|Co-Chairs of the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance
Committee, Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. John Nygren.
Positive steps were taken today on two issues of importance for clean energy and Wisconsin power customers!
The State Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee met to set the budget of the Public Service Commission for 2017-2019, which includes both Focus on Energy and intervenor compensation funds.
Both of the wins described below gained 16-0 bipartisan votes by the Committee, which is made up of 12 Republicans and 4 Democrats.
First, the budget for intervenor compensation was partially restored after a 66% cut two years ago. The budget going forward will double to $742,500 annually. These funds enable nonprofit and citizen-based organizations to bring technical and legal expertise to proceedings at the Public Service Commission. RENEW Wisconsin has historically used this fund to support our advocacy in utility rate cases, power plant proposals, and numerous other proceedings at the PSC that impact renewable energy.
In addition, the Citizens Utility Board frequently uses this fund to bring expertise to cases in order to keep utility rates as low as possible for residential and small business customers across Wisconsin. Governor Walker had proposed this restoration of funds in his budget, and the Committee adopted it. This is great news, and we applaud Governor Walker and members of the Joint Finance Committee for adopting this provision.
Secondly, Focus on Energy’s budget will remain unchanged, allowing for the most cost-effective energy efficiency and renewables projects to be funded. The Governor has proposed to eliminate the ability for school districts to borrow above their revenue limit to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements (commonly called “Act 32” projects). To backfill that change, the Governor proposed allocating an additional $10 million from Focus on Energy’s budget for schools above what they spent last year, which would have earmarked nearly $15 million out of the total $93 million for schools alone.
|Solar PV installation on Lakeland Union High School in Minocqua,
part of an energy improvement project funded under the “Act 32” school district
revenue exemption. See the full case study from SunPeak.
Concerns had been raised that schools would not be able to use that much Focus on Energy funding. The proposed earmark could have siphoned funding away from private business installations in energy efficiency upgrades, leading to unspent dollars in the Focus on Energy program and a less cost-effective set of investments.
The Committee voted 16-0 against the Governor’s proposal, leaving the Focus on Energy budgets unchanged. This is very good news since the program returns over $3.50 for every dollar invested, and schools will still have ready access to incentives through existing programs.
This sets up an important vote later in the Joint Finance Committee schedule regarding the Governor’s proposal to repeal the Act 32 school district revenue exemption.
RENEW Wisconsin was supportive of both of these successful measures through our participation in the Customers First Coalition.
The biennial budget needs the approval of both the Assembly and the Senate before being signed by the Governor. Typically, the budget process lasts through June.
For more information on these topics and the state budget, please see RENEW’s Clean Energy Summary of Governor Walker’s Budget, and our recap of the 2015-17 state budget.
Finally, please support our work: become a member of RENEW Wisconsin today!
For Immediate Release – November 18, 2016
For More Information: Tyler Huebner, Executive Director, 608-255-4044 ext 1
(Madison, WI). In today’s open meeting, the Public Service Commission
sharply hiked the monthly “fixed charge” that Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin Power
& Light residential electricity customers will face by 95%, from $7.67 per
month up to $15 per month.
|The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin building in Madison.
The “fixed charge” is the base fee which all customers must
pay each month, no matter how much energy they use. Overall, Alliant’s residential customers will
see their monthly electricity bills increase by 4-5%.
By contrast, the fixed charge that Alliant’s Iowa customers
must pay every month remains at $10.50.
“Increasing the fixed charge will raise bills for customers
that use smaller amounts of electricity monthly, such as seniors,
apartment-dwellers, and energy-conscious customers including those who have
installed solar panels,” said Tyler Huebner, RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive
RENEW Wisconsin and a broad set of stakeholders have opposed
hikes in fixed charges since 2014,
when these requests first appeared.
“Wisconsin electricity customers now pay dramatically higher
fixed charges than their counterparts in other states,” said Tyler Huebner,
RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director.
“Our testimony documented
that the vast majority of state agencies
nationally are either rejecting these fixed charge hikes outright, or granting
much smaller increases, and only in Wisconsin are these fees being nearly
As documented by RENEW in testimony, the increase in fixed
charges granted to U.S. investor-owned utilities since 2014 has averaged about
14%. But for the five investor-owned
utilities in Wisconsin, the average fixed charge increase has been 83%.
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.
The Alliance for Solar Choice and RENEW Wisconsin ask courts to rule on the legality of controversial rate case decision
Amy Heart Tyler Huebner
The Alliance for Solar Choice RENEW Wisconsin
414-510-8965 (m) 608-575-2201 (m)
MADISON, WI – January 22, 2015 – The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) and RENEW Wisconsin today filed an appeal of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission’s December decision to impose discriminatory charges against solar customers in We Energies territory. The appeal challenges 1) the total lack of support in the public record for the charges and 2) the discrimination against solar and low usage customers.
“The Public Service Commission’s own staff expert testified that there was not enough evidence in the record to approve the discriminatory solar charges,” said Amy Heart, spokesperson for The Alliance for Solar Choice. “That will be difficult to deny in the courts.”
Over 500 Wisconsin residents attended a public hearing in October to oppose We Energies’ proposal, and their outcry garnered national media attention.
“The Public Service Commission has essentially permitted a private company, We Energies, to institute a new tax on some of its customers,” said Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “The record doesn’t support this decision, and we look forward to an impartial review of the facts behind this case.”
“We Energies commissioned a confidential internal study of solar in Wisconsin and found that solar customers provide a net financial benefit to all ratepayers,” said Heart. “That will be difficult for the Commission to deny in the courts.”
About The Alliance for Solar Choice: The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) leads the rooftop solar advocacy across the country. Founded by the largest rooftop companies in the nation, TASC represents the vast majority of the market. Its members include: Demeter Power, Silevo, SolarCity, Solar Universe, Sunrun, Verengo, ZEP.
About RENEW Wisconsin: RENEW Wisconsin leads and accelerates the transformation to Wisconsin’s renewable energy future through advocacy, education, and collaboration. RENEW represents over 50 companies in the Wisconsin renewable energy industry.
Based on a July 18, 2014 article by Chuck Quirmbach on Wisconsin Public Radio
The Alliance for Solar Choice, a solar industry trade group, has scorned three Wisconsin utility’s attempts to harm solar companies through their respective proposed rate restructuring. All three rate proposals include a planned increase in customer’s fixed charges, while offering a small decrease in the price of energy use per kWh.
The Alliance for Solar Choice represents many members of the rooftop solar industry and believes that We Energies’ (along with WPS and MGE) plan would stop customers from having installers lease them solar panels. Alliance president Bryan Miller believes that utilities are adopting the philosophy of “if you can’t stop it, monopolize it” by assuring that rooftop solar is more economical through the utility. We Energies has also unveiled a solar panel leasing ban, further adding to the calamity felt by solar contractors. The utility waited to propose this ban after the deadline for groups to formally intervene in the rate case before the Public Service Commission, the entity that would review the proposal. According to Miller, “the way they did this shows you really what the character of this company is about.”
We Energies spokesperson Cathy Schultze said her company followed standard procedures for rate cases, stating that “the same amount of time that usually transpires went down in this case.” Further, Schultze stated that the increase in fixed charges is fairer to customers who can’t afford or don’t want solar panels, a surprising statement considering that the 1,450 MW of residential solar installations across the country since 2000 have been overwhelmingly occurring in middle-class neighborhoods that have medium incomes ranging from $40,000 to $90,000 (read the Center of American Progress report here).
Read the entire article here
A positive state ruling on wind siting in Wisconsin:
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin appeals court says state regulators didn’t have to produce a report on how wind turbines affect property values when they imposed siting standards.
The Public Service Commission implemented rules setting up uniform wind turbine construction and setback standards in 2012. The state realtors, builders and towns associations sued, arguing the rules were invalid because the commission didn’t produce a report on the rules’ effect on property values.
A Brown County judge ruled last year no report was required. The 3rd District Court of Appeals agreed on Tuesday. The court said a report is needed only when rules directly affect housing. The PSC considered voluminous evidence about turbines’ effect on housing and reasonably concluded they don’t’ hurt residential property values.
The associations’ attorney didn’t immediately return a message.