Meeting on December 23rd, right before Christmas, two of three members of the Public Service Commission (PSC), Chair Phil Montgomery and Ellen Nowak, approved MGE’s billing scheme. As a result, 80% of MGE customers will see higher bills beginning January 1st. The PSC and MGE delivered more coal to our stockings, this Christmas, and less clean energy.
“Today’s decision will undermine the cost-effectiveness of energy efficiency and conservation measures and discourage the adoption of distributed generation technologies going forward.” -Commissioner Eric Callisto in his dissent on page 132 of the final order (see additional excerpts below). Full Callisto dissent can be found here.
“MGE’s CEO, Gary Wolter, betrayed the Madison community by pushing this regressive and hugely unpopular billing scheme that is favored by big coal and the national utility lobby”, said Mitch Brey of RePower Madison. “MGE’s changes were opposed by every major city served by MGE, Dane County, senior & environmental groups, and MGE shareholders. Despite this huge public outcry and lack of evidence justifying this scheme, Wolter refused to withdraw the proposal, which was rubber stamped by the Walker-appointed commissioners,” he continued.
The PSC made their unpopular decisions under the cover of holidays. They voted for their decision the day before Thanksgiving and the official order was issued two days before Christmas in an obvious effort to reduce public outrage.
Although MGE has said it will involve the community in future decisions, PSC Commissioner Phil Montgomery said at the pre-Thanksgiving Commission meeting, that he wants to see even more radical proposals from MGE in the future.
“MGE and the PSC completely ignored the community’s response and evidence presented in the formal case. With guaranteed record profits, there was no reason to implement one of the most regressive billing schemes in the country. Especially for a utility serving one of the most progressive communities in the country”, said Don Ferber, RePower Madison’s co chair.
RePower Madison will continue to organize opposition in 2015, by first urging all MGE rate payers to sign RePower Madison’s petition demanding a fair and meaningful community discussion with MGE. The petition is online at RePowerMadison.org and www.FaceBook.com/RepowerMadison.
The written order is available online here and attached below. Outgoing Commissioner Eric Callisto wrote a tough dissent, including these statements:
“Today’s decision does not protect the consuming public or advance the public interest.” – page 131.
- “It is poor regulatory policy. It is unfair. And it is being accomplished piecemeal, in separate rate case proceedings, over the sound and well-reasoned objections of Commission technical staff, and in the face of overwhelming public and stakeholder opposition. Issues this important, this divisive, and this impactful for customers, deserve more comprehensive investigation and should be dealt with as part of a statewide effort.” – page 124.
- “These increases will hit low and below average use customers the hardest. They will discourage the adoption of customer-sited, distributed generation. They will undermine the economics of energy efficiency and conservation. And they will restrict how much control customers have over how much they pay, making it harder for customers to pay less by using less.” – page 126.
- “If you use less energy than an average user, you are going to pay more on your utility bill. The lower your use, the more you will pay, relative to the current bill structure. You will also have less control over how much you pay. Folks who live in the smallest dwellings–those in apartments, multi-unit housing, often individuals on fixed incomes, will be hit the hardest. About 75 percent of MGE residential customers will have a bill increase as a result of the Final Decision because of the fixed charge increase. For 20,000 of MGE’s residential customers, the increase will be greater than 10 percent. For customers who use on average of about 300 kilowatt-hours per month, their annual increase will be roughly $66.00, as a result of the fixed charge increase. For those who use 200 kilowatt-hours per month, the annual increase will be about $79.00.” [for the very few customers using 2,000 kwh every month, their bill will decrease 4%]. – page 132-133
- “The solution provided by MGE here, and other regulated companies in this state, is not holistic, not forward thinking, and largely self-serving.” – page 133
The monthly customer fee will increase from $10.44 to $19.00 for electric service and $12.00 to $21.88 for natural gas service. This results in a $40.88 fee every month for gas and electric customers, before any energy is used, an 82% increase. Charges based on usage will slightly decrease. Final overall rate changes authorized consisting of a $15,416,000 annual rate increase for electric utility operations (a 3.76 percent increase) and a $3,788,000 annual rate decrease for natural gas utility operations (a 1.98 percent decrease) for 2015.