Utility Pulls Plug on $6 Million a Year Commitment
As reported on its Web site, Milwaukee-based We Energies will discontinue an innovative and effective renewable energy development program that supported scores of renewable energy systems throughout its service territory. [The announcement can be accessed at http://www.we-energies.com/re.]
"It's a sad day when the state's largest utility decides to walk away from its commitment to a clean energy future," said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide organization advocating for public policies and private initiatives that advance renewable energy.
As indicated in various filings with the Public Service Commission, We Energies had committed to spend $6 million a year over 10 years to increase its renewable energy supplies and make renewable energy more affordable to its customers through grants and incentives. We Energies' commitment came in the wake of a settlement with RENEW over the utility's plans to build two coal-fired power stations in southeast Wisconsin.
Of the $60 million committed, the utility has spent approximately $30 million since 2006. This program will be zeroed out in We Energies' next rate filing, which will cover 2012 and 2013.
This program supported numerous customer-sited renewable energy installations [see list below], conferences and workshops, research and development activities, and innovative buyback rates.
"Perhaps not coincidently, the decision to terminate this program comes just months after We Energies placed its second coal-fired plant in service. The $6 million a year was a small price to pay for the all of the renewable energy advances that occurred while the utility built two coal plants," said Vickerman.
"Now that the coal plant is up and running, it appears that the program has outlived its usefulness to We Energies," Vickerman said.
Six million dollars equates to about .025 percent of We Energies' annual expenditures.
"This cancellation comes as a blow to area contractors and businesses that were relying on the program to create jobs and clean energy," said Vickerman. "The achievements leveraged far outweigh the program's negligible cost."
"Between utility program cutbacks and state government rollbacks, Wisconsin's policy framework for supporting renewable energy will be largely dismantled by the end of the year."
RENEW Wisconsin is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives. More information on RENEW's Web site at www.renewwisconsin.org.