Rate Hikes on the Way

Three energy companies – including Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), which serves about 443,700 customers in northeastern Wisconsin – have petitioned the Public Service Commission (PSC) for rate hikes they say are needed to ensure everyone is paying their fair share for the cost of maintaining electrical infrastructure. The idea is to increase fixed costs and decrease variable costs.

On Nov. 6, in a 2-1 vote (Walker appointees Phil Montgomery and Ellen Nowak were in the majority, and Doyle appointee Eric Callisto was in the minority), the PSC approved an 83 percent increase for WPS’s fixed monthly rates. WPS had requested a boost from $10.44 to $25, but the PSC agreed to a $9 increase.

WE Energies and Madison Gas & Electric are the other two utilities seeking rate hikes. The changes all three seek represent a fundamental change in how rates are structured.

On a page on its website called “2015 Rate Case Overview,” WPS states: “While conservation and energy efficiency are good practices, our ability to recover fixed costs declines. WPS still has an obligation to build infrastructure to deliver energy, but we are less able to recover the cost of doing so.”

Renewable energy advocates maintain the hikes are revenue boosters aimed at punishing those with low electricity usage, such as homeowners with solar panels.

“It is really disappointing to see WPS and the Public Service

Commission taking these actions,” said Nick Korth, executive director, Wisconsin Solar Energy Industries Association. “With solar energy creating jobs all around the country, all while reducing energy costs for home and business owners, the solar industry really questions who is seeing the benefit from this decision. Many states like Nevada and Minnesota, among others, have done a value of solar analysis with their Public Service Commission’s, to figure out what the benefits are of solar, and its role in our energy systems. The PSC’s clear refusal of the idea of a value of solar study is not only shortsighted, but it will impact thousands of good paying jobs across the state and drastically increase energy costs in northeastern Wisconsin.”

The PSC estimated the average residential customer who uses 600 kilowatt hours of electricity per month will have to pay about $3.40 more per month compared to this year’s rates.