Tag Archives: Focus on Energy

Utilities aim to cut Wisconsin’s program for energy efficiency

A utility-backed bill to cut funding for Wisconsin’s energy-efficiency program is short-sighted and would hurt customers in the long run, the program’s supporters contend.

Wisconsin’s electric utilities back the bill, which would cut funding for the Focus on Energy program by $7 million at a time when electricity costs in Wisconsin have risen above the national average.

But utilities and state regulators maintain that the proposed cut would return money to ratepayers. The bill passed the state GOP-led Assembly last month and the Republican-controlled Senate is scheduled to take it up on March 15.

The program’s supporters cite its savings, pointing out that the program has delivered $3 of savings to customers for every $1 spent.

“It’s very short-sighted to vote on a bill that’s going to reduce Focus on Energy’s program budget by $7.2 million,” said Theresa Lehman, director of sustainable services at Miron Construction. “Our clients use that money every year.”

Lehman said at a time when capital spending budgets are tight, the program offers incentives that help customers cut their costs by allowing them to afford the upfront expenses of switching to more efficient LED lighting.

St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton is saving $30,000 a year by upgrading the lighting in its corridors, Lehman said. Another client, Lake Mills Elementary School, received $100,000 in incentives from the program and is now saving $85,000 every year on its energy costs, she said.

Wisconsin utilities and manufacturing groups, however, say that the program effectively charges some utilities twice, which is unfair to them.

Investor-owned utilities are paying into the program based on a percentage of sales. Then municipal utilities, which buy power from investor-owned utilities, are paying into the program separately, at a rate of $8 per meter. Currently, the program is funded based on 1.2 percent of investor-owned utilities’ total sales.

The proposed change would collect program funding by retail rather than total utility electric sales, so investor utilities aren’t paying for both their customers’ and municipal customers’ contributions to Focus on Energy.

“Our concern is the formula and getting rid of the double charge,” We Energies spokesman Brian Manthey said. Total funding for the program would increase over time as utility power sales rise, he said.

Madison-based Alliant Energy and Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group, parent of We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service, are backing the bill. All three of the utilities estimate they would see savings of about $2 million a year.


Go beyond paper and plastic to celebrate Wisconsin’s recycling tradition

The next six weeks will be filled with traditions: Pumpkin pie and turkey. Caroling. Making cookies. Spending time with family and friends.

Add one more to the list: Recycling.

“Wisconsin has a strong recycling ethic,” says Amanda Wegner, communications director with Clean Wisconsin. “We enacted one of the first recycling laws in the nation in 1990, and a whopping 94 percent of households here recycle. Recycling is very much a tradition in Wisconsin.”

Today, Nov. 15, is America Recycles Day, a national day to raise awareness about the benefits of recycling and buying recycled products. While we’re all familiar with how to recycle household items such as paper, cardboard, bottles and cans, many other household items have recycling solutions. Here a few to consider:

  1. Appliances: Steel is North America’s most recycled material. If your community doesn’t offer appliance recycling, visit the Steel Recycling Institute to find out a location near you. Goodwill also accepts working appliances.
  2. Athletic shoes: Don’t kick your old shoes to the curb. Drop them off at a Nike store, and Nike will grind them down to create play surfaces.
  3. Juice pouches, empty tape rolls, writing utensils & more: Does an item have you scratching your head, wondering if it’s recyclable? Check out Terracycle’s Brigades program, which offers national programs to collect previously non-recyclable or hard to recycle waste.
  4. Packaging peanuts: Many suppliers are happy to take these back. Find a site near you here.
  5. Unused/unneeded drugs and pharmaceuticals: Many municipalities and police departments now sponsor regular drug take-back days or have secure dropboxes; find one here.
  6. Wine corks: Raise a glass responsibly by recycling your corks. Whole Foods offers bins for corks in stores or find a ReCork drop-off site at www.recork.org/en/location
  7. Holiday lights: ‘Tis the season for burnt-out and broken light strings!  Holiday LEDs will recycle them for you and send you a coupon for new LED light string. As an added bonus, their recycling center is here in Wisconsin! 
  8. CFLs: While they save 75% more energy than incandescents, even CFL lightbulbs burn out now and then. And because they contain a small amount of mercury, it’s important to dispose of them properly. Many hardware stores will take spent CFLs for recycling; visit Focus on Energy for a full list.
  9. Old thermostats: Like CFLs, old dial-style thermostats contain a small amount of mercury. If there’s a remodeling project in your future or you’re upgrading to a programmable thermostat to save energy and money, visit www.thermostat-recycle.org/zipsearch to find a recycling location.
  10. Other items: Try listing other items on sites like www.freecycle.org, Craigslist and online garage sales. Your trash could very well be another person’s treasure.