By Jeff Anthony, Business Director, AWEA, Milwaukee, Wisc
The Wisconsin Assembly recently passed a bill that would enable hydroelectric power from Manitoba, Canada to be shipped to Wisconsin to meet the state’s 2006 law requiring 10% of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources by 2015.
If enacted into law, the Manitoba Hydro Bill will ship jobs to Canada and reduce Wisconsin’s ability to meet its clean energy requirement by building more homegrown state energy projects.
One of the bill’s sponsors, state Sen. Frank Lasee (R-De Pere), was quoted saying, “This new law will keep electric bills from going up by making it more affordable for utilities to meet green energy mandates.”
Unfortunately, he was mistaken in assuming that other forms of “green energy” will raise electricity rates in the state. If he had gotten his facts straight, he would have found that wind energy costs are at near-record lows, and many U.S. utilities are reaping the benefits of lower electricity rates as wind energy expands on their systems. But the facts regarding wind energy costs apparently weren’t relevant in the rush to pass this ill-conceived bill.
What Sen. Lasee failed to mention is that his bill will also have a significant impact on Wisconsin by sending good-paying jobs that would otherwise have been created in Wisconsin – to Canada instead.
Sen. Lasee and the other state legislators who voted for the bill would have the state import electricity from Canadian energy projects that use domestic workers. Today, Wisconsin supports 2,000 to 3,000 workers in the wind energy industry alone, and the Manitoba Hydro Bill now threatens many of those jobs.
This is just the latest example of legislative activities that are exporting good-paying, clean energy jobs out of Wisconsin. Why is this happening?
At the beginning of the year, another onerous bill was proposed to impose extreme requirements on potential Wisconsin wind project locations. A few weeks later, a joint legislative committee voted to suspend Wind Siting Rules that had been developed through a collaborative, open, and fair process. This rule was suspended by the joint legislative committee on the very day that these far better new rules would have taken effect.
Combined, these actions have jeopardized about 700 MW of proposed state wind projects, resulting in the potential loss of $1.8 billion investments and two million construction job-hours. Furthermore, those two million job-hours will not show up in Wisconsin, but will likely move to neighboring states.
So what is the next step in the “Wisconsin Jobs Export Agenda?” Another piece of anti-clean energy job legislation has emerged. Assembly Bill 146 would significantly reduce the growth of renewable energy in the state. The Wisconsin clean energy law was originally created to incentivize new renewable energy development and increase fuel diversity. AB 146 would effectively remove that incentive.
The American Wind Energy Association has asked the Wisconsin Assembly not to act on AB 146, and instead reconsider efforts to create and protect jobs in the state’s wind-energy industry.
Today, Wisconsin has a number of thriving and growing renewable-energy businesses, especially in the supply chain and wind turbine component manufacturing sectors. AB 146 would threaten those companies and their Wisconsin employees. Is the state legislature prepared to take further actions to threaten manufacturing jobs that exist today in the wind-energy industry?
If Wisconsin is serious about economic development and growing jobs in the state, it must look to establish a stable environment for wind project developments and for component manufacturing in the state. Turbine manufacturers and makers of major components want to locate factories (and jobs) close to where projects are being installed. States that are “open for business” to the wind energy industry, such as Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan, are reaping the benefits of these associated manufacturing jobs.
Together, the wind energy industry stands united in urging the Assembly to dismiss AB 146 and begin to taking steps to re-establish Wisconsin as a good place to do business for the wind energy industry. The legislature needs to decide if it wants to continue to send jobs out of the state and country, or if it is serious about creating good jobs for workers in Wisconsin.
Filed Under: News