During 2008, two utilities sought to increase electric and gas rates for 2009 by $200 million. CUB intervened and reached agreements with the utilities that kept electric and gas rates essentially unchanged for 2009, avoiding the $200 million increase.
In addition, CUB fought against the proposal by Wisconsin Power & Light (also known as Alliant Energy) to build a new coal-fired power plant near Cassville. The Public Service Commission agreed with CUB that the plant would be too expensive and too polluting compared to alternatives, and rejected the proposal in November 2008. With the rejection of this power plant proposal, ratepayers of WPL will save hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 25 years.
For the first time since 1996, electric rates for customers of Wisconsin Power & Light and Wisconsin Public Service did not go up with the start of the New Year. Rates for natural gas even went down a small amount.
On February 22, 2008, WPL filed an application to raise its electric and gas rates starting in January 2009. WPL asked to raise electric rates by $144 million, or 9% in 2009 and 4% in 2010. Gas charges (excluding the cost of the gas itself) would decline by 1%. WPL stated that the electric rate increases were needed because of rising fuel costs, costs for new transmission projects, costs for a new wind farm, and costs related to the Nelson Dewey power plant (which was later rejected by the PSC).
CUB intervened in the case, and urged the PSC and the utility to reduce rates for residential customers, who have been paying too much when compared to commercial and industrial customers. CUB also urged the utility to offer new rate options so that customers could reduce their energy use and save money on their energy bills.
Due in part to rapidly falling natural gas prices, WPL, CUB, and other intervenors agreed to a settlement in which rates would remain unchanged for 2009. The PSC accepted this settlement on December 23, 2008.
A similar set of issues faced Wisconsin Public Service Corp., which filed an application on April 1, 2008 to raise its electric and gas rates starting in January 2009. WPS had asked to raise electric rates by $107 million, or 8% in 2009. Gas charges (excluding the cost of the gas itself) would increase by 2%. WPS stated that the electric rate increases were needed because of rising fuel costs, costs for new transmission projects, costs for a new wind farm, and costs related to the new Weston 4 coal-fired power plant.
Last fall's rapidly declining natural gas prices affected WPS, too. In December, WPS, CUB, and other intervenors agreed to a settlement in which rates would remain unchanged for 2009. The PSC accepted this settlement on December 23, 2008.
Combined, the settlements between CUB, WPS, WPL, and other intervenors saved ratepayers at least $200 million, according to the Public Service Commission.
For the first time since the 1970's, on November 11, 2008, the Public Service Commission rejected a utility proposal for a large power plant, coal-burner proposed by Wisconsin Power & Light, a utility subsidiary of Alliant Energy. The plant would have been located next to the existing Nelson Dewey power plant on the shore of the Mississippi River near Cassville.
CUB and Clean Wisconsin submitted testimony and legal briefs showing that the proposed plant would have increased Wisconsin's emissions of global warming pollution, and would have forced ratepayers to pay much higher electric rates. Staff of the PSC raised similar concerns in their testimony.
The plant would have cost at least $1.26 billion. When WPL first applied to build the plant, the estimate was $777 million; the proposed plant nearly doubled in price in less than two years. The proposed plant would have raised rates by more than $800 million over 25 years when compared to alternatives, such as purchasing power from other utilities or expanding existing plants that burn natural gas.