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Thursday, August 28, 2014

We Energies' Billing Changes Would Restrict Energy Choice, Mandate Higher Monthly Charges

Experts find no evidence to support proposal 

Press Release from RENEW Wisconsin and Environmental Law & Policy Center
August 28, 2014

MADISON, WI – Expert witnesses criticized We Energies’ proposals to raise “fixed” charges for everyone and add fees and restrictions to customers that wish to generate clean, renewable energy on their own property, in testimony filed Thursday with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.

Experts for RENEW Wisconsin and the Environmental Law & Policy Center determined that We Energies’ proposed billing changes are unjustified, would reduce all customers’ ability to control their electricity bills, and would stifle the growth of energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Karl Rábago of Rábago Energy, LLC called the proposal “an astounding failure of basic ratemaking” and determined that the Company provided “no reasonable justification” for imposing charges on their customers.

Michael Vickerman of RENEW Wisconsin concluded the proposal would cripple the solar industry in Wisconsin, and would reduce a customer’s return from a new solar system by more than one-third (35%) and slash savings from an existing system by nearly one-half (47%).

Brad Klein, senior attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, called the proposal a dangerous precedent. “We Energies is attempting to exert its monopoly power to restrict customer choice and take money out of the pockets of customers who use less energy.”

Tyler Huebner, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin said, “We Energies’ proposals, if approved, would punish customers who have done the right thing by going solar, and take away jobs for the small businesses that make a living in this industry which has grown nationally to over 140,000 employees through 2013.”

The new charges and service restrictions contemplated by We Energies include:
§  Increasing monthly fixed charges by more than 75%, which would disproportionately affect customers that use less energy (see “Robin Hood in Reverse” release)
§  Adding a new “capacity demand” charge that alone will offset nearly 30% of a customer’s savings from solar
§  Paying solar generators just 4.2 cents for each extra kilowatt-hour of electricity they create, while re-selling that electricity to other customers at up to 28 cents during peak daytime summer hours
§  Restricting  solar energy financing options that help low-income customers, municipalities, churches and non-profits more affordably go solar

The expert witnesses’ main recommendations were to reject the utility’s proposals. “A broader discussion is needed to enable us to ‘look before we leap’ – to carefully examine both the benefits and costs of customers producing their own clean power before simply accepting this utility’s view,” said Huebner.

More information:
·       RENEW Wisconsin’s testimony in this We Energies case can be found at the Public Service Commission’s website, http://psc.wi.gov/apps35/ERF_search/default.aspx, by searching for Docket 5-UR-107.

·       Testimony in this case comes on the heels of testimony filed two weeks ago in the Wisconsin Public Service rate case, Docket 6690-UR-123, which RENEW Wisconsin characterized as “Robin Hood in Reverse.”

·       RENEW also recently discussed We Energies’ proposed changes which would affect future biogas projects. See press release.

RENEW Wisconsin is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that leads and accelerates the transformation to Wisconsin's renewable energy future through advocacy, education, and collaboration.

ELPC is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization. We develop and lead successful strategic advocacy campaigns to improve environmental quality and protect our natural resources.

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