News Briefs


Correction: HOME Rebates Program Launch

The state of Wisconsin is finalizing its plan to launch the federally funded HOME Rebates Program which will offer up to $14,000 per household for lower-and moderate-income residents of Wisconsin to make energy-efficient upgrades.

Depending on income, the grants will cover up to 50% percent of the cost of certain investments including up to $8,000 for heat pumps, $4,000 for electrical panel/service upgrades, and $1,750 for heat pump water heaters. Efficient electric stoves and clothes dryers and insulation may also be eligible for rebates.

Last month, WECN incorrectly reported the funds are now available. The state has been awarded $75 million for the rebate program but is still finalizing program details and has not yet begun accepting applications. WECN regrets the error and will publish info on the program as it becomes available.

CVEC Announces Leadership Change

Russ Falkenberg, Jr.

After 31 years at Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative, President and CEO Dean Ortmann has announced plans to retire in April. The co-op’s board of directors has named Russ Falkenberg, Jr. as his replacement.

Ortmann started at Chippewa Valley in February of 1991 as an accountant. He was promoted to office manager in 2000 and has served as president and CEO since July of 2016.

Falkenberg was hired at the co-op as a member services technician in 2006, promoted to member services director in 2010, and has served as director of IT & member services since July of 2016. He has been instrumental in the development and startup of Ntera, which has offered the successful deployment of broadband services to unserved or underserved co-op members.

Falkenberg officially takes over on April 3, 2023.

Minnesota Passes Clean Energy Bill

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed into law a bill that requires 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040, joining ten other states that have such legislation on the books.

The law includes some concessions, including short-term protection for Minnesota Power’s use of the proposed Nemadji Trail project, in which it is a partner with Dairyland Power Cooperative, along with North Dakota’s Basin Electric Power Cooperative.

In response to concerns about the proposed legislation brought by the Minnesota electric cooperatives and Justin Jahnz, president and CEO of East Central Energy, electric cooperatives were granted some flexibility in the final bill.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers signed an executive order calling for 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050, but it is not mandated by law.

NuScale’s Small Modular Nuclear Reactor is First to be Certified in U.S.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has officially certified the NuScale design as the nation’s first small modular nuclear reactor. The rule that certifies the design was recently published in the Federal Register which opens the door for companies to apply for a license to build and operate a 50-megawatt, advanced light-water small modular nuclear reactor from NuScale Power.

Dairyland Power Cooperative entered into an agreement with NuScale last year to explore the possibility. NuScale has signed a total of 19 agreements worldwide to deploy its small reactor technology.

DOE to Invest $15 Million in Rural Energy Systems

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced it is launching a $15 million cash prize pool to improve energy systems in rural or remote communities. The “Energizing Rural Communities Prize” challenges individuals and organizations to develop partnership plans or innovative financing strategies for rural or remote energy improvement projects.

This program is part of the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations’ (OCED) $1 billion Energy Improvements in Rural or Remote Areas (ERA) Program, which is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

New EPA Water Rule Brings More Uncertainty, Legal Challenges

The back-and-forth action at the federal level related to the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule has taken another turn, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers released a new rule late last year.

The latest rule includes a “dual test” approach that authorizes EPA and the Corps to determine on a case-by-case basis whether certain waters and features are subject to Clean Water Act mandates. The rule does retain an exclusion for “waste treatment systems,” but it removes a 2020 WOTUS definition of these systems that provided greater clarity.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association called the new rule “overly broad and a burden to co-ops’ efforts to shore up and expand their system infrastructure.”

Legal challenges by some states, including Texas, are pending. The rule is set to take effect in March.

U.S. Emissions Increase in 2022

Despite growth in the clean energy sector, overall emissions in the United States increased by just over 1 percent last year, according to a new report from the Rhodium Group. Emissions also increased in 2021, after dropping during the pandemic. The 2021 surge was 6.2 percent, due largely to the return to normal activities.

Researchers point out that emissions did not increase as fast as the rise in overall economic activity, which shows signs that the country is becoming less carbon intensive.

The report notes that power sector emissions actually fell year over year, while carbon pollution from the transportation and building sectors continues to rise.