Two Wisconsin utilities, Madison Gas & Electric (MGE) and We Energies, are asking for rate changes based on solar energy's growth. MGE proposed on June 2 to increase the standard monthly charge for all residential customers from the current $10.50 a month to $22 a month in 2015, $48 in 2016, and $67 by 2017 — not counting the kilowatt-hour cost based on the amount of electricity used. Then toward the end of June, the utility agreed to lower its request for the standard charge to $19 a month next year and removing references to future years, subject to further talks with Citizens Utility Board, according to a story in the Wisconsin State Journal.
MGE said it needs to be fair to customers who use a little bit of electricity and a lot of electricity depending on what their needs are, according to a report on Channel3000.com. An MGE spokesman told the agency that someone who has a solar unit will still have a significant savings under the new system, even though customers won’t get as much of a financial break for using less electricity. He said the difference in savings each year should only be about $50.
Renew Wisconsin Executive Director Tyler Hueber contends that people will be discouraged from installing solar panels and other clean energy options since it will take longer to pay back the investment.
The Journal cited a January 2013 report by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and said that it "sounded the call to utilities nationwide to beware of 'disruptive challenges' ahead that could pose serious threats." A convergence of factors, including lower costs for solar energy and heightened public interest in renewable technologies, are “potential game changers” for the electric industry. And revising utility rate structures could mitigate some of the problems, according to EEI.
The Jounal article went on to say that solar proliferation is small in Wisconsin and suggested that utilities change the way they do business by offering "a one-stop shop of products, such as solar panels, energy storage and standby power."