World Resources Institute analyzes possibilities in 2020 outlook

MADISON — Extending the lifespan of Wisconsin’s clean energy policies and using existing infrastructure more efficiently could cut carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 43 percent below 2011 levels by the year 2020. That’s according to an analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI).

“Especially as the EPA prepares to establish carbon pollution limits, this is very encouraging information,” said Keith Reopelle, senior policy director for Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy group. “This report shows we, as a state, have made a number of good choices with great potential to reduce carbon emissions, while also saving time, energy and money in the long run.”

WRI’s analysis discovered potential for carbon reduction across Wisconsin’s energy map in both fossil fuel and renewable resources:

  • An 11-percent reduction is possible with greater use of combined heat and power systems that use waste heat to generate electricity at sites like universities, hospitals and paper mills.
  • A 9-percent reduction is possible by continued investment in Focus on Energy, the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency program.
  • A 6-percent reduction is possible by continuing to achieve annual 1-percent increases for renewable energy generation after meeting the 10 percent by 2015 Wisconsin Renewable Portfolio Standard.
  • An additional 9 percent could be gained by increasing output at currently operating natural gas plants. The analysis found that many plants currently run well below capacity. Increasing coal plant efficiency stands chance to cut another 1 percent.

Additional reductions can be found in the WRI report. The analysis comes on the heels of a detailed independent analysis showing Focus on Energy, a program that assists nearly 200,000 Wisconsin residents and businesses annually, creates a $7-to-$1 return on investment and nearly $1.5 billion in economic benefit from 2012 projects alone.

“All told, these reports show that Wisconsin is poised to be a leader again to the benefit of ratepayers and future generations,” said Reopelle. “Fortunately, these numbers show us we can look forward with confidence, knowing that the good choices of yesterday can certainly be the greatest choices for tomorrow.”