Renewable Energy


Renewable energy comes from sources like wind, sunlight and plants. Unlike fossil fuels, these sources are not limited in nature. They also produce significantly less pollution than fossil fuels, often producing none at all.

Wisconsin has a large amount and variety of renewable energy resources. The technologies that could be manufactured, installed, and used to produce clean energy in the state include wind turbines, solar energy systems, and biogas systems.

Instead of relying on these renewable energy sources, however, the vast majority of energy in Wisconsin currently comes from fossil fuels. Since Wisconsin has none of its own fossil fuels, this effects Wisconsin’s economy in the short-term as money is sent to other states to import the fuels, and in the long-term due to the harmful air, water and global warming pollution that burning fossil fuels creates.

Key Points

  • Wisconsin sends $14 billion out of state each year to import fossil fuels.[1]
  • Renewable energy could cleanly generate thousands of times more electricity than we currently use in Wisconsin.[2] 
  • Wisconsin’s current Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires that roughly 10% of our electricity come from renewable sources by 2015, has barely raised electrical rates while generating billions of dollars in new investment.[3]
  • The renewable energy portion of Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program is estimated to generate $2 in benefits to the state for every dollar invested.[4]
Clean Wisconsin's Work

Clean Wisconsin works on multiple fronts to encourage the growth of a clean energy economy and reduce our need for harmful fossil fuels. This includes working to strengthen our current Renewable Electricity Standard, intervening in renewable energy cases at the PSC, eliminating barriers to wind power, and supporting policies like net metering and clean energy choice that encourage distributed renewable energy technologies.


Related Topic Pages

Biogas and Anaerobic Digesters
Anaerobic digesters, or “biodigesters,” are a technology that convert organic waste into biogas that can be used as a renewable source of energy and reusable byproducts, such as high-quality fertilizer and animal bedding. Wisconsin currently leads the nation in energy production from anaerobic digestion, and has much more potential because of the size of its dairy and food processing industries. However, other states have adopted policies to encourage biodigesters that may allow them to pass Wisconsin as the nation’s leading biogas state.

Net Metering
Net metering is a policy ensures that everyone can get full credit for producing their own renewable electricity. Net metering allows meters to spin backward as well as forward. Like rollover minutes for a cell phone, this allows people to balance out times when they are generating electricity with times when they are using more than they generate.

Renewable Portfolio Standard
A Renewable Portfolio Standard requires that a certain amount of electricity come from clean, renewable sources. In Wisconsin we currently have a state requirement that about 10% of our electricity come from renewable sources by 2015.

Third Party Ownership
Third-party ownership policies help homeowners or businesses get clean energy easily and cheaply from a renewable energy system installed on their property. Sometimes also called Clean Energy Choice, these policies allow a “third party,” one that is neither the homeowner/business or their electrical utility, to own and operate a renewable energy system on the homeowner/business’ property. This makes it so that the homeowner/business doesn’t have to deal with the cost or hassle of buying and maintaining that renewable energy system.


Cited Resources
  1. Wisconsin sends an average of over $14 billion out of state, based on an average of most recent five years with available data (2005-2009) from Wisconsin State Energy Office. Wisconsin Energy Statistics 2010. Chapter 7: Wisconsin Expenditures for Energy. This includes roughly $9 billion a year for petroleum products, $3.4 billion for natural gas, and $900 million for coal.
  2. Wisconsin has the potential to generate over 6,000,000 GWh of electricity from renewable sources, about 4,400 times as much electricity we currently use. Based on Lopez et al. “U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-Based Analysis.” U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Technical Report NREL/TP-6A20-51946 (July 2012)
  3. Wisconsin’s RPS has raised electrical rates by only 1%, while generating nearly $2 billion in new investment, over 8 times its cost. Based on Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. “Report on the Rate and Revenue Impacts of the Wisconsin Renewable Portfolio Standard.” Docket 5-GF-220 (June 15, 2012).
  4. The Cadmus Group, Inc. “Focus on Energy Calendar Year 2012 Economic Impacts Report.” Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (November, 2013).



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Please cite this resource as: Clean Wisconsin, Inc. “Renewable Energy.” Clean Wisconsin Enviropedia. Retrieved from