News Briefs


Families Face Higher Heating, Cooling Costs

According to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA), the cost of cooling for the average family increased from $450 to $600 this past summer. NEADA predicts the average family will pay $1,202 to heat their homes this winter, an increase of 17% from last year. Those who heat with natural gas can expect a 34% increase.

According to the Energy Information Administration’s latest short-term energy outlook, the residential price of electricity is up 7.5% from 2021 due to higher natural gas prices.

A recent Gallup poll found 56% of Americans now say inflation is a severe or moderate financial hardship.

Congressman Tiffany, MISO Appeal to Feds on Behalf of Nemadji Trail

Representative Tom Tiffany (R-7th District) and the grid operator that serves Wisconsin, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), are urging federal approval of the Nemadji Trail Energy Center (NTEC), a $700 million combined-cycle natural gas plant in Superior proposed by Dairyland Power Cooperative, Minnesota Power, and Basin Electric Power Cooperative.

The 625-megawatt plant would be able to ramp up quickly to backfill for intermittent resources such as wind and solar. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently ruled the project plan did not address “climate damage,” even though it has undergone extensive environmental reviews and has been approved by regulatory agencies in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

“At a time when our state is at risk of rolling blackouts for the first time ever, it is mind-boggling that a federal agency would take steps to delay Wisconsinites’ access to clean, reliable, and affordable energy,” Tiffany wrote in a letter to the EPA.

In July, MISO sent a letter to federal officials that reads “…MISO has experienced an increasing number of hours during the year when supply is barely adequate to cover demand even during non-peak season and times of the day.” MISO cited an increase in intermittent resources such as wind and solar.

NTEC is projected to come on-line in 2025, pending final approvals.

Effort to Ban Gas Heating, Appliances

More than two dozen environmental and public health groups are pushing the EPA to use its power under the Clean Air Act to ban residential and business fuel and gas-burning appliances.

The groups petitioned the EPA asking it to phase in performance standards for furnaces and water heaters, requiring zero-emissions by 2030. The group is also asking the EPA to formally list all fossil fuel-fired heating appliances, including stoves and clothes dryers, as a new source category of air pollution.

U.P.-Based Research Looks at Solar Performance in Frigid Weather

A Solar Energy Regional Test Center is now open in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The U.S. Department of Energy, Michigan Technological University, and Sandia National Laboratories are researching how effective new solar technology is in severe winter environments.

At the U.P. facility researchers are testing new methods of rapid snow removal from the solar panels, looking at different materials and configurations to better understand under what conditions, temperatures, and snow loads the solar panels will self shed, which saves time and money.

Biden Signs Inflation Reduction Act

President Joe Biden last month signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes major investments in clean energy. A key provision in the bill includes direct pay tax incentives, which allow electric cooperatives access to energy innovation tax credits for deployment of new energy technologies including nuclear, carbon capture, storage, and wind and solar expansion.

The bill also includes a $9.7 billion electric cooperative grant and loan program for purchasing or building new clean energy systems and hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies for renewable energy projects. It also includes tax credits to help homeowners upgrade their homes with more energy-efficient products and offers a $7,500 tax credit for purchasing electric vehicles, with conditions.

“Extreme Heat Belt” to Reach Wisconsin

A report by the First Street Foundation, a non-profit risk mitigation research group, finds that a swath of the country stretching from Texas to southern Wisconsin could be part of an “extreme heat belt” by 2053, which means the area will experience at least one day per year that feels like 125 degrees Fahrenheit, or warmer. Many rural western Wisconsin counties will also see the greatest difference in heat gains, according to the report.

The report reads, “While all areas of Wisconsin will continue to see increases over the next 30 years, Grant County will face the largest increase in their Local Hot Days between now and 2053. This year, Grant County can expect a week at or above 100.4°F which will grow to 15 days 30 years from now.”

After Grant, the report says the greatest increase in local heat days will occur in Crawford, Lafayette, La Crosse, Green, Vernon, Pepin, Buffalo, Taylor, and Rusk counties.