By Keith Reopelle
Now is the time to make sure you know where your candidates stand on the day’s most important issues. Two important issues that will have a major impact on our state’s future are clean energy and energy efficiency.
Voters typically consider energy a national issue, but state-level politics often have as much or more impact on our energy future. In Wisconsin, state laws determine the how much of our electricity comes from renewable sources like wind and solar power. Additionally, programs like Focus on Energy, the statewide energy efficiency program, help homeowners and businesses save millions of dollars on energy bills.
Despite these laws and programs, we still send over $12 billion out of state each year to purchase dirty fossil fuels. Increasing our commitment to clean energy and energy efficiency could help Wisconsin become more energy independent, clean our air and water, and create thousands of jobs.
Unfortunately, legislators voted to significantly cut funding to Focus on Energy in the last legislative session, despite the program’s proven success; it saves homeowners and businesses $2.50 for every $1 invested in the program. Now is the time to move clean energy and energy efficiency policies forward, not backward.
A recent poll by the bipartisan research team of Public Opinion Strategies (R) and Fairbank, Maslin, Metz and Associates (D) found that Wisconsinites overwhelmingly support clean energy and energy efficiency. In fact, the poll found that 85 percent of Wisconsin voters support increasing the use of wind energy to meet our state’s future energy needs, and 89 percent support increasing the use of solar energy. Additionally, 84 percent said they would support policies requiring 30 percent of Wisconsin’s electricity come from renewable sources. This is well above the current standard of 10 percent by 2015, which utilities have largely met.
By passing clean energy policies and increasing funding for money-saving programs like Focus on Energy in the next legislative session, legislators can help create Wisconsin jobs. Companies like Milwaukee’s Helios SolarWorks, a solar panel manufacturer, Manitowoc’s Orion Energy Systems, a leader in lighting efficiency, Prairie du Sac’s Tower Technologies, a renewable energy installer, and hundreds more can create more jobs if leaders work together to advance clean energy and energy efficiency policies.
In addition, such policies could attract new companies to Wisconsin and make our state a leader in the rapidly expanding clean energy economy. In April, Ibisworld.com listed solar panel manufacturing (No. 2) and green and sustainable building construction (No. 9) among the nation’s top 10 fastest-growing industries. The poll found that more than two-thirds of voters believe clean energy and energy efficiency will create jobs and investing in these industries now can help ensure Wisconsin remains economically strong for decades.
At a time when our state and nation remain deeply divided on many issues, clean energy and energy efficiency unite people of all political stripes. With less than two weeks to the election, now is the time to ask your candidates where they stand on these important issues.