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WUWM’s Chuck Quirmbach reports on innovation in southeastern Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Group Pushes For Health Expert On An Electric Utility's Board Of Directors

Susan Bence
Madison Gas and Electric primarily serves southcentral Wisconsin, but it’s part owner of one of the WE Energies coal-fired power plants in Oak Creek.";

A citizens group wants Wisconsin utilities to become more innovative in reducing emissions that contribute to climate change. Group members say getting more intellectual diversity on a utility's board of directors would help.

The discussion involves Madison Gas and Electric (MGE), which primarily serves southcentral Wisconsin, but is part owner of one of the WE Energies coal-fired power plants in Oak Creek. MGE still gets half of its electricity from coal generation. 

MGE Shareholders for Clean Energy, which says it has about 100 members, has introduced a resolution that would ask the company to put on its board a person who has expertise in environmental and health issues.  Shareholders group co-coordinator Beth Esser says that individuals could provide ideas on ways to increase the use of cleaner, renewable energy. If not, Esser says more customers will go that direction themselves.

"Traditionally, I don't think the utility industry is very innovative. But, I think if they want to stay alive in this business, they're going to have to be. That’ because the era of distributed generation and people being able to move off the grid and supply their own power is coming,” Esser told WUWM.

On Monday, MGE released a statement, as it also announced an application for a 20-megawatt solar project in the city of Fitchburg. The statement reads in part:

As evidenced by today’s announcement, the MGE Energy Board of Directors has already demonstrated a record of commitment to environmental sustainability. The MGEE Board is a leader in the industry in its pursuit of deep decarbonization with regular input, advice, and collaboration with environmental experts. MGE's work with scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies has been discussed by the Board, and the Board has engaged and plans to continue to engage widely recognized scientific experts on topics related to climate change.

The resolution from the shareholders isn't expected to pass at Tuesday’s MGE shareholders meeting. But the activists say they hope it wins enough votes to allow it to be re-introduced next year. Results from Tuesday's meeting are expected in the coming days.

Support for Innovation reporting is provided by Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. Hannah Goodman.

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