Wisconsin utility commits to clean energy, but advocates remain skeptical

Wisconsin utility commits to clean energy, but advocates remain skeptical

While the utility serving Madison, Wisconsin has recently made a public commitment to expand renewable power and cut emissions, clean-energy advocates say they still have unanswered questions.

The Framework 2030 plan that Madison Gas & Electric (MGE) released last month says the company will get 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent (from 2005 levels) by 2030. It also vows to modernize the grid, and promises not to seek a fixed rate increase in its next rate case in spring 2016 – a departure from a broader trend in the state.

The news was welcomed by clean energy and consumer groups, who attributed the fixed rate promise to widespread opposition to such increases that utilities have sought and had approved in the past two years.

MGE held scores of small community meetings to collect input for the Framework plan, officials said, building on a practice the utility started a decade ago to inform its 2015 energy plan. But some customers and clean energy leaders say they want a clearer and firmer commitment from MGE that it is turning away from reliance on fixed charge increases and that it can be sure that the renewable energy goal is achieved.

They note that MGE did not make any promises about fixed rate cases after spring 2016. And with heavy reliance on coal-fired power, they wonder how MGE can meet the 30 percent renewables commitment in a meaningful way. Some are also skeptical of the extent to which MGE plans to incorporate community feedback going forward.

“As far as this being a victory, I think it is,” said RePower Madison coordinator Mitch Brey about the Framework 2030. “It’s a huge improvement from where MGE was a year and a half ago. But it’s still a work in progress.”

Read the full story here from Midwest Energy News, December 8, 2015