Wisconsin PSC greenlights severe fixed-charge increases

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) greenlighted severe rate increases for Wisconsin Power & Light (WPL), pending a final decision by December.

If the proposed decision is approved, residential fixed charges will nearly double on Jan. 1, $7.67 to $15. Commercial businesses face even steeper increases, facing a fixed-charge increase from $7.67 to $17, a nearly 122-percent increase.

Initially, the utility asked for even steeper increases ($18 and $22, respectively) to be phased in over two years. The commission’s alternative would be implemented immediately and stay flat in the second year.

The proposed decision came under immediate fire from renewable-energy advocates.

“Wisconsin electricity customers now pay dramatically higher fixed charges than their counterparts in other states,” said Tyler Huebner, RENEW Wisconsin’s executive director. “Our testimony documented that the vast majority of state agencies nationally are either rejecting these fixed charge hikes outright, or granting much smaller increases, and only in Wisconsin are these fees being nearly doubled.”

RENEW supports a modified single-step increase to $12/month, which they say is more in line with increases across the region and within Alliant Energy’s service area. WPL is a subsidiary of Alliant.

Huebner’s point is valid. As pv magazine reported in August, 42 utilities in 25 states had requested fixed-charge increases in 2016 alone, by far the most popular type of rate increase requested. Despite its popularity, however, more than 50 percent of those increases were denied by state regulators.

Regulators expect to make a final decision by the end of the year.