Save solar & demand energy justice
We believe every Wisconsinite, regardless of how much money they make, should have access to the benefits of renewable energy. A better future with safe, affordable, and clean energy is possible in Wisconsin if we stand together.
Protecting our children’s health is something we all can agree on. But Madison Gas and Electric’s (MGE) and Alliant Energy’s rate proposals would keep Wisconsinites reliant on dirty fuels that pollute the air in our kids’ lungs, contaminate the water in their cups, and destabilize the climate. Both proposals would harm rooftop solar by curbing net metering and would increase energy burden: MGE has proposed raising rates 9.6% for electricity and 4.5% for gas by 2025 and Alliant has proposed a 19.2% electric and 7.5% gas increase for residential customers by 2025. The burden of rate hikes would be shouldered primarily by families, with business/industrial customers receiving a lesser rate increase.
Both MGE and Alliant proposed to keep their profit rates (return on equity) above the national average, at 9.8% and 10% respectively. MGE reported a profit of $111 million in 2022 or more than double the size of the 2024 rate increases being sought. Alliant reported $350 million in profit in 2022, and another $88 million so far this year. Our utilities are blaming clean energy for price hikes while they rake in profits. These profits are at the expense of health, especially for Black, Brown, and low-to-moderate-income families.
Join us in protecting solar and Wisconsin families already struggling to make ends meet.
Tell the Public Service Commission, the state agency with the power to regulate utilities, to require that MGE and Alliant:
Limit total energy bill burden to 6%, which is where the threshold for high energy burden begins.
Pursue wind, solar, and energy efficiency as cost-saving opportunities for customers and to improve customer and environmental health.
Continue their net metering programs to make rooftop solar more affordable, accessible and widespread.
Adopt the following programs: Percentage of Income Plan, Arrearage Management Program, and pilot geo-targeted energy efficiency program to lower bills.
Key Action Dates
MGE Public Hearing
In-person or on Zoom
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What is net-metering and how do these proposals effect it?Net metering refers to the amount of money you receive when solar panels you own produce more energy than you need and the excess returns to the grid. During sunny months, some customers generate enough electricity that they are actually owed money by their utility. Overall, net metering makes solar more affordable and more appealing to install. MGE has asked the Public Service Commission, the state agency with the power to regulate utilities, to approve a 50% cut to their net metering rate, and can be further adjusted yearly. Alliant Energy’s proposal would replace net-metering with a complicated set of charges and credits that are subject to change. This complicated pricing formula will make it difficult for solar customers to budget for rooftop solar investments, ultimately disincentivizing new solar.
What is energy burden and how is it driven by systemic racism?Energy burden is the percentage of a family's income that is spent on utility bills. "The legacy of racist housing policies, and job and income discrimination, contributes to more families of color living in inefficient homes and having higher energy costs than white families, which forces these families to make trade offs between utility payments and other necessities and to navigate even more cumbersome and disenfranchising system hurdles. Meanwhile, energy efficiency improvements to alleviate the cost burdens are largely inaccessible to low-income families, and awareness of programs is often low." - Energy Burden in Milwaukee: Study Reveals Major Disparities & Links to Redlined Areas. African Americans in the U.S. are more likely to experience an energy burden due to the housing stock available from racial residential segregation (Hernández et al., 2016), which contributes to health inequities.
How is energy burden related to health?Recent analyses have found that energy burden is a central social determinant of health. It was so influential on premature mortality, self-reported health, and life expectancy, that only race and education had stronger influences (Reames et al., 2021). Higher energy burden is associated with asthma, respiratory issues, and increased mental health impacts (Wells et al., 2015, Brown et al., 2020). Inefficient heating or cooling systems can lead to thermal discomfort, hypothermia, or heat stress (Chen et al., 2017). Heat risks are increasing as climate change brings more intense heat waves to the Milwaukee area. An improperly heated home doubles the rate of respiratory issues and puts teens at five times the risk for mental health problems (Drehobl & Ross, 2016). It can also increase heart disease, arthritis, rheumatism, and infection rates (Lidell & Morris, 2010). Electricity shutoffs cause health and safety concerns and can be particularly dangerous for older adults and young children that need powered medical devices or refrigerated medications (Brown et al., 2020). In cases where energy burdens are too high, households often sacrifice health to pay for energy bills, leading to chronic stress and exacerbated healthcare costs down the road (Hernández et al, 2016). More than 25 million US households report reducing or forgoing food or medicines to pay electricity costs (EIA, 2015). This situation often referred to as “heat” or “eat” poses high risk of malnutrition for children (Frank et al., 2006). On the other hand, the health benefits of energy efficiency upgrades are well documented and include reduced rates of heavy fever, asthma, headaches, sinusitis, respiratory allergies, and angina (Jacobs et al., 2015). In fact, the latest WAP evaluation showed that the program’s health benefits exceeded energy benefits (Tonn et al., 2015).
How do these proposals harm health system, school district, and city sustainability goals?Higher solar costs and uncertainty will impact decisions healthcare clinics, businesses, and families are making surrounding renewable energy. Resulting budget restraints could also hamper the goals of Wisconsin communities and school districts (like Madison, Monona, Fitchburg, and Middleton) that are currently leading the way with 100% clean energy resolutions. Restricting net-metering would also broaden energy inequities and curb the growth of family-supporting, solar jobs in Wisconsin.
What is the Public Service Commission?Since essential utilities such as electricity, gas, water, and telecommunications, are given monopoly status within their geographic service region in Wisconsin, the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) job is to regulate these services. This regulatory agency consists of three full-time commissioners appointed by the governor in staggered six-year terms and confirmed by the state senate. The PSC is responsible for many critical decisions that relate to health, such as where fossil fuel plants will be constructed, and they require public input to support their decision-making. They make decisions through the “dockets” they decide to consider.