New billing scheme would punish customer
investments in efficiency, solar energy

In testimony pre-filed
today with the Public Service Commission, a former utility regulator and
utility executive criticized Wisconsin Public Service Corporation’s proposed restructuring
of electric rates and service charges.

The expert witness, Karl Rábago, will testify on behalf of RENEW Wisconsin and
the Environmental Law & Policy Center in September.  Mr. R
ábago stated
“the Company proposals reduce the value of energy savings and create a new,
unavoidable charge that punishes most those customers who have made the
greatest investments in clean and renewable energy options.”

Targeting residential and
small commercial customers, WPS seeks to sharply increase their base service
charges and lower their variable energy rates. For residential customers, the fixed
monthly fee would rise from $10.40 to $25. For small commercial customers, the fixed
monthly fee would climb from $12.50 to $35. 
The energy rate would decline between 10% and 13%.

“This is effectively a ‘Robin Hood
in Reverse’ pricing model,” said Tyler Huebner, executive director of RENEW
Wisconsin, citing a term used by energy consultant Bill Marcus of JBS Energy. “It
would unfairly raise bills for customers who use relatively little electricity
over a year, including apartment dwellers, people on fixed incomes, and
seasonal businesses.”

If approved, the fixed fee
hikes sought by WPS would be the highest allowed for a regulated electric
utility in the Midwest. “The increase is so steep as to be literally off the
charts,” said Huebner.

Monthly fixed fees for residential customers of Wisconsin Public Service Corporation, as of today and proposed for 2015, compared to similar Midwestern utilities.

“This new billing scheme
would exact a financial penalty on customers who invested their savings in
clean energy systems that yield benefits to all WPS customers. A lower energy
rate creates a longer payback period for solar. It would dramatically lower
interest in solar self-generation by residential and small commercial customers
in 2015 and beyond. It could very well slam the door on solar for WPS’s customers,”
concluded Huebner.

The restructuring proposal
surfaced this spring as part of the Green Bay utility’s request for an overall 8%
increase in electric revenues over the next two years. The rate proposal is
under review by the Public Service Commission.  We Energies and Madison Gas & Electric
have proposed similar changes, which would put their fixed monthly fees at 80%
and 113% above the Midwest average of $8.91, while WPS’ proposal would put it
181% above that average (see below).

The testimony of Karl Rábago and RENEW Wisconsin can be found here by
searching for docket number 6690-UR-123.

Graphic courtesy of the Environmental Law & Policy
Center.  Data for both graphics comes
from, an open-source data-sharing platform supported by the National
Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration at  The
dataset included monthly fixed charges besides the “customer charge,”
such as a monthly distribution charge that is labeled separately on the bill,
to report the total monthly fixed rate.

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.