October 22, 2020

Sierra Club pans MGE rate freeze, says proposal creates future costs for ratepayers | Business News

The group noted that under Gov. Scott Walker’s administration regulators allowed utilities to shift more of the cost of service to fixed charges rather than the actual energy customers use.

“These high fixed charges didn’t make sense when they were first approved by the Walker PSC, but they make even less sense from an (Gov. Tony) Evers PSC in a world where colliding crises have revealed Wisconsin’s dramatic social inequities,” Sierra Club volunteer Victoria Gillet said in a statement.

MGE is proposing to use 2019 fuel savings — which normally would be refunded to customers — and to put off collection of some expenses until 2022 to offset the need for an electric rate increase next year.

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The Sierra Club said that amounts to a rate increase and warrants more scrutiny from regulators and the public.

“Dumping costs onto future ratepayers’ credit card is no less of a rate increase than charging for them in 2021,” the group argues in a brief.

In recent years the Sierra Club has also scrutinized the economics of Wisconsin’s remaining coal-fired plants, including the Columbia Energy Center, which the Sierra Club estimates lost about $20 million last year. MGE owns 19.1% of the plant.

The Sierra Club said the settlement is “more of the same from a utility that has been slow to respond to the climate crises and a missed opportunity to meet the climate goals set by municipalities and a growing number of community leaders.”

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