Sunday, May 31, 2015

Big Oil's Scott Walker wants you to spend your tax savings on higher energy bills.

Both Scott Walker and Republican legislators have been very upfront about their intention to stuff insurance company pockets with lots of money, by forcing poor people into the private sector health insurance market. From IRIS to BadgerCare, they want you pay insurers. 

A similar method of cost shifting is now jacking up your energy bill. You want to save energy? Don't bother, it won't be worth it in Wisconsin, where over consumption is encouraged.

It's ironic too. Minnesota’s Xcel Energy tried and failed to get their own state to approve a customer base rate increase, the industries new way to soak consumers who may be creating their own energy with solar panels or saving energy with new appliances. No longer based on usage, big energy is doing everything they can to discourage customers from supplying their own power and selling that surplus back to the utility. But unlike Minnesota, Wisconsin will give Xcel Energy everything they want, including the money you saved with Walker's tax cuts.

This obvious power play by energy suppliers hasn't worked other states. But funny thing, Scott Walker’s crony packed PSC is more than happy to consider a rate hike, stripping customers of their hard earned cash.
Xcel is following the example of several other large utilities in asking to increase the flat fee applied to all residential, farm and small commercial bills. If approved, the customer charge would more than double -- from $8 a month to $18. In the past two years, three of the state’s five largest investor-owned utilities have significantly hiked customer charges. Madison Gas & Electric went from $8.70 a month in 2012 to $19 this year. Wisconsin Public Service nearly quadrupled its charge. Since 2001, the average customer bill has risen by about 25 percent after adjusting for inflation.

Critics say increasing these flat fees unfairly penalizes those who use less energy and creates a disincentive for home-based alternatives like solar panels. Kira Loehr, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board said “It hits those who use less and makes them pay more. That’s the exact opposite of what we think should be happening. It encourages increasing consumption, which raises costs for everybody in the long run.”

While acknowledging it favors big users. Don Reck, regional vice president of rates and regulatory affairs said, “We’re trying to make ourselves the provider of choice.”
Love the honesty, hate the utility.Walker is making sure whatever money you saved tax wise is going to campaign lobbyists and fossil fuel industry supporters in the form of higher monthly bills:
Wisconsin has been ground zero … The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has made it clear that it welcomes requests for increased fixed charges and related measures … The Minnesota PUC denied the monthly fixed rate increases. The Alliance for Solar Choice spokesperson Amy Heart. “That this isn’t necessarily a trend in the Midwest. The decision in Minnesota demonstrates just how out of step the Public Service Commission is in Wisconsin.”
Their rate hike does not compute: How out of step is our PSC? It’s hard to argue with the following explanation and big PSC problem:
The fixed-rate portion of an electric bill is meant to cover the cost of grid infrastructure … Since Minnesota essentially rejected that argument, and since the grid infrastructure delivering to Wisconsin Xcel customers is largely the same system as in Minnesota, experts say Xcel would have a hard time justifying higher fixed charges for Wisconsin customers. In other words, if it costs only $8 a month to deliver electricity to Minnesota Xcel customers, it doesn’t compute that it would cost much more to deliver to customers only a few miles away over the Wisconsin border.
The Minnesota PUC decision was in keeping with the June 2014 findings of the state commerce commission and the December ruling of an administrative law judge, which both said that Xcel should reduce its rate increase requests. The PUC also approved the state’s first decoupling program, a structure where the utility does not get more profit the more energy it sells. That program should theoretically alleviate the need for the utility to increase its fixed rates.

As RENEW Wisconsin program and policy director Michael Vickerman and others see in Wisconsin ... the staunchly ideological position of the Public Service Commission, “It’s really the Public Service Commission in Wisconsin that’s driving the rate restructuring change, more-so than the utilities.” Vickerman said, “This commission has rang the dinner bell.”

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