Wisconsin Voluntary Tariffs–Success or Failure?

By Paul Gipe


On November 2, 2010, Wisconsin’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) issued a report on the state’s voluntary feed-in tariffs.

The dubiously titled 55-page report, Implementation of Advanced Renewable Tariffs in Wisconsin, notes that many of the programs sponsored “voluntarily” by the state’s utilities are fully subscribed. The PUC report claims this is an indicator of the programs’ “success”.

However, the PUC report found only 400 projects were installed under the state’s various voluntary tariffs and only 3.5 MW had been added since January, 2009.

Only 10.2 MW have been installed in the entire state under voluntary tariffs in the past four years and there are only 8.2 MW of projects pending.

Of the installed capacity, most is biogas, followed by solar PV.


  • Biogas: 5.1 MW
  • Solar PV: 2.6 MW
  • Wind: 2.5 MW

Wisconsin voluntary tariffs are of short duration, typically 10 to 15 years, and with limited program caps. Most of the voluntary programs are limited to 0.5% of generation, some even less.

For comparison, the city of Gainesville, Florida installed nearly 4 MW of solar PV in the first year of its feed-in tariff program.

The PUC report provided no information on actual generation from these plants or whether they were profitable or not. In addition to the voluntary tariffs, Wisconsin offers a traditional subsidy program called Focus on Energy and has won several federal subsides from the Department of Agriculture. Data from RENEW Wisconsin shows that the state has installed 18.9 MW of small or distributed renewable generators through 2010.