Free Tuesday Trends sample: Renewable energy rising, hospital hiring mixed, Milwaukee streetcar falling

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Renewable energy: The environmental group Clean Wisconsin says a bipartisan poll it commissioned shows wide margins of Wisconsin voters want the state to meet more of its energy needs through renewable sources — and that they believe doing so would be a boon for the state’s economy. The survey — conducted by a research team from Democratic and Republican polling firms — found 95 percent of respondents support an increase in the use of energy efficiency, with more than 80 percent supporting increases in the solar, biomass and wind energy sectors. The poll also finds 93 percent of respondents said home- and business-owners should have the right to install solar power implements and pay for them how they choose, while 84 percent back limiting carbon pollution at power plants and 73 percent want to see the Renewable Portfolio Standard rise from 10 percent to 30 percent. Respondents who believed renewable energy would be an economic driver for Wisconsin outnumbered those who didn’t by a 6-to-1 margin, while the margin was 18-to-1 for the job potential of expanding energy efficiency.


Hospital hiring: The annual personnel survey from the Wisconsin Hospital Association says hiring in state hospitals could begin to pick up in the near future. Hiring has remained flat since the recession, but the WHA says that may change as baby boomers who postponed retirement during the economic downturn begin to leave the workforce. In key patient care positions, nearly a quarter of the employees are over age 55; almost 20 percent of the registered nurses working in hospitals exceed that age, and the report notes hospitals are already factoring a tightening of the nursing workforce into their strategic planning. In addition, 22 percent of hospital pharmacists and 35 percent of laboratory technologists were over age 55. The survey found occupational and physical therapists, meanwhile, are among the youngest workers in hospitals.


Milwaukee streetcar: The proposed downtown streetcar line in Milwaukee takes a hit when, as expected, the state Public Service Commission rejects the city’s request to have ratepayers cover the cost of moving utility lines to accommodate the project. City officials had allocated nearly $65 million — $55 million in federal funding and nearly $10 million from a TIF district — to build the initial 2.1-mile rail line, but those costs didn’t account for the millions more needed to uproot utility lines. No decision has yet been made on an appeal from the city, but should the PSC decision stand, Milwaukee would have to pay those costs, which could, according to one projection, double the price tag — and make the already controversial idea a much tougher sell. The PSC originally ruled the city would be responsible for utility costs in April and formalizes its decision by the same 2-1 margin, with commissioners Phil Montgomery and Ellen Nowak in support and Eric Callisto in opposition. Callisto, an appointee of former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, argues the ruling was unnecessary after state lawmakers passed a law in 2013 to ban passing streetcar-related costs onto utilities. But the Walker appointees comprising the majority write the city’s “attempt to narrowly interpret Act 20 is inconsistent with the language of the statute, the tenets of statutory construction, and is contrary to the legislative intent.”