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Oct 7, 201412:47 PMOpen Mic

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Small businesses would be harmed by change in energy rates

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The business imperative to “decarbonize” was the topic at a timely forum held by Wisconsin Business Alliance, hosted by CUNA Mutual, and attended by over 60 local businesses last week. Walmart and other large retailers now require their suppliers to report their carbon output, and carbon accounting is becoming a reality for businesses that want to compete in the global marketplace.

“Carbon reduction is a leading performance indicator of efficiency and is also a strategy to retain customers, reduce risk, and spur innovation,” said Tom Eggert, executive director of the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council, at the Carbon 101 event.

But if businesses are served by utilities addicted to coal, they’ll be at a competitive disadvantage. Facebook, Microsoft, and Google recently made low-carbon electricity sources a key factor in locating data centers in Iowa. Iowa produces 28.8% of its energy from renewables, while Wisconsin stands at only 6.8%.

MGE commits to coal while penalizing efficiency and renewables

After looking into MGE’s public filings, a group of local energy experts has concluded that MGE’s commitment to coal is projected to last decades. MGE’s ownership shares in coal plants supply a full 70% of electricity to the Madison market. These plants have been plagued with massive cost overruns, resulting in over $1 billion in bailouts in the form of rate hikes approved by the Public Service Commission. The filings also indicate that MGE intends to run the Columbia coal-fired plant until 2038 and the Elm Road coal-fired plant until 2050.

In our analysis, MGE has shown much less commitment to solar and wind than the public has been led to believe. From 2009 to 2013, the growth in MGE’s ownership of solar- and wind-generated electricity was 5% and 0% respectively. Conversely, in the United States, total installed solar and wind capacity grew 34% and 81% during the same period. According to the Solar Electric Utilities 2013 rankings, that would rank MGE at a disappointing #110 among its utility peers.

Unfortunately, Madison Gas & Electric has proposed big changes in 2015 that reduce incentives for saving energy and using renewables. Hiking the fixed fee by 80% and modestly lowering the energy cost per unit sends a price signal to use more energy, not less. MGE, along with other Wisconsin utilities, is restricting companies’ control of their energy bills and pulling the plug on technologies that can reduce overhead costs. Fifty local businesses from the Madison area have responded by signing an open letter asking MGE to withdraw its proposal.


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Oct 7, 2014 04:00 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Thank you - here is what I submitted

The proposed rate changes would harm the development of small and especially small rural businesses in the MGE service area. Increasingly small businesses are run out of homes . In my work over 20years in my Town shows about 30% of the homes hosue some type of self employment or small business. Self employment or the creation of these types of small businesses is one of the fastest growing parts of the economy. Increased utility costs would harm the very tight margins amny of these businsses operate under. It would also provide a disincentive for them to install solar and other green power systems as the cost of those systems come down.

Please reject the current rate application of MGE

Oct 7, 2014 05:24 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

This whole discourse is so typical of thought driven by ideology these days, and mostly devoid of facts or practical solutions to discuss, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." I am a small business, and small businesses use such small amounts of electricity, as to be insignificant among the other costs.

It is a fact that wind and solar power have so many shortcomings within the energy spectrum, that are unlikely to be overcome in an economically viable fashion. Chief among those are the intermittent nature of production requiring very very expensive storage or base load capability for when the renewable source is unavailable.

It is also a fact that advocates of renewable energy cannot get support from legislators or electricity users for scrapping the coal fired plants before the end of their economic lives, because of the tremendous cost to the ratepayers and the loss of jobs as industry either moves out of state, or fails to move into the state because of uncompetitive utility costs.

Oct 8, 2014 09:44 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

We Energies-Funded Study Says Solar Actually Helps—Not Harms—Ratepayers
Report contradicts its own claims about ‘fairness’.

According to a 2009 study commissioned by We Energies and conducted by Clean Power Research, most of the savings is tied to solar users’ ability to generate their own energy, their contribution to We Energies’ renewable portfolio standard obligations, and their use as a hedge against future fuel price uncertainty.

The estimated value of a solar system over that system’s 30-year life was approximately $0.15 per kilowatt hour, the study found.

The study surfaced in We Energies’ pending rate case before the state Public Service Commission (PSC)....

The full article is available at

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