Wisconsin Public Radio

WE Energies Won’t Demand Solar Surcharge

Company backs off after announcing its settlement with RENEW Wisconsin.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Jul 16th, 2019 10:42 am
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Solar Panels at 2830 N. Booth St. Photo by Joe Kelly.

Solar Panels at 2830 N. Booth St. Photo by Joe Kelly.

As temperatures heat up, a long simmering dispute between the state’s largest utility and a renewable energy group is cooling off.

We Energies has agreed to give up a surcharge it wanted customers with solar rooftop panels to pay for their use of the electrical grid on days when the sun wasn’t shining.

We Energies and RENEW Wisconsin announced the settlement Monday.

The change would have required approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. Had it been implemented, it would have been the first such charge by a Wisconsin utility, said Tyler Huebner, executive director of RENEW.

“There are number of ways to look at this,” Huebner said. “The utilities often look at it from the cost side. We really like to look at it from the benefit side — how much is solar helping in the middle of these hot summer day peaks like we’ve got this time of year.”

Under the agreement, We Energies will hold off on a solar surcharge for customer-generated power for at least two years while they continue discussions with RENEW. State regulators approved a We Energies solar charge in 2014, but the proposal was later overturned by a Dane County Circuit Court judge.

“What we are seeing is a continued move in many states away from the pitched fights on this issue and more towards diplomacy and really trying to understand what the issues are on both sides of the table,” Huebner said.

We Energies has about 700 customers who have rooftop solar.

“The cost to maintain that grid doesn’t change. The cost of putting a pole and wire to your house doesn’t change whether you use it one day or 365 days and so it’s a recovery charge to find a way to help split those costs” between solar panel owners and regular customers, said Brendan Conway, spokesman for We Energies.

The solar surcharge would have cost the average We Energies customer with solar panels about $15 a month, which Huebner said would eat into their expected energy savings.

As part of the agreement, RENEW Wisconsin has agreed to support an upcoming solar project the utility plans to build. Details about location and size of the project haven’t been disclosed yet.

Listen to the WPR report here.

We Energies Holds Off On Solar Surcharge was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

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