Monday, September 8, 2014

Walker's Pro-Utility PSC Could Spark WI Ratepayers Revolt

We Energies and other Wisconsin large utilities are asking the Wisconsin Public Service Commission for increases of 75%-to-100% in customers' fixed, mandated monthly charges.

The utilities, which already enjoy state-authorized monopoly customer bases and territories, want the PSC to allow them to make up revenue they claim is lost as more homeowners and others generate their own power from solar and other renewable sources.

The Journal Sentinel Sunday does a good job explaining the issue, and its spillover to other large customers, like the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage Commission, (MMSD), which would pass on its fixed charge increase sought by We Energies in higher rates to customers, too: 

MMSD hired a former chairman of the state Public Service Commission, economist Charles Cicchetti, to analyze the We Energies plan. He said regulators should consider reducing We Energies' return on equity, or profit, if they endorse the utility's proposal.
He termed the We Energies plan an "abuse of market power" that is designed to reduce risk for the utility's shareholders at a time when We Energies and other utilities are seeing tepid or no growth in electricity sales. 
We Energies, he wrote, is seeking "to convince the Commission to let it use its utility monopoly and mostly very limited customer choice to force customers to absorb risks in an unjust and unreasonable manner."
We Energies is not the only utility seeking a big jump in monthly fixed cost billings, as the newspaper explains: 
We Energies is proposing a 75% increase, from $9.20 a month to $16 a month, for the fixed charge on its customers' bills.

The other increases proposed in rate cases to be decided this fall include Wisconsin Public Service of Green Bay, which is proposing to more than double its fixed charge, and Madison Gas & Electric Co., which at first sought a much bigger jump and now seeks an 82% increase in its non-energy charge to $19 a month.

Killing renewable power at the state and local level is on the Koch brothers, fossil-fuel agenda led by the American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC), one of several large conservative advocacy organizations founded or funded with Koch brothers money.

The rate increase requests by Wisconsin utilities that would discourage renewable energy are now in the hands of Scott Walker's pro-industry 2-1 PSC majority led by Phil Montgomery,  a former GOP state legislator and ALEC Legislator of the Year.

The PSC could reduce the proposed the rate increases; turning them down is unlikely.

Voters need to remember this ALEC-inspired attack on clean energy, homeowners' budgets and businesses' bottom lines on behalf of monopoly utilities come election day this November.

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