Energy producers account for $20 billion economic impact

An advocacy group backed by utilities and trade groups in the state is touting the $20 billion annual economic impact associated with Wisconsin energy producers. 

Fair Rates for Wisconsin’s Dairyland was created in 2015 with funding from organizations such as Alliant Energy, We Energies and WPPI Energy, as well as Dairyland Power Cooperative, the Wisconsin Building Trades Council, the Wisconsin Laborers District Council and others. 

“FRWD was put into place to help educate the public about the energy needs or challenges of Wisconsin,” said Kathi Kilgore, who’s been the group’s executive director since March. “Also for the men and women working for utilities, or as part of the trades that build new plants or solar arrays.” 

A new report from the group aims to shed light on the importance of the energy production sector to the state’s economy. In a recent interview, Kilgore noted the sector’s economic output exceeds $17.7 billion and associated labor income is around $2.7 billion. 

Both of those figures incorporate direct effects, as well as indirect and induced impacts. 

“It’s an eye-opening number,” Kilgore said. 

On top of the over $20 billion figure for total economic impact, the report shows that energy producers pay more than $1.14 billion in taxes to state and local governments each year. That number includes payments made by municipal utilities, which aren’t taxed like other utilities. 

The report also highlights the impact of energy producers and their employees in other sectors, estimating they have a $214 million impact on the health care sector. Their impact is estimated at about $61 million on full-service restaurants, $124 million on retail stores, $192 million on real estate, and nearly $56 million on professional, scientific and technical services. 

Along with the economic impact, the report shows that energy producers help support thousands of other jobs in those various sectors. 

Plus, Kilgore says competitive electricity rates help draw businesses to the state and particular regions of Wisconsin. 

“We all know the importance of electricity in our daily lives and having fair, affordable and reliable energy,” she said. 

The new report was funded by FRWD and produced by UW-Whitewater’s Fiscal and Economic Research Center. 

“While we look at the impact the energy industry has on the overall economy, it is also important to recognize that the industry is critical to Wisconsin’s future economic growth,” said Prof. Russell Kashian, director of FERC at UW-Whitewater. “Businesses look for locations to grow and relocate, and as they do, they seek affordability and reliability for their energy needs.” 

Kilgore has been with FRWD since March and says the new report marks her first opportunity to talk about the organization. She said the group isn’t doing any lobbying and is playing a “purely educational role.” 

See the report: 

See the full list of the group’s supporters: 

–By Alex Moe