Last fall, three Wisconsin utility companies won the ability to increase fixed charges from the state utility commission, despite public outcry and a lack of precedent. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) gave WeEnergies, Madison Gas & Electric, and the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation approval, which will drastically reduce the economic benefits of installing solar panels on homes. The commissioners voted 2-1 in favor of the increases, and both commissioners who voted in favor are surrounded by controversies.
PSC Commissioner Ellen Nowak made statements at an Edison Electric Institute (EEI) conference earlier in the year advocating for higher fixed fees, and PSC Commissioner Phil Montgomery was previously a Republican state representative and named the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) “legislator of the year” in 2005. EEI is currently working within ALEC to lobby not only state lawmakers but also local legislators to weaken distributed solar energy policies.
Furthermore, during the hearings an organization called the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) attacked the state’s net metering policy and defended the utility companies’ fixed-rate increase proposals. CEA submitted names of 2,500 state residents that “supported” the We Energies and Madison Gas & Electric proposals. A Madison Capital Times reporter revealed that some people on the CEA petition were in fact against the proposal. A Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm, HBW Resources, manages CEA. In fact, the managing partner for HBW Resources, David Holt, is also the president of the CEA. The PSC then threw out the petition preventing it from being included in the record, but this did not stop the rate increases from occurring.
Wisconsin Public Service Corporation and Northern States, a Xcel Energy utility, have announced plans to increase customers’ fixed charges for 2016.