Co-op law revisions signed
Cooperative leaders gathered in Madison to see Governor Walker’s signature applied to the first significant revisions to Wisconsin’s Chapter 185 co-op law since the 1980s, approved in November by bipartisan majorities in both legislative houses. Seen here, Walker presents a souvenir pen to WECA Government Relations Director Beata Wierzba. The most notable provision for electric co-ops is language facilitating their existing authority to make consumer loans to their members to finance work by outside vendors on electrical safety and code compliance, energy conservation and efficiency, or emergency backup generation equipment.
Cape Wind abandoned
The offshore wind energy project that was to have been the first in U.S. waters was officially terminated on the first day of December, when Cape Wind Associates notified the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) that it had ceased development activity and filed papers to terminate the federal lease it’s held since 2010.
First proposed in November 2001, Cape Wind was to consist of 130 turbines occupying 25 square miles in Nantucket Sound, with a theoretical capacity of 468 megawatts and, according to the BOEM, an expected actual output of 27 percent that amount.
Despite years of litigation by local opponents, the project was fully permitted and had executed power purchase agreements with two area utilities, but the utilities withdrew when developers failed to secure financing of the $2.6 billion project by a December 31, 2014, deadline. The agreement would have required the utilities to buy Cape Wind’s output at a wholesale price of about 20 cents per kilowatt-hour with automatic increases over time.
Opponents sued in federal court over that issue, alleging state regulatory officials seeking to implement Massachusetts’ green energy and carbon dioxide laws improperly coerced NSTAR to purchase to Cape Wind’s energy at prices far exceeding other renewable generation, by holding up NSTAR’s proposed merger with Northeast Utilities.
Finding itself without customers, Cape Wind in February 2015 requested and obtained a two-year suspension of its federal lease and the associated payments. In June of this year, it requested a second two-year suspension.
Construction at the offshore site was never begun. What became the first—and so far only U.S. offshore wind farm—the much smaller, five-turbine, 30-megawatt Deepwater Wind off the Rhode Island coast, began commercial operation in December 2016.
Will solar politics target whiskey, cheese?
President Trump is to decide this month whether to impose tariffs on imported solar panels as requested by bankrupt U.S. manufacturer Suniva, and a Bloomberg report says if tariffs are applied, Wisconsin’s most famous food product could suffer collateral damage.
The report quotes a
Washington-based trade analyst warning that overseas trade partners might retaliate by imposing tariffs on Wisconsin cheese and Kentucky bourbon, targets picked not at all at random. The rationale would be to prompt opposition to solar tariffs from House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, representing, respectively, Wisconsin and Kentucky constituencies.
U.S. solar developers other than Georgia-based Suniva generally oppose the call for protective tariffs.
Hearing set for sales tax exemption
The Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities was to hold a public hearing in Madison January 9, on a proposal freeing electric cooperatives from paying state sales tax on services provided by other electric cooperatives for disaster relief in a declared emergency.
Assembly Bill 583 is sponsored in the Assembly by Rep. Romaine Quinn (R-Rice Lake) and in the Senate by Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon), with co-sponsorship by 17 other lawmakers. Under current Wisconsin law, co-ops receiving assistance from others for timely restoration of service after a severe weather event must pay sales tax on the wages paid to employees of the responding co-ops and on materials they use—which have already been taxed. Co-op leaders say the law penalizes effort to promptly get members’ lights back on after a storm.
The measure would also apply to services provided between telecommunications utilities in similar circumstances. Because it creates an exemption from state or local taxes, it may undergo further committee review by the Joint Survey Committee on Tax Exemptions.