In response to widespread community opposition to its proposed billing scheme, MGE engaged Justice and Sustainability Associates (JSA) to design and implement a civic engagement and consensus-building project that would provide multi-stakeholder guidance to MGE’s efforts to become the Community Energy Company of the Future.
In early 2015, four-phase process was launched to gather community input. Phase II was completed in fall 2015 with a report describing the results of the community energy conversations. RePower Madison also summarized the findings from Phase II and completed a full analysis of the community’s input.
The “formation of a long-term collaborative, Community Energy Partnership,” is
one of the top recommendations from JSA. Participants in the Community Energy Conversations ranked “transition MGE to a more environmentally sustainable energy supply” as their top priority in a survey that accompanied the meetings. This shows strong support for clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Read What is a Community Energy Partnership? – a handout from RePower Madison
RePower Madison (RPM) urges MGE to follow the recommendation in the report to utilize customer input as the basis for developing a plan collaboratively with the community to secure a clean energy future. The Energy 2030 Framework that MGE wrote before this report was released must be reevaluated, updated, and improved based on the customer input that is now available.
RPM also joins JSA in calling for an ongoing, collaborative community partnership, one which we hope will include city and county governments and include binding commitments from each. We support the community’s call for MGE to transition to renewable energy and hope MGE will listen to the suggestions it sought from its customers.
THE PROCESS ACCORDING TO JSA
Phase I – JSA, MGE, and other stakeholders created an information-rich environment prior to initiating actual conversations. Orientation and introductory meetings with key stakeholders took place to gain understanding of existing conditions as well as to learn about prospects for future progress. This Phase continued through June 2015.
Phase II – JSA planned, conducted, documented and facilitated numerous Community Energy Conversations (CECs) designed to engage customers and the public to contribute guidance for future energy decisions – including MGE’s Energy 2030 Framework. JSA initiated its process by conducting small group information and agenda-setting discussions organized according to issue, interest, geography, and similar or differing interests. JSA’s objective was to introduce participants to a deliberative process as a way of also surfacing and documenting areas of agreement and disagreement.
- Phase III – JSA will design, convene, document, and evaluate a large group citywide civic conversation in the form of a Community Energy Conversation Workshop that confirms guidance received up to that point and further deliberates remaining relevant issues. Also, JSA will also facilitate external shareholder meetings. By the end of Phase III, JSA will present MGE with a draft plan to launch a Community Energy Partnership in Phase IV.
- Phase IV – Contingent to the successful completion of Phase III, Phase IV is being designed and is expected to feature additional deliberative discussion to provide input, help inform, and provide ongoing guidance for MGE’s continued planning for how the company moves forward together with customers and stakeholders to build a Community Energy Company of the Future. JSA recommends the formation of a long term collaborative, Community Energy Partnership, in the summer or fall of 2016 based on the outcomes of Phase III in support of further developing MGE’s Energy 2030 Framework.
EXCERPTS FROM JSA’S KEY FINDINGS
It was clear in the CECs that many participants were unhappy with MGE’s handling of its 2014 rate case, particularly as it affected conservation efforts. Participants were concerned that the rate changes not only hurt low-income and fixed-income residents, but also that fixed rates discouraged those who are trying to reduce usage since they must pay the same fixed charge as those who are not trying to be efficient. Many participants stated that the current pricing plans should include plans that encourage conservation and help low-income residents afford their energy bills.
Participants voiced concerns about the impact of the fixed rate increase on low income families and senior ratepayers. Participants do not believe the current rate structure is equitable, and they would like to see a more equitable billing sy
stem, more compassionate treatment, and greater assistance for low-income famiies.
Sparked by their dissatisfaction with the way in which the company designed and managed its 2014 rate case, a number of CEC participants called on MGE to pay more attention to the community, educate and speak to them honestly and transparently and make decisions with them. Attendees wanted MGE to provide ongoing balanced, accurate, and fair education on energy issues. Participants wanted to ensure that MGE creates an ongoing dialogue and uses the feedback from the CECs for future planning and decision-making.
A SELECTION OF CUSTOMER COMMENTS
- “Need to rebuild trust. Be honest about coal, eliminate fixed change.”
- “The justification for rising fixed charges is a lie. Everyone knows it. It is outrageous. Reverse it.”
- “Develop a plan to get off coal and move to clean energy quickly.”
- “Trust has been violated. Only transparency can bring it back. Show us the numbers, tell us who pays and who profits”
- “Change governance structure to include community, stakeholders, elected officials, and board of directors”
- “Be fair to those who use less energy which includes poorer and older customers. Do not raise fixed rates.”
- “I would like to see MG&E become a benefit corporation. I would like to see MG&E support the EPA’s Clean Power Plan – that would demonstrate their commitment to clean energy better than anything.”
- “Progressive billing that doesn’t penalize customers that reduce energy use”
What is a Community Energy Partnership? – RePower Madison Summary
MGE’s Community Energy Conversations Web Site
MGE Website About the Phase II Report
MGE Customer Survey Results Website
MGE’s Energy 2030 Framework
MGE Community Engagement Process Diagram
Justice and Sustainability Associates – MGE Project Website
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In addition, we invite you to stay involved and up to date with RePower Madison. RPM will provide you with news, information and event notices.