Group forms to fight MG&E rate change proposal

Group forms to fight MG&E rate change proposal

Madison Gas & Electric has proposed a rate change that officials say would raise bills for the average customer by about $2.80 a month but a local group is not happy with the plans.  MG&E customers would pay more for the fixed charges on the bill, which every utility user pays to bring power to the home or business, but in turn will pay a lower energy charge for what they use.  A citizen group has formed to fight the rate change. RePower Madison organizers say it takes advantage of the users who work to conserve and gives those who don’t a break.

Read and Watch the full story – WKOW-TV, September 22, 2014

“What this proposal would do is to take money from the lowest income people in our community,” says Don Wichert, who helped start RePower “People on fixed income, seniors, students, apartment dwellers and move it over to large energy users and basically the rich people in our society.”

Solar power experts say the plan would make it more difficult to justify the cost of energy efficiency and using renewable energy in the short term.

“MG&E has basically jiggered the whole payback mechanism, the economics by which someone with solar can save on their energy bill,” says Kurt Reinhold.

Reinhold uses solar power at his Madison home and also runs a business as a consultant, helping others find the right solar project for their home or business. He says he’s worried about how this could affect the industry as it’s already a challenge to convince people to make the long-term investment.

MG&E has responded to customer complaints and altered its original plans to some extent. The latest proposal shows the customer charge going up almost 50 percent, from $10.50 a month to $15 a month and a $4 grid connection fee has been added. There is a small decrease in the kilowatt-per-hour rate for energy used from $0.152 to $0.140.

Steve Kraus, manager of media relations at MG&E, tells 27 News the plan maintains the basic principle that people who use more power will have higher bills but ensures all customers pay a fair amount.

Kraus says there is still incentive for people to save energy and customers can control their bills as they did before.

“We’ve developed a new rate for low income customers,” Kraus tells 27 News. “Low income customers generally use electricity the same as all other customers but we’ve proposed this new rate so the changes we’re proposing for all customers will not affect them any more than all the rest of our customers.”

Plus, MG&E plans to “grandfather” those solar users who are already using solar power or already have a project in the works. RePower supporters say that won’t help those looking to switch to renewable energy in the future.

RePower plans to hold a rally on Thursday at the intersection of E. Wilson and John Nolen Drive at noon. The group will go over to MG&E to protest, demanding the company withdraws its proposal.

The Public Service Commission will have to approve it. You can submit comments online until October 8.