Bullheadedly sticking with legacy fuels and claiming falsely that they are still so much cheaper than alternative fuels has effectively left Wisconsin behind most other states.
Wisconsin has some of the highest electricity prices in the nation, although the average customer spends far less on electricity than in most states (residents aren’t running air conditioners as much as their counterparts in the hot and sticky southern states).
So why are Wisconsin’s rates so high?
“Built-in costs. It’s a combination of legacy infrastructure and legacy business models.”said Gary Radloff, director of Midwest Energy Policy Analysis for the Wisconsin Energy Institute. Utilities have invested heavily in power plants and transmission lines that are paid off over decades through customer rates set by the Public Service Commission.
Those investments also include billions of dollars spent on pollution controls for aging coal plants, some of which are now being replaced with new natural-gas plants, said Tom Content, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, which represents the interests of residential and small businesses.
Content said Wisconsin ratepayers would be better off if utilities had followed those in Minnesota and Iowa by investing sooner in lower-cost natural gas and wind generation. “If you went with natural gas and renewables, you’re not trying to have a cleaner burning cigarette, you’re not smoking,” he said.
Yet the PSC has also approved significant increases in recent years to the flat monthly fee customers pay just to have an account, something consumer advocates argue punishes those who use the least electricity. “We’ve been investing heavily in the supply side,” Content said. “And not in helping customers manage their energy costs.”