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March/April 2018 Issue

Also in this issue: Seventh Circuit Rules against City in Zoning-Related Disability Discrimination Case     |     Update on Options for Providing Financial Assistance for Private Lead Service Line Replacement

PSCW Considers Making Energy Innovation Grant Funds Available to Local Government

Since 2015, a $55 million dollar grant program funded through the Obama-era American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been administered by the Wisconsin Office of Energy Innovation (OEI). Known as the Energy Innovation Grant Program, the funds have been used primarily to promote a wide array of energy efficiency and clean energy programs benefitting Wisconsin citizens and businesses, including the $38.66 million Clean Energy Manufacturing Revolving Loan Fund (CEMRLF). The OEI programs, including CEMRLF, as well as the FOCUS on Energy program, are overseen by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW).

In 2017, PSCW staff evaluated these programs and developed a set of recommendations to make them more effective. Among the recommendations was conversion of the CEMRLF into a grant program, along with a proposal to expand existing eligibility criteria to include municipalities, universities, schools, hospitals, and other public sector entities. The PSCW approved the recommendations, and directed staff to make the necessary filings with the federal government to implement them. Approval by the United States Department of Energy was granted in February, 2018

The Commission is now considering changes to further refine the Energy Innovation Grant program. The proposal, which was submitted in March for public comment, is intended to enable successful energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for both private and public sector stakeholders. Specifically, eligible applicants would now include, among others, cities, villages, towns, counties, tribes, K‑12 school districts, municipal water and wastewater utilities, municipal electric utilities, municipal natural gas utilities, UW System campuses, the Wisconsin Technical College System, and hospitals. 

Eligible activities for the Program would be divided into two categories: planning and implementation for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Planning activities generally would fall within two areas: facility and fleet audits, and the development of comprehensive energy plans (CEPs). CEPs would need to meet the criteria of an investment grade audit,” which means a comprehensive energy audit that identifies all cost-effective investment opportunities based on both economic and engineering analysis of energy saving measures. 

Implementation activities would encompass four broad categories: building efficiency projects to reduce electric and thermal use; renewable energy projects, including biogas, biomass, geothermal, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, wind and alternative fuels; transportation projects, including conversion of existing vehicles or new purchases of alternative fuel vehicles and 50% of associated refueling infrastructure; and training and operations programs. 

For 2018, the PSCW staff recommends an overall program budget of $5 million, to be allocated to eligible applicants. The allocations may be targeted to special areas of interest, and award maximums may be established. 

The Commission is expected to act on the proposed program refinements in April or May. 

— Richard A. Heinemann

This newsletter is published and distributed for informational pur- poses only. It does not offer legal advice with respect to particular situations, and does not purport to be a complete treatment of the legal issues surrounding any topic. Because your situation may differ from those described in this Newsletter, you should not rely solely on this information in making legal decisions.

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