacturer, was made under a legislative program that:

a. Was signed into law by President Obama, with the interim and final decisions made by officials in the Obama Administration.

b. Was signed into law by President George W. Bush, with Solyndra’s loan application rejected by Bush Administration officials, than resurrected from the reject pile and approved by Obama Administration officials.

c. Was signed into law under President George W. Bush, conditionally approved by Bush Administration officials, with the final decision made by Obama Administration officials.

2. Global Warming.  What Vice Presidential Candidate made the following statement during the Vice Presidential Debate: “The Greenhouse Effect is an important environmental issue. … we need to get on with it and … you can be sure we will.”

a. Dan Quayle (Bush Administration)

b. Lloyd Bentsen (Dukakis Administration)

c. George H.W. Bush (Reagan Administration)

d. Al Gore (Clinton Administration)

3. Goodbye Incandescent Bulbs!  Which president signed into law the legislation that has raised energy efficiency standards and has effectively removed the heat-generating incandescent bulb from the shelves of stores?

a. Bill Clinton

b. George W. Bush

c. Barack Obama

d. George H.W. Bush


ANSWERS:  1.c; 2.a.; 3.b.


Apart from honoring President’s Day belatedly, what is the point of this quiz? Simply, to offer a friendly reminder that energy and energy efficiency policy is a long-term process, with progress milestones and positions not necessarily tied to political stereotypes, or even remotely related to the spin the political commentators subsequently put upon them.


Farm Technology Days – It Takes a Village to Build a City

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Wisconsin Farm Technology Days 2015 (FTD) will be in my home community of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, so when my good friend and forward-thinking farmer Jamie Derr of Solarmass, LLC asked me if I would serve on the Utilities Committee for this event, I readily agreed. Based upon my past committee service, I assumed I would be attending a few meetings, perhaps making a few introductions to people in the energy community, and maybe thinking up a creative demonstration or two relating to distributed generation in agriculture. Well – not exactly.

It turns out that Farm Technology Days is the equivalent of building a city for 30,000-50,000 visitors who will inhabit the host area over a three day period to demonstrate and view the latest and greatest in farm technology. To make the event the best it can be requires reliable support with electric service, wireless internet and cell phone service. This task is made more challenging by the fact that the Farm Technology Days site is typically hosted on a farm (in 2015, the Statz Family have graciously agreed to host) and located a significant distance away from the closest electric interconnection points and cellular and wireless towers.

Fortunately, the folks who organize Farm Technology Days have the organizational process down to a science, as demonstrated by the impressive gathering of more than 100 people this past December to share lessons learned from the event in Barron County on August 2013 and plan upcoming and future Farm Technology Days on August 12-14, August 12-14, 2014 in Portage County at  Blue Top Farms and Feltz Family Farms and at the Statz Farm in August, 2015. We gathered to discuss discuss and troubleshoot issues necessary to make the event a success. We are also fortunate to have experienced electrical and wireless contractors to support us in our efforts.

Even so, the 2015 event will require a lot of hands-on attention from people who know far more than I do about providing utility service (as opposed to understanding the legal basis and contracts for utility service). If there is anyone out there who reads this and is interested in joining the Farm Days 2015 Utilities Committee, drop me a line. We’d be glad to welcome you to our “Village”.

Soccket to Me!

Thursday, January 16th, 2014


With apologies to Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In for the title above (and apologies to any of you under the age of 45 who won’t get this 1960s television reference, see here), our office was fortunate enough to receive earlier this month two Socckets (pictured here) from the first shipment of this invention to the general public. The Soccket is essentially a soccer ball with an internal induction coil that converts kinetic energy generated by kicking the ball into stored electric energy that can be used to power a reading lamp. Its intended users are the 25% of children in the world who love soccer but lack access to electricity at home for activities we take for granted, such as reading their homework at night. The story of the development of the Soccket is a great story of creativity and entrepreneurship. Here is a link to more information about this story provided by Jessica Mathews, one of the co-inventors of the Soccket.

Our first experience with the Soccket was very positive.  It couldn’t be easier to assemble and use – all you do is kick it, and then plug in the light when you are ready. In addition, we were amazed to see that one of the Socckets greatly out-performed the officially-promised performance of three hours LED reading light from 15 minutes of kicking use.  After only two or three minutes of kicking the Soccket around the confines of my small law office, I plugged in the light and, more than 24 hours later – it is still shining!

In addition, I took a Soccket to the RENEW Energy Policy Summit last Friday as a show and tell exhibit for crowdfunding, which financed part of the development of the Soccket. It got a very positive reaction. I think this is because the Soccket is a great ambassador for the renewable energy community for at least two reasons.

First, it shows what can be accomplished through the ingenuity of a handful of dedicated people. More importantly, Uncharted Play has figured out a way to make renewable electricity through joyful activity. This is a winning combination.

Notes from the Focus on Energy Trade Ally Expo

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

There has been a great deal of excitement (and controversy) in the past year over Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program. Issues receiving attention include funding levels, allocation of resources between energy efficiency versus renewables and the processing of applications. I’d like to provide a brief report from a program I attended on May 15, 2012, the first Focus on Energy Trade Ally Expo, held at Crowne Plaza Hotel Madison in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Expo focused entirely on energy efficiency incentives, other than a quick mention that new renewable incentives for residential owners will become available on July 1, 2012. Specific bits of information I jotted down that may be of interest include the following:


– Anyone who wants to be a Trade Ally must apply here even if you were previously working with Focus on Energy as a Trade Ally.

– The Focus on Energy program is in the process of creating Trade Ally working groups through which it will obtain feedback about
its programs. If you want to be part of such a group, now is the time to express interest.

– According to the Focus on Energy reps I spoke with, all investor-owned utilities, all municipal utilities, and most Wisconsin co-ops are now in the Focus on Energy program. At this point, there are only a handful of cooperatives in the northwestern corner of the state that are not participating in the program.

– Focus on Energy is offering bonuses to Trade Allies for submitting complete and accurate applications for incentives. These completion bonuses go to the trade allies, not the customers. In other words, if you complete your application accurately and fully the first time, you can get a cash bonus that is yours to keep. Until June 30, these rules governing these application bonuses will allow the applicant to correct and re-submit the application. After July 1, you must do it properly the first time around.

– Focus on Energy will have a community outreach program. Its contours are not fully defined yet, but Focus on Energy representatives will make themselves available to meet with large energy users, eligible customers (such as condominium associations) and perhaps even community groups.


Within the incentives there are several categories that are noteworthy:

Chain Stores and Franchises. This program focuses on owners of retail establishments that have five or more facilities in the State of Wisconsin. The stated Focus goal is to leverage a connection with one or two key decision makers in the business that make energy efficiency decisions for multiple facilities across the state. The eventual goal is to make Wisconsin a blueprint for the entire nation in demand-side management.

Large Energy Customers.This Focus on Energy incentive program is aimed at energy-users who have an energy demand of at least 1,000 kw of electricity per month or a demand of at least 10,000 decatherms of natural gas per month or a combined electric bill of $60,000 per month in one utility’s service territory. Note: If you have a combined utility bill of $60,000 in multiple electric utility service territories, you would not qualify, but you would be eligible for the business incentives program. Typical Large Energy Customers would be pulp and paper mills, metal casters, food processors, hospitals, universities, ethanol biofuel and biomass producers, water and wastewater facilities.

Business Incentive Program. This program serves business customers that are not served by the Large Energy Users or Chain Stores and Franchises program. It includes agricultural facilities, schools and governmental buildings, small industrial users, commercial space, and independent groceries and retailers. A typical Business Incentive Program customer would have electric demand of 100-1,000 kw
per month.

Multi-Family Energy Savings Program. This program is eligible to multi-family residence owners with four units and above. It includes apartment buildings and may include condominiums. Condominiums are included if they are interested in reducing energy demand in the common areas or if four or more users gather together to make energy-efficiency improvements. If a single condo unit owner wishes to make an improvement, that unit owner would be directed to the Residential Incentives Program.

Residential Incentives Program. There are two programs available to owners of 1-3 unit homes: Home Performance With Energy Star® and Assisted Home Performance with Energy Star®. The Assisted Home Performance with Energy Star® program offers increased awards for households with income between 60-80% of the State Median Income.


Persons who are eligible for the current categories of programs could benefit greatly. The Focus on Energy Trade Ally Expo is traveling Wisconsin in May to spread the news:

Thursday, May 17 – Rothschild

Friday, May 18 – Onalaska

Tuesday, May 22 – Brookfield

Wednesday, May 23 – Kimberly

Thursday, May 24 – Eau Claire

Also, you can find Focus on Energy at the Wisconsin Association of School Board Officials Meeting in Wisconsin Dells May 22-25 and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association Energy Fair June 15-17.

What is “Energy Law Wisconsin” : A Collection of Actual Project Photos

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Many people have asked me, “Just what is Energy Law?”  I have quickly learned that to answer this question with precise details of the laws in place and tasks involved is a good way to make peoples’ eyes glaze over.

It is easier to explain what I do is by showing the results, so here are a few pictures.  These are the types of projects I help people with:

Wind Energy

Kewaunee Wind Farm

Solar Farms

Efficient Cogeneration Power Plants

MGE Cogeneration Facility

LEED Certified Buildings

Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation Headquarters

Other types of projects I work on that are not pictured above include replacing coal with biomass as a fuel for power generation, helping energy startup companies  get off the ground (kind of like holding your hands around a newly struck match while starting a campfire on a windy day), and helping municipalities convert garbage and sewage into energy.

There are a host of legal issues wrapped up in the journey from start to finish on all of these types of projects.  They include legal issues relating to raising money, protecting new ideas, getting government approvals, contracting for labor and materials, connecting to the electrical grid, putting together a financial package of grants, tax credits and other incentives and positioning the project for optimal use of renewable energy certificates and carbon credits it may produce.

My plan is to share a few of my stories from my practice. I’ll try to weigh in on some of the issues that people face when trying to change the energy status quo.  If you have any comments I’d love  to hear from you.  I’ll do my best to answer questions, time permitting.