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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Important Announcements from April 15th Joint Finance Committee Hearing on Public Service Commission Budget

Yesterday, April 15, the state legislature’s Joint Finance Committee met to decide the budget for the Public Service Commission.


Three items of importance to the renewable energy community.

1. Studying the health effects of wind:  The Governor had proposed $250,000 to study health related impacts of wind energy.  The funding was cut for that study, but the Commission was directed to conduct a review of studies relating to health effects of wind turbines.  These studies do not have to be “peer reviewed,” and a motion to include that phrase was shot down.  If the review shows substantial negative health effects, the PSC may submit revisions to the existing rules pertaining to siting wind farms.

2. Higher utility bills likely coming your way:  Out of seemingly nowhere, and as the last order of business of the day, an amendment surfaced to cut public funding for citizen participation in cases at the Public Service Commission.  The motion was passed 12-4, with all Republicans voting for it.

In an article published in the April 19th Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tom Content reports that the amendment was the brainchild of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC). Coincidentally enough, We Energies CEO Gale Klappa is vice-chairman of the MMAC board.

As discussed in a blistering Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial from the same day, the measure will lead to higher utility bills because it would slash funding for the Citizens Utility Board, or CUB, a nonprofit organization which advocates for lower utility expenses and bill savings to customers.  In 2014 alone, CUB saved utility customers $161 million.

The editorial asks MMAC to explain to ratepayers across Wisconsin why it thinks eliminating CUB funding is such a good idea. The editorial calls on the budget committee to reconsider its "inexplicable decision to sock it to utility customers....And if it fails to do that, Gov. Scott Walker should find a way to restore CUB's funding. Utility customers need a watchdog with teeth."

The measure also cuts funding by 50% for groups like RENEW Wisconsin when we bring expert witnesses to utility cases on renewable energy issues.

3. Focus on Energy.  No action or amendments surfaced that would affect the Focus on Energy program.  This is a good thing.  However, it is highly likely that proposals to amend the program in some fashion may surface
later this year, or perhaps even later on during this budget process.

We will continue to stay abreast of these discussions as they develop.

Upcoming calendar:  Yesterday was the first meeting of the Joint Finance Committee, which is aiming to finish its work on the entire budget by Memorial Day.  The budget must be passed by both the Senate and Assembly before the end of June, therefore none of these items are finalized at this point.

More details on the above items are found below:

Results from the Joint Finance Committee meeting, April 15, 2015, relating to the Public Service Commission's budget

 Motion #48 - Wind Energy Health Study

Joint Finance Committee approved a substitute motion to delete the Governor’s recommendation, including the appropriation of $250,000 from the 2015-2017 state budget, and “instead require the PSC instead to conduct a review of studies conducted to ascertain the health effects of industrial wind turbines on people residing near turbine installations. If the review shows that there are substantially negative health effects on people living beyond the current 1,250-foot setback radius, the PSC may submit necessary revisions to the existing administrative rules to the Legislative Council Rules Clearinghouse, not later than six months after completion of the study.”

The amendment was moved by Rep. Nygren and approved on a party line vote (12-4).

Joint Finance Committee rejected a motion (#55) to insert the words “peer-reviewed” before "studies" on line 2 of Motion #48 in the above motion on a party-line vote (12-4).

Motion #29 - Intervenor Compensation

Joint Finance Committee approved a motion to cut the intervenor financing budget and “repeal the authorization for grants to nonprofit corporations that have a history of advocating on behalf of ratepayers and by reducing the compensation rate for consumer groups and consumer representatives from 100% of the cost of participating in a PSC hearing to 50% of the cost.” Approval of this motion will “decrease expenditures from the appropriation by $671,300 PR annually. These provisions would become effective on July 1, 2015, or the day after publication of the budget act, whichever is later.” The amendment was approved on a party line vote (12-4).

Background information on this program:

                 The intervenor compensation program was created in 1983 and since that time, has provided financial assistance to organizations and individuals who choose to become an intervenor for a Commission proceeding. When organizations or individuals have been granted intervenor status, they may submit testimony and exhibits, which became part of the record considered by the Commission in making decisions. Typically, intervenors use the compensation to pay for expert witnesses. The motion would require the intervenor to pay for half of the costs it incurs.

                 The intervenor compensation program was modified by 2009 Wisconsin Act 383, which authorizes an annual grant of $300,00 to a nonstock, nonprofit corporation that has a history of advocating on behalf of residential ratepayers for affordable rates. The recipient is required to use the grant “for the purpose of offsetting the general expenses of the corporation, including salary, benefit, rent, and utility expenses.” In 2011, the grant program was modified to allow the PSC to distribute the $300,000 among more than a single group and impose additional conditions and to revoke a grant. Since its creation, the Citizens Utility Board has been the only grant recipient. The motion would repeal the grant.

                 The intervenor compensation appropriation is a biennial appropriation authorized to expend up to $1,042,500 annually ($300,00 for grants and $742,500 for compensation). The actual amount expended on intervenor compensation depends on the number of docketed cases, as well as other factors. Funds for the payments are generated through the PSC’s direct and remainder assessments on public utilities.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Will Minnesota fixed-rate decision impact Wisconsin Fight?

The article below teases out a recent rate case ruling in Minnesota and how it might affect an upcoming case in Wisconsin. In addition to being the largest electric utility in Minnesota, Xcel Energy also serves much of western Wisconsin, including La Crosse and Eau Claire. Right now, Xcel's residential customers in both MN and WI pay a monthly fixed charge of $8.00.

Posted on 04/15/2015 by Kari Lydersen

(Photo by Jimmy Emerson via Creative Commons)
(Photo by Jimmy Emerson via Creative Commons)


Utility rate cases have become a major battleground over the future of distributed solar generation and the evolving structure of the nation’s electricity system.

In the Midwest, Wisconsin has been ground zero, with state regulators last year approving three rate cases that made solar much less viable through several mechanisms, including a drastic increase in the fixed monthly charges for all ratepayers, regardless of how much electricity they use.

The next major development on that front will be a case that Xcel Energy is expected to file in late spring or summer. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has made it clear that it welcomes requests for increased fixed charges and related measures, as RENEW Wisconsin program and policy director Michael Vickerman and other energy experts see it.

But a March 26 decision by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on an Xcel rate case in that state could mean Xcel is unlikely to request the type of fixed rate increase that other utilities in Wisconsin have been granted.

In Minnesota, which along with North and South Dakota makes up about 85 percent of Xcel’s upper Midwest territory, the utility had requested a $1.50 increase in fixed charges each month. The Minnesota PUC allowed Xcel to collect more revenue and increase rates in general, but it denied the monthly fixed rate increases.

“Having a neighboring public service commission say no will hopefully warn that not everybody is marching forward” with fixed rate increases, said The Alliance for Solar Choice spokesperson Amy Heart. “That this isn’t necessarily a trend in the Midwest.”

“The decision in Minnesota demonstrates just how out of step the Public Service Commission is in Wisconsin.”

Paying for the grid


The fixed-rate portion of an electric bill is meant to cover the cost of grid infrastructure, and utilities around the country have argued that even when people reduce their energy use – including through solar installations – they still need to pay an increased “fair share” for keeping up the grid.

Since Minnesota essentially rejected that argument, and since the grid infrastructure delivering to Wisconsin Xcel customers is largely the same system as in Minnesota, experts say Xcel would have a hard time justifying higher fixed charges for Wisconsin customers.

In other words, if it costs only $8 a month to deliver electricity to Minnesota Xcel customers, it doesn’t compute that it would cost much more to deliver to customers only a few miles away over the Wisconsin border.

“They will be constrained internally from asking for a large increase in fixed costs, though it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t do it,” said Vickerman. “They would feel like, ‘Hmm, this could cause problems with respect to the other customers served by the Xcel system.”

Heart added that “our suspicion [and] hope is that it’s an indication that Xcel would be more judicious and cautious in their upcoming rate request in Wisconsin as to whether they would include any fixed rate increase.”

Xcel response


Xcel spokesperson Mary Sandok did not respond directly to questions about whether the company will seek higher fixed costs in Wisconsin and whether the Minnesota decision will affect the company’s Wisconsin rate case.

“No decisions have been made in either Minnesota or Wisconsin about whether to include increases in monthly basic service charges in future rate cases,” she said. “Also, each state’s regulatory environment is different, and the decision by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will not necessarily affect what we decide to do in Wisconsin.”

Sandok echoed the same argument that We Energies and other utilities around the country have made for increasing fixed charges: “Our monthly basic service charge for residential customers in Minnesota and Wisconsin currently is well below the fixed cost of providing basic service to customers: service lines to their homes, metering, billing, etc. These costs are incurred regardless of the amount of energy customers use.”

But the fixed rate increase that Xcel requested in Minnesota was still far below the increases requested and approved for Wisconsin utilities. Both Public Service Corp. in northern Wisconsin and MG&E increased their fixed rates from about $10.50 to $19 per month, and We Energies’ increase is from about $9 to about $16 a month.

The Minnesota Xcel rate case was launched in November 2013 when the utility requested a $291 million rate increase over two years, saying it needed more money to maintain its nuclear plants and upgrade its transmission infrastructure. Like utilities around the country, Xcel is also struggling with dropping or flat electricity demand. Nationwide, this is an effect in part of increased energy efficiency and distributed generation.

The Minnesota PUC decision was in keeping with the June 2014 findings of the state commerce commission and the December ruling of an administrative law judge, which both said that Xcel should reduce its rate increase requests. The PUC also approved the state’s first decoupling program, a structure where the utility does not get more profit the more energy it sells. That program should theoretically alleviate the need for the utility to increase its fixed rates.

Larger context


Across the country utilities have been requesting fixed rate increases and other changes that make solar installations less viable. Renewable energy advocates say the utilities are trying to protect the traditional model revolving around large centralized power plants and limited distributed generation.

In the majority of cases, according to analysis by The Alliance for Solar Choice, regulators have turned down utilities’ requests and made decisions amenable to the spread of distributed solar. But the Wisconsin Public Service Commission has been an outlier, as experts see it, approving rate cases despite a lack of evidence backing up the utilities’ arguments and in the face of public opposition to the changes.

Public Service Commission spokesman Nathan Conrad disagreed with that characterization, saying, “All decisions made by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin are based on the totality of the record before them, no other outside influences or sources are considered in any case before the Commission.”

While renewable energy proponents hope the Minnesota decision could have larger ripple effects in neighboring Wisconsin, Vickerman and others see this as unlikely, given what they describe as the staunchly ideological position of the Public Service Commission.

“It’s really the Public Service Commission in Wisconsin that’s driving the rate restructuring change, moreso than the utilities,” said Vickerman. “This commission has rang the dinner bell.”

RENEW Wisconsin is a member of RE-AMP, which publishes Midwest Energy News.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Eau Claire Energy Cooperative Will Launch Wisconsin's Largest Community Solar Installation

Eau Claire Electric Cooperative is set to proceed with the largest community shared solar installation in Wisconsin. At 858 kilowatts, this project will surpass the combined generating capacity of the three shared solar arrays already operating in Wisconsin, all owned by rural electric cooperatives. River Falls-based Able Energy Company will construct the array and interconnect it to the grid. Read the full article here.

The FAQ that appears below can be accessed online.

 

FAQs – Eau Claire Electric Cooperative’s MemberSolar Project


What is the purpose of the MemberSolar project?

To provide interested Eau Claire Energy Cooperative members a viable and affordable option to purchase renewable solar energy on a voluntary basis.

What is the cost to participate in the project?

The project is 858 kW which will be made up of 2,816 - 305 watt solar panels. The output of each panel, a subscription unit, will be sold for approximately $650. Each ECEC account is eligible to purchase from 1 unit - up to a maximum of 30 units. Units will also be limited to the annual kWh usage per account. If you would like to know how many units you are eligible to purchase, please contact our office.

Is there any equipment installed at my home?

No, the community solar array will be built on a 4 acre section of ground along Highway 12 in Fall Creek. Eau Claire Energy Cooperative will be responsible for operating, maintaining, and insuring the array for the 20-year life of the project.

Do I own the solar panels if I participate in the project?

No, as a member you are not purchasing solar panels, you are purchasing the production rights (output) of a solar panel, or a unit, for the 20 year life of the project.

How much energy will the solar array produce?

Energy production will vary from month to month and year to year based on actual sunshine. Half of the energy is expected to be produced June through August. Each unit is estimated to produce an average of approximately 400 kilowatt hours each year over the 20-year life of the project.

How do I receive credit for participating in the program?

The total energy produced by the entire solar array each month will be divided by the number of units in the project. Each participating member's bill will be reduced by the number of kWh's their share of the overall project produced - priced at the current ECEC energy component of the member's retail rate. As the ECEC rate changes over time, the value of the bill credit will also change. If rates increase, the value of the credit will increase.

What happens if my share of production from the array is greater than my usage?

If your share of production exceeds your usage in any month, the excess will roll over to the next month. However, once per year, if there is any excess production it will be zeroed out and no credit will be given.

What happens if I move?

One option is to simply leave your solar energy credits on your account for whoever moves in, this is value added to your home the same as if you had physically installed panels. If you move your electric service to a different location within ECEC's service territory, you can transfer the credit to your new location. If you leave the area, you may elect to transfer or assign the unit production credits to another member, donate them to a member organization, or ECEC will repurchase on a declining basis of 10% per year.

What happens after the 20 year life of the project?

The project will be evaluated as the 20 year life approaches to determine if it is still a viable project. If it is deemed a viable project and is able to operate effectively, the cooperative has the option to extend the member agreement.

Will I receive renewable energy tax credits by participating in the project?

Since you own the rights to the energy production of the units and not the solar units themselves, you are not eligible for state or federal renewable tax credits. However, you are getting the benefit of the tax incentives in a reduced up-front cost. To determine any other tax implications, please contact your tax preparer.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Opinion Piece Discusses Discrepancies in Walker's Presidential Campaign and Proposed State Budget on Energy Policy

The below article by Tom Clementi appeared in the Appleton Post Crescent Wednesday March 25th. Titled "Check Walker's Motives on Energy Choices," it discusses differences in Governor Walker's self-proclaimed "supportive" position on bioenergy and renewables in his presidential stump speech and actions taken in his proposed 2015-2017 state budget that eliminates state funding for important bioenergy research.

Check Walker's Motive on Energy Choices

By Tom Clementi

If you’re like me and find the news involving Scott Walker and his ever-changing views on seemingly everything— from abortion as something between “a woman and her doctor” to “I will sign the bill” prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks, from saying that immigration amnesty “makes sense” to “I don’t believe in amnesty,” and “I have no interest in a right-to-work law” to signing the law at the first possible moment — just dizzying, well, welcome to the club.

I’m really not sure how he does it, or frankly, how the people of Wisconsin can keep up with it or put up with it. Frankly, it makes me wonder if Walker is ever sure about anything or if he just changes his opinions as the political situations and locations warrant.

Recently, Walker traveled to Iowa and proclaimed his support for ethanol and bio-renewable fuels, which is about what you’d expect from a candidate stumping in the Corn Belt. Never mind that as far back as 2006, in his first run for governor, he was critical of the idea: “Mandates hurt Wisconsin’s working families. And whether they are from Washington or Madison, we as fiscal conservatives should oppose them.”

Yes, we know politicians change their minds.

But deep in his 2015-2017 budget, Walker calls for elimination of the University of Wisconsin’s renewable energy program. Keep in mind that this is separate from his proposal to cut the University of Wisconsin’s budget by $300 million. The research center develops ways to create energy out of wood, grasses and corn — all bio-renewable fuels. It partners with private companies to help them become more energy-efficient. An example is Johnson Controls, Wisconsin’s largest company, which opened a research facility on the Madison campus last year.

The energy research program started eight years ago with a $125 million grant from the George W. Bush administration. It continues to receive $25 million per year from the Department of Energy. The state’s financial contributions helped fund the actual construction of the building, which opened just two years ago. UW’s renewable energy program has been an unqualified success. It has filed 100 patent applications in the past eight years; that’s an average of about one per month.

Start-up companies have been enthusiastic about using UW’s technology, including GluCan Biorenewables, a Missouri company planning to build a plant in northern Wisconsin to develop chemicals used in the papermaking industry. That’d mean a more efficient papermaking process, and jobs to go with it. Another research center innovation is a process that breaks down plant sugars and coverts them to energy — energy from biological, not fossil fuels.

Walker, however, now wants to pull the plug on the state’s $4 million annual funding, which would mean the elimination of 35 positions and cripple the program. But why? To just save $4 million? It may be more important to recall exactly who has funded the Walker train from the start.

The amount of outside-the-state money that has flowed to the governor’s campaign coffers has been significant. Those donors are decidedly in the fossil-fuel business and their profits are threatened when they come up against renewable energy sources.

It’s fair to ask why there has been no expansion of wind power programs in Wisconsin in the last four years. Or why it was so easy for a Florida company to get approval to build the country’s largest open-pit mine in northern Wisconsin (though they’ve now quietly backed out of the mine’s construction). Or why, as soon as he walked into the governor’s office, Walker canceled an $800 million contract from the federal government to repair and expand rail service in Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, the amount of road construction in the state continues to increase and Walker wants to borrow the money to fund it. Who benefits from these type of policies? Whose profits increase? Those whose companies deal in gas, oil, coal and asphalt are those whose organizations have contributed heavily to Walker’s political campaigns.

I don’t know how the governor plans to reconcile his differing views and statements. I don’t know how he can attempt to dismantle the most successful bio-renewable research program in his own state, and then go next door to proclaim his support for an industry which uses the very research he wants to shut down.

It’ll be interesting to see how the governor defends his constantly fluctuating views on so many issues. We’d probably be wise to check Walker’s travel map before making any predictions on what he might say next.

— Tom Clementi is an Appleton resident. He can be reached at tjcwriter@gmail.com.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

RENEW and ELPC Join Together in Response to Anti-Solar Articles

 
Recently, two anti-solar opinion pieces appeared in the publication Utility Dive. The first, by Dr H. Edwin Overcast, favors increased fixed rates for solar customers as a solution to the solar "problem." The second, by Dr. Ashly Brown, claims solar customers do not deserve to be reimbursed at full retail value for the electricity they sell back to the grid. RENEW's Executive Director Tyler Huebner and Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law and Policy Center Brad Klein teamed up to write a response to Dr. Overcast and Dr. Brown on why "data is the key to determining solar's true value."

Friday, February 20, 2015

RENEW and Businesses Testify in Senate Hearing on Focus on Energy

Yesterday, our executive director, Tyler Huebner, testified before the Wisconsin Senate's Natural Resources and Energy Committee in an informational hearing on the Focus on Energy program which delivers energy efficiency and renewable energy rebates and information to individuals, businesses, farmers, and local governments throughout Wisconsin.  The Committee was interested in learning about the progress and current operation of the program.
Melissa VanOrnum of DVO, Inc, an anaerobic digester
company based in Chilton, testifying before the committee.

In addition to our own testimony, RENEW invited business members DVO, Inc of Chilton, Eland Electric of Green Bay, and BIOFerm of Madison to testify about the benefits of Focus on Energy to their businesses and to the customers they serve.

RENEW and our members testified that the Focus program for renewable energy is a key market driver to get customers to invest in renewable energy projects.  We discussed the job creation elements of the program, how the Focus program leverages 5-10 times the amount of private funds to get projects done, and the businesses discussed powerful stories from their customers' projects and their own business growth.

The hearing went very well.  Testimony also came from representatives of the Focus on Energy program, Cadmus, who conducts the evaluations of the program, Customers First! Coalition, Wisconsin Utilities Association, Clean Wisconsin, Johnson Controls, CREE Lighting, and others.

RENEW's testimony is printed below.

Testimony of RENEW Wisconsin on the Focus on Energy Program
Before the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee

My name is Tyler Huebner, and I am the executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit organization which promotes renewable energy and represents Members including individuals and over 50 businesses in Wisconsin’s renewable energy industry.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

Renewable energy technologies have been offered in Focus on Energy since 2002.

Eligible renewable energy technologies include:
• Biogas such as anaerobic digesters for dairy farms
• Biomass
• Ground source or geothermal heat pumps
• Small wind energy systems
• Solar photovoltaics
• Solar water heating

Installing these types of energy systems enable businesses, farmers, local governments, schools, and individuals to become more self-reliant for the energy needs, become more energy independent, save money, and plan their energy costs for the future.

Funding for renewable energy rebates has averaged $5 to $6 million per year to customers, over the years from 2007 to 2014.

The Focus on Energy rebates are an important stimulus to get customers interested in the program, and get them to act and invest their own funds into projects.

The renewable energy program leverages significant levels of private funds. In 2012, for example, $5 million in incentives from Focus on Energy leveraged over $40 million in additional funds.

Overall, the Focus program, per a 2012 evaluation of economic impacts, supports over 1,400 jobs per year in Wisconsin, with more jobs created in future years too due to the savings. The renewable energy portion actually accounted for more jobs per dollar than the energy efficiency funds. Focus on Energy, because it is funding just a portion of overall project costs, provides a large jobs multiplier for the amount of funding spent.

The rebate structure of the Focus program has led to its success in the marketplace over the past 12 years. Using incentives has proven most successful way to obtain the participation in the program. The renewables rebates were renewed for 2015 and 2016, with a decision from the Public Service Commission in 2016 which will determine if rebates will be available in 2017 and 2018.

Going forward, we look forward to also making the new $10 million renewable energy revolving loan program a success, too. This loan program is modeled after a successful program run in Iowa. From our early conversations with our Member businesses, it may work much better for some technologies like solar, than others, particularly digesters, given their larger investment needs. If the loan program is successful, it will help banks get more comfortable with lending for renewable energy technologies through the education and technical assistance the Focus on Energy team will provide.

The new $6.4 million dairy digester program is also promising, as it will explore how to make the digester technology work on smaller farms. With approximately 12,000 small to medium sized dairy farms, identifying workable technologies and projects may be able to open up this new market for digesters.

The renewable energy program has gotten consistently more cost-effective over the years. The most recent evaluations show renewable energy provides a 2-to-1 overall effectiveness when economic benefits including job creation are included, and is now just shy of 1.0 on energy-only cost-effectiveness. Solar PV, for the first time ever, had a cost-effectiveness above 1.0 in 2013.

In closing, the renewable energy program is program that creates jobs, that drives investment into Wisconsin’s economy, and that enables businesses, farms, local governments, and individuals to become more energy independent and more in control of their future energy costs.


Monday, February 9, 2015

RENEW lawsuit yields favorable ruling, again, for customer-owned renewable energy systems


Circuit Court Judge sends 2013 decision from Wisconsin Public Service rate case back to the Public Service Commission

For the second time in 12 months, a Dane County Circuit Court judge has overturned Public Service Commission (PSC) rulings that restrict net metering, a key policy that drives customer investments in renewable energy. The Judge’s order remands two decisions back to the PSC for “further fact-finding and to establish a sufficient record,” but does not immediately change the net metering program.

A 100 kilowatt Solar electric system on Griffin Industries in Green Bay
(Photo provided by Eland Electric)
The lawsuit, advanced by RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit renewable energy advocacy organization based in Madison, challenged two PSC approvals rendered in Wisconsin Public Service Corporation’s 2013 rate case. These decisions paved the way for Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) to reduce payments for clean electricity generated by their customers.

The first decision allowed WPS to greatly reduce the size of the renewable energy system qualifying for net metering, from 100 kilowatts to 20 kilowatts. This change restricts many businesses, schools, and other medium-sized electricity users from participating in the program.

The second decision granted the Green Bay-based utility’s proposal keep their netting period at 30 days, which forces customer-generators to reduce the size of their solar systems to avoid being paid 3 cents per kilowatt-hour for the electricity they export to the grid. As of 2013, WPS’ peer utilities in Wisconsin used annual netting, allowing customers to bank and utilize credits throughout a 12-month period.

In its brief, RENEW argued that WPS failed to offer any substantial evidence in support of its requests to alter its net metering structure for the purpose of reducing compensation to customers with solar and other renewable energy systems. After reviewing the rate case record, Judge Rhonda Lanford agreed with RENEW’s arguments, noting that the “record produced is devoid of substantial evidence” and insufficient to support an agency finding of fact.

“It is important that we promote and defend Wisconsin renewable energy in all decision-making venues,” said Tyler Huebner, RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director. “These are complex issues at a time of great change in the electricity industry. Commission decisions need to be based on real, rigorous, and impartial evidence and analysis.”

In June 2014, the same judge struck down a 2012 PSC decision allowing Milwaukee-based We Energies to limit the availability of its net metering service to solar customers, citing a lack of evidence in the hearing record.

“Solar energy has become an affordable alternative for customers who desire to manage their electric bills effectively and supply themselves with clean energy,” added Huebner. “Solar system owners provide many benefits to other utility customers, such as producing locally generated electricity at the highest-use times of the day. The Commission needs to account for these benefits that solar energy provides in utility rate cases, so that customer-owned renewable energy systems are compensated at fair value.”

RENEW Wisconsin and The Alliance for Solar Choice, a national solar advocacy group, recently filed suit in the same Circuit Court against the PSC in the 2014 We Energies rate case. In that case, We Energies was granted approval to overhaul their net metering programs to charge an extra monthly fee to residential and small business customers that generate some or all of their own power, and switch to monthly netting. RENEW and TASC’s arguments are consistent with this case: the utility and PSC have not provided or relied upon sufficient evidence or analysis to justify the decision.

RENEW Wisconsin leads and accelerates the transformation to Wisconsin’s renewable energy future through advocacy, education, and collaboration. More information on RENEW’s web site at www.renewwisconsin.org.