On May 3rd, We Energies filed an unfortunate proposal that would effectively tax their customers who make power for their own use with solar panels or other renewable energy systems.
We Energies’ proposal, filed as part of their rate case at the Public Service Commission, revives a nearly-identical approach which was rejected by a Circuit Court Judge in 2015.
This time around, they’ve named their tax the “Fixed Cost Recovery Charge.” It would assess a charge of $3.53 per kilowatt of solar production, or about $180 per year for the average residential solar installation by We Energies’ estimation. This would mean a reduction of 20-25% of the expected dollar savings from a typical solar installation.
The charge would be $3.67 per kilowatt for small commercial customers, and We Energies stated they are planning to propose a similar charge for larger commercial and industrial customers which has not yet been formally filed.
This Proposal is Out of Step and Bad for Wisconsin
Just last month, very similar charges were rejected by the Michigan Public Service Commission and failed to pass in the Iowa House of Representatives. The Michigan PSC said the proposed charge was not based on the cost of serving customers and was thus unreasonable. In Iowa, a wide coalition, including the Iowa Pork Producers, opposed the “sunshine tax” and it failed to pass before the Legislature adjourned for the year.
At a time when citizens and businesses across the country are looking to dramatically increase their reliance on solar power and renewable energy, allowing a utility to discourage solar is the wrong direction for Wisconsin.
Let’s Support Investments in Solar and Renewable Energy, Not Penalize Them
There are so many reasons to support solar power and oppose this solar tax!
- Solar is a growing industry in Wisconsin. The industry already employs over 3,000 Wisconsinites, and it’s just getting started.
- Homegrown energy keeps our money in Wisconsin. According to the U.S. Energy Administration, Wisconsin ratepayers spent $700 million on natural gas and $893 million on coal to generate electricity in 2017. This is money sent out of state, since we have no coal or natural gas reserves. We should be encouraging private investments in homegrown energy generation like solar that keep our money in Wisconsin.
- Clean energy brings economic development. Leading businesses across Wisconsin and the country increasingly want access to renewable energy. It’s going to be harder to attract these job creating businesses if our utilities are allowed to discourage them from investing in renewable energy solutions.
- We should encourage private sector investment. Individuals and businesses putting their own money into solar power and renewable energy systems is a good thing, and should not be penalized or discouraged.
- Solar helps keep energy costs down. With solar power, customers are providing peak power on those hot sunny days when we need it most. Every dollar invested by a person or business to generate their own energy lowers the demand on the entire system, and reduces the need for everyone to pay for more power plants and transmission lines to meet higher peak energy demands.
- ALL solar is good. We Energies itself is starting to offer solar power programs for some of its larger customers, and telling investors they plan to reshape their power generation to include more solar. We completely agree that We Energies should be maximizing the benefit of solar. But they can’t discourage solar while simultaneously talking about how great it is. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
- Solar helps families and businesses cut costs and manage expenses. Solar power has become an affordable way to save money for many families and businesses. We need to make sure farmers, residents, businesses, and even our local governments have the opportunity to take advantage of the cost savings from solar and renewable energy.
- Solar promotes cleaner air and water, now and into the future. Right now, Wisconsin is still using coal for 50% of our power! We all know that leads to air pollution and that coal emits carbon dioxide. Solar power systems located on homes and businesses, and owned by Wisconsin citizens and businesses, can help clean up our air and water now and for generations to come.