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Wisconsin Experts Confident About Renewable Energy’s Future, Even Under Trump

Stable Energy Sources Help Private-Sector Bottom Lines, Panelists Say

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Solar panels
Lester Public Library (CC-BY-NC-SA)

President-elect Donald Trump, an occasional climate change denier and outspoken critic of environmental regulations, has given environmentalists little reason for optimism, but some energy experts in Wisconsin agree renewable energy will continue to grow, even under a Trump presidency.

Three panelists who spoke at a Wisconsin Technology Council forum Thursday in Wauwatosa said they don’t know exactly what to expect out of the Trump administration. But Michael Vickerman of the group RENEW said some very large corporations are already moving away from coal-fired electricity.

“They are contracting with entities to build wind projects, large solar arrays and, in some cases, (natural) gas plants, basically to provide them with a stable energy source,” Vickerman said.

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New Berlin GOP state Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, who chairs the state Assembly’s Energy and Utilities Committee, said Republicans don’t dislike renewable energy but, “What we want to say is, if renewables stand on their own, and are not mandated, then God bless it.”

However, Kuglitsch said many states want Trump to halt federal efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

If that happens, local government officials may have to take the reins on combating climate change, said Marge Anderson, an energy consultant. Anderson, with the nonprofit Seventhwave, said many cities are already showing leadership.

“That’s where energy efficiency rubber meets the road, ” Anderson said, “Local mayors see the economic value of energy efficiency and make as much policy as they can within their scope for that.”

Anderson also said cities have the most air quality problems, because emissions are concentrated there, and are more inclined to take action.

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