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Gov. Tony Evers is proposing to require the state’s utilities be carbon-free by 2050.

The proposal, which would go further than the self-imposed goals of almost all utilities, is part of a budget that would also significantly increase state funding for renewable energy and conservation.

Wisconsin would join Hawaii, which has established a goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, and California, which last year adopted a bill mandating carbon-free electricity by the same deadline. Minnesota and Michigan have set targets of 80 percent carbon reduction by 2050.

Evers’ proposal calls for carbon-free electricity, which would include nuclear generation. About 15 percent of the state’s electricity is currently generated at the Point Beach Nuclear Plant. More than three-quarters of the total comes from fossil fuels.

Investor-owned utilities including We Energies, Alliant and Madison Gas & Electric have pledged to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.

In December, Xcel Energy, which serves about 250,000 customers in western Wisconsin, became the nation’s first major utility to commit to eliminating all carbon emissions by 2050. Exactly how remains uncertain.

“Engineers would tell you it is technically feasible,” Mark Stoering, president of Xcel Energy’s operations in Wisconsin and Michigan said earlier this year. “There are some practical challenges.”

Other elements of Evers’ energy budget include:

  • $75 million to fund energy conservation projects, of which a third would be allocated to state-owned facilities.
  • Allowing the Public Service Commission to increase funding for the Focus on Energy program beyond the current limit of 1.2 percent of utility revenues.
  • Transforming the State Energy Office into the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy, which would be overseen by a political appointee and administer a $4 million clean energy research grant. Evers would transfer the office and five employees from the PSC to the Department of Administration.
  • The budget also proposes spending $10 million of the remaining $25 million from the Volkswagen emissions cheating settlement on electric vehicle charging stations. The rest would be dedicated to replacing public transit vehicles.
  • Wisconsin is scheduled to receive $67.1 million over 10 ten years to offset the excess pollution. State law now requires $42 million of that to be spent in 2017-19 for replacement of state vehicles and the transit assistance program.

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Data journalist for the Wisconsin State Journal. Covers energy and transportation, among other things. Rhymes with Lubbock. Contact him at 608-252-6146.