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Public Can Still Comment on We Energies' Proposed Rate Changes

S Bence


Before the public has its say about the utility's request to raise electric rates, especially for people who power with solar panels, We Energies faced a technical review before the Public Service Commission.
The rate case has ignited debate around the region.

The Milwaukee Common Council got involved Tuesday. It went on record as opposed to We Energies’ request. The council also plans to push for state legislation to allow the city to shop around for another energy supplier.

Wednesday’s session before the PSC was a technical hearing.

We Energies' representatives were cross examined on the utility's proposed rate changes. In a recent insert it added to monthly residential bills, the utility stated: “the change we are proposing is about keeping costs for access and use of our grid fair for all customers.”

In a recent interview of spokesperson Jessica Williamson said, “what we’re requesting really would enable a future with renewable energy that is sustainable, that is fair and that’s practical.”

We Energies say currently solar customers pay less for the power infrastructure, so more of the burden fall on traditional users.

The case is cultivating national attention, according to Sarah Wolfe. She represents a coalition of solar power companies – called the Alliance for Solar Choice.  The group was represented at Wednesday's technical hearing.

Wolfe says cases are popping up across the country, most recently in Utah.

“The utility proposed putting a $4.65 charge on solar customers per month, so compared to We Energies, it’s a lot smaller - We Energies is about $20 to $30 a month. And, the public service commission denied their request, saying there is not enough evidence you need this charge; there is no evidence that solar customers cause an additional charge to the grid that you need to recoup, and so they denied it completely," Wolfe says.

We Energies proposed rate change ripples beyond investors in solar panels.

Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District built a pipeline to a landfill in Muskego. It carries gas to Jones Island where it’s converted to electricity. Its energy production doesn't end there. At its South Shore plant, MMSD is midway in an upgrade. Its biodigester treats waste water; the process generates methane gas; it is combusted to create electricity.

Despite the fact that MMSD is expect to purchase less power, executive director Kevin Shafer stated in a letter submitted to the Public Service Commission, “we project an approximate 20 percent increase in our total electric billings.”

Two hearings are scheduled in Milwaukee on October 8, before the three-member Public Service Commission issues its decision.

Susan Bence listened in on technical hearing and discusses it with Lake Effect's Mitch Teich.

 Click to  review or comment on We Energies 2015-16 rate change proposal.

The public has two opportunities to comment at hearings being held in Milwaukee on October 8th at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.: Wilson Senior Center, 2601 West Howard Avenue.

The Public Service Commission is expected to issue its decision sometime in December.

Credit S Bence

Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.