Wisconsin’s Utilities War on Energy Efficient Customers

Having raised a family in Mad City, Wisconsin (a place former governor Dreyfuss called “77 square miles surrounded by reality” and others calling it the Left Coast of Wisconsin, I found the state to be open to new ideas and more so than what is found in other states. Of course things have changed with Governor Walker coming to power which reflects a state and nation regressing back to ideals and practices less tolerant.

We Energies is attempting to piggyback its fossil fuel driven energy generation costs on the back of more efficient and environmentally friendly renewable energy sources. While MG&E (the same as We Energies) has withdrawn its request to increase rates from the Public Service Commission (PSC), WPS remains with WE Energies in the quest to increase rates on energy efficient users and wind/solar power generators to subsidize a flawed 10 year old plan of the utilities and heavy users of fossil fuels. This comes at a time when solar power is finally becoming an affordable technology for many homeowners and businesses and making up 1% of We Energies 2.2 million customers in Wisconsin.

“If granted by the PSC, residential customers would see a 5% increase in their electricity rates next year,” the Journal Sentinel reported. Wisconsin would have the highest electrical utility costs in the Midwest as reported by Midwest Energy News. The impact of this decision could influence other utilities to raise rates on energy efficient users and solar/wind generators in other states.

In a billing message sent to many of its customers across the state, We Energies explained the rationale for the increases; “claiming it is making use of the power grid ‘fair’ for all of its customers even though those customers with renewable energy use less of the grid than those without solar or wind power.” We Energies claims more efficient customers not using the grid is leaving more cost to be borne by those who are not as efficient. Hmmmm? Saving energy by being more efficient or generating renewable energy should cost more? Why? The plan:

• We Energies wants to impose an additional monthly charge on distributed energy installations going from $9/month to $16/month for an average homeowner and with customers having renewable energy sources paying more.

• We Energies wishes to change the net metering terms making it less beneficial to the homeowner solar power provider to We Energies during peak power times.

• While third party ownership is illegal in Wisconsin, We Energies also seeks to prohibit third party leasing of solar installations to homeowners.

The reasoning: “The cost due to being more efficient and using the grid less should not be shifted to others for the use of the grid,” We Energies Brian Manthey said.

Huh? As pointed out in the Express Milwaukee article We Energies’ War on Its Solar Customers the result is a substantial increase for those users who use the grid rarely or less than major users due to energy efficiencies or their own renewable energy sources. In the end, the more efficient users are subsidizing the heavy users of fossil fuels due to We Energies poor strategy developed 10 years previous. It is a bill increase for smaller and more efficient users. So, we have made the big circle and are back at the beginning. If you are efficient, can sustain yourself with renewable energy most of the time, and can kick-in to WE Energies needs during Peak Energy Need Times; it does not matter and in fact you are going to pay more than if you are 100% dependent on WE Energies for power.

Sounds a little bit like Peabody Coal . . .

Notes and References:

We Energies’ War on Its Solar Customers

Advocates: Wisconsin solar fight could spill into other states