November 14, 2014
MADISON — Today, on a 2 to 1 vote, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin dealt a blow to We Energies residential electric customers by approving a 75% hike in the fixed part of customers’ bills on top of a 2.5% increase in rates for residential and small business customers. The Commission also approved of the company keeping more than $40 million in payments it received this year to operate the Presque Isle Power Plant (“PIPP”) in the Upper Peninsula despite Wisconsin customers already paying those costs. The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) fought these proposals.
“There were a lot of giveaways from the Commission today,” said Kira Loehr, CUB executive director and general counsel. “The Commission could have held all customers’ rates stable. Instead, the Commission increased residential customers’ rates in order to give big business customers a rate decrease. It also allowed We Energies to keep more than $40 million in Wisconsin customers’ money that the company lost due to competition in Michigan.”
The Commission’s decision to increase the fixed part of customers’ bills by 75% means that We Energies’ residential and small business customers will see the fixed portion of their electric bill jump from $9.13 per month to $16 per month effective January 1, 2015. As a consequence those customers who use the least amount of energy will see the largest increases on their electric bills.
“We Energies says increasing the fixed part of customers’ bills is about ‘fairness.’ But there’s nothing ‘fair’ about charging customers more for trying to conserve energy and save money while those using a lot of energy and even wasting it pay less. Residential customers who can least afford it will be hit hardest,” Loehr stated.
CUB and the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group (WIEG) had also asked the Commission to order We Energies to set aside funds the company is receiving from the region’s electric grid operator for the operation of PIPP. We Energies’ Wisconsin customers pay for the operation of PIPP in rates. Rather than allow We Energies to retire PIPP, the grid operator is paying the company to keep the plant operating because it is needed by customers in the Upper Peninsula. When We Energies received payments from the grid operator to keep PIPP running for the benefit of Michigan, CUB and WIEG believed those payments should be set aside for return to Wisconsin customers to prevent double-recovery. The Commission denied the request.
“Letting We Energies keep $44 million in customers’ money is just plain wrong,” said Loehr. “We Energies’ earnings have been through the roof, and its rates are among the highest in the Midwest. Its shareholders don’t need more handouts at the expense of ratepayers, and that money should be returned to customers.”
The Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin is a member-supported, nonprofit organization that advocates for reliable and affordable utility service. CUB represents the interests of residential, farm, and small business customers of electric, natural gas, and telecommunication utilities before the Legislature, regulatory agencies, and the courts.