Tom Still: Striking an energy generation balance: Will Wisconsin be late for dinner?

This is an excerpt from a column posted at BizOpinion.

Matt Neumann’s Pewaukee-based company, Sunvest Solar, is running hot these days. It has more than 210 solar energy projects in some phase of installation, he told attendees at a recent conference in Madison, but only one in Wisconsin.

Why? Perhaps because Wisconsin, unlike other states, has yet to officially bless third-party owned electric systems. Under this model, the contractor owns the solar panels and leases them to the building’s owner, whether a business or a home owner, thus dramatically reducing initial costs to the consumer.

In case you think Neumann is a classic enviro-liberal, think again: He’s the son of former Republican member of Congress Mark Neumann and a firm believer that the economics of solar power have improved to the point that it now makes sense – as in dollars and cents.

“Any conservative should be in favor of free-market competition,” Matt Neumann said. “It’s the energy industry competing for who can provide power for the lowest cost.”

One speaker after another at the Renew Wisconsin Policy Summit cited examples of how other states, often Midwest neighbors but also politically “red” states around the country, are forging ahead with strategies that involve solar, wind, biomass and other renewable generation sources.

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