Energy Efficiency Standards

Wisconsin has a statewide energy efficiency program called Focus on Energy, which is funded by ratepayers of regulated investor-owned utilities and several municipal and co-op utilities. The Public Service Commission has administered Focus on Energy since 2007. According to the Commission, energy efficiency spending in Wisconsin is approximately 70% electricity and 30% natural gas efficiency programs.

Wisconsin enacted a spending-based energy efficiency standard known as a Public Benefit Fund (PBF), which requires utilities to fund energy efficiency programs at a level of 1.2% of annual retail revenue. Focus on Energy is currently funded at approximately $95 million annually. Wisconsin has the only PBF in the Midwest.

In Wisconsin's PBF, utilities collectively contract with Focus on Energy as the statewide program administrator through the Statewide Energy Efficiency and Renewable Administration (SEERA), which contracts with and funds third-party administration to implement not only residential and non-residential energy efficiency programs, but also renewable energy and environmental and economic research and development. Utilities are also allowed to conduct their own energy efficiency programs beyond those funded through the statewide administrator subject to approval by the PSC, though the PSC cannot order utilities to conduct additional programs. Current law also allows large customers over 1,000 monthly kWh or 10,000 dekatherms of natural gas to participate in self-directed energy efficiency programs.

Resource Planning

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission undertakes a quadrennial review process to "set or revise goals, priorities and measurable targets for the [energy efficiency and renewable energy] programs" paid for by ratepayers under the statewide EE and RE standards. The PSC completed Quadrennial Plan IV in 2022.

In addition to the quadrennial review, the PSC also conducts a biennial Strategic Energy Assessment (SEA) to assess the adequacy and reliability of the state's energy supply. The SEA evaluates and forecasts energy supply over a seven-year horizon.

Rate Structures & Incentives

Cost Recovery

Utilities are entitled to recover the costs associated with funding Focus on Energy through the utilities’ rates. The PSC can also approve cost recovery for utilities that engage in additional energy efficiency programming beyond the PBF on a case-by-case basis.

Lost Revenue Recovery

The Wisconsin PSC approves lost revenue recovery mechanisms on a case-by-case basis. Relatedly, the commission approved decoupling as a "Revenue Stabilization Mechanism" and allowed the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPSC) to pursue a four-year pilot program. WPSC asked that decoupling be continued past the end of the pilot in 2012. Wisconsin Power and Light has also been approved for decoupling for natural gas.

Utility Incentives

Utilities can propose incentives as part of their rate cases for the voluntary utility-administered EE programs that are outside of the Focus on Energy program. The incentive is in the form of shared savings. Alliant Energy (WP&L) has received commission approval to utilize the shared savings mechanism for one of the programs it offers beyond the Focus on Energy program.  

Noncompliance Penalties

There are no direct monetary penalties for noncompliance within Wisconsin’s statewide efficiency program.

Stakeholder Collaboration

Utilities that fund Focus on Energy meet collaboratively as part of the Statewide Energy Efficiency and Renewable Administration process that hires and funds Focus on Energy administrators as part of the ongoing engagement with the Focus on Energy model. Focus on Energy and the utilities also conduct periodic trade-ally meetings. Energy efficiency planning collaborative meetings in Wisconsin are not open to the public. Separately, there is no formal collaborative process open to all interested stakeholders.

Program Evaluation

Wisconsin’s energy efficiency program evaluation is conducted under the guidance of the statewide Focus on Energy program administrator. Programs are evaluated annually.

Cost-effectiveness Testing

Wisconsin primarily uses the Total Resource Cost (TRC) test for determining the cost-effectiveness of energy efficiency programs, though the Program Administrator Cost Test (PACT) and the Societal Cost Test (SCT) are also used.

Net vs. Gross

Wisconsin energy efficiency program evaluations report both gross and net savings. Net savings calculations include measurement of both free rider and spillover effects.

Technical Reference Manual

Wisconsin's TRM for Focus on Energy is updated annually. The latest version (2024) can be found on the Focus on Energy Evaluation Reports page.

State Energy Plan or Vision

Wisconsin's Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy released the state's Clean Energy Plan in April 2022, as directed by Governor Evers' Executive Order #38. The plan builds off the Governor's Task Force on Climate Change, but focuses more explicitly on energy planning.

The Clean Energy Plan defines four key strategies to create momentum and action towards a clean and reliable energy future: accelerate clean energy technology deployment, maximize energy efficiency, modernize buildings and industry and innovate transportation. Energy efficiency is incorporated in many of the Plan's immediate action strategies, such as making economy-wide investments in energy efficiency, strengthening the Focus on Energy program and leveraging federal funding for an energy efficiency grant program. Additional details on the energy efficiency components can be found in MEEA's blog on the Clean Energy Plan.

State Agency Energy Reduction Requirement

Wisconsin's Department of Administration (DoA), Division of State Facilities, houses the State of Wisconsin Performance Contracting program that allows the DoA to enter into contracts with Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) to develop and implement energy cost saving measures for state buildings. The program includes guidelines for ESCO contracting and a list of approved ESCOs.

EE in New State Buildings

Wisconsin's 2022 Clean Energy Plan commits the state to leading by example with reducing energy use in state-owned buildings. Some strategies in the Plan include developing an internal online dashboard to track state agency energy use, setting specific energy efficiency goals for its buildings (such as meeting ENERGY STAR® performance levels by 2027), implementing a more energy efficiency footprint across state agencies, utilizing state bonding for energy conservation projects and reinvesting energy efficiency cost savings to fund additional energy efficiency and clean energy investments.

Key Policymaker Contacts