RENEW Raps Public Service's Radical Proposal to Restrict Net Metering

In testimony submitted to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) on Wednesday, RENEW Wisconsin objected to We Energies’ proposal to weaken its net-metering service to new customers seeking to generate electricity on-site using solar panels and other renewable energy systems. Read more . . .

In its current rate proceeding, We Energies proposes not to pay a new customer-generator for any electricity produced in excess of the amount consumed on site.

“We Energies’ proposal is a radical departure from its current practice paying the full retail rate for energy that’s fed back to the utility’s system,” said Michael Vickerman, director of programs and policy for RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide renewable energy advocacy organization. “This proposal is the most extreme example yet of We Energies’ ongoing retreat from customer-sited renewables, and we urge the PSCW to reject it.

Net metering allows customers to sell the unused output from their solar electric or other renewable energy systems back to the utility at the full retail rate each month, so long as the total amount of electricity produced is less than or equal to the customers’ usage.

“Utilities routinely pay for all the energy supplied by non-utility generators to its system. By refusing to purchase the small amounts of electricity they may export to the utility, We Energies is abusing its monopoly power in a way that discriminates against its own customers.” Vickerman said.

In its proposal, We Energies would limit its net metering service to systems no larger than 20 kilowatts. In contrast, Madison Gas & Electric, Xcel Energy, and Wisconsin Public Service provide net metering to systems as large as 100 kilowatts.

“When you take into account what other in-state utilities are offering, it seems obvious that We Energies is asking for special treatment from the PSC. Yet, it has provided nothing in its rate case to demonstrate that a higher net metering ceiling would cause it any more harm than to the other utilities,” said Vickerman.

Vickerman pointed to Michigan as a better model for setting net-metering service standards. “Thanks to legislation passed in 2008, We Energies’ Michigan customers enjoy a much higher standard of service than what the utility proposes for its Wisconsin customers,” Vickerman said. “Along with all other investor-owned utilities in Michigan, We Energies must provide full retail credit for all electricity produced by renewable energy systems up to 20 kW and must provide a reasonable net metering rate for systems up to 150 kW.”

In the most recent Freeing the Grid: Best Practices in State Metering Policies report prepared for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Michigan rated an “A” for its net-metering policies. By comparison, Wisconsin earned a “C.” The report can be viewed here.

Earlier this month, RENEW issued a report card grading individual utility performance on renewable energy, in which We Energies received a “C” for its 2011 performance.