Backing The Future

Posted on Mar 1, 2010 :: Green Business
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Business coalition advocates for energy policy change

It didn’t take long for eco-startup Greenwood Fuels to see the value of joining forces with other like-minded companies. The Green Bay-based company, which opened last year, converts non-recyclable paper waste into fuel pellets. It’s also the latest member of the Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin’s Economy (CREWE) business coalition, which advocates for meaningful change in energy policy consistent with the Governor’s 2008 Task Force on Global Warming report.

“Greenwood Fuels is working to create fuel solutions that not only save companies money, but help save our environment as well,” says Jay Troger, Greenwood’s president and chief operating officer. “We’re excited to partner with CREWE to help put Wisconsin on the cutting edge of environmental sustainability efforts and green job creation.”

Formed in January 2009, CREWE also includes CleanPower, Alliant Energy, EcoEnergy, Johnson Controls, Xcel Energy, C5•6 Technologies, Axley Brynelson, Madison Gas and Electric, Orion Energy Systems, Forest County Potawatomi Community, Wisconsin Energy Corp., Poblocki Sign Company, Emerging Energies of Wisconsin, MillerCoors, American Transmission Co., WPPI Energy, DTE Energy Services and Kranz Inc.

The organization supports the policy recommendations of the Global Warming Task Force, which include a return to 2005 emission levels no later than 2014, a 22 percent reduction from 2005 levels (approximately equal to 1990 levels) by 2022, and a 75 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2050.

CREWE focuses on five key policy areas that support job creation while protecting the environment: wind energy development, energy efficiency, a renewable portfolio standard, nuclear energy and biofuels.

Orion Energy Systems of Manitowoc became involved early on, and Orion Executive Vice President Michael Potts is an original board member. “Orion was especially interested because of a very specific issue: There was no existing designation for our new Apollo Light Pipe product. It’s not an energy-efficiency device; it takes solar energy and directly transmits it as good quality light,” says Potts. “We like to describe it as a ‘natural offsetting peaking power plant.’ We helped shape a new category called ‘non-generating renewable technology.’”

Potts, who is secretary of CREWE, feels that Orion and CREWE have helped bring new thinking to the issue. “We’ve tried to get people to stop thinking ‘We have power needs, so let’s build a power plant.’ Instead, we want to help people lower their energy uses and become more energy-efficient.”

CREWE was initially spearheaded by Dan Ebert, vice president of policy and external affairs for WPPI Energy and a former chair of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. Ebert is now CREWE’s board chairperson.

Ebert’s intent was to create a stage for dialogue among business leaders, environmentalists and lawmakers that would focus on reducing the carbon footprint, reducing energy use and creating green jobs. “He wanted to make sure that business would have a voice in the discussions,” says Thad Nation, who was hired as the group’s executive director. Nation is also founder and president of Nation Consulting, the public relations agency for the New North, Inc.

“CREWE is an advocacy organization,” says Nation, “that wanted to be active in shaping the bill and in helping the bill become law. We’re trying to grow our membership and to educate the public and the media.”

The Clean Energy Jobs Act, which was announced on Jan. 7, is designed to address climate change and grow the state’s green economy, based on the recommendations of the Global Warming Task Force.

Opponents of the bill, including Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, have serious questions about it, suggesting it could cost billions of dollars and actually eliminate jobs. This also puts them at odds with CREWE.

“Even Orion is not supportive of everything in the current bill,” says Potts, “so we are working the legislation both as a company and as part of CREWE. We absolutely need to be part of the discussion so that what we end up with adds value to Wisconsin’s competitive position in our economy.”

“Something needs to be done,” adds Nation. “We just need to work together to find the best way to do it.”