We Energies’ Rate Hike Falls Hardest on Poor and Minorities
PSC wrongly approves price gouging that will increase income disparities in Wisconsin.
For too many people in Wisconsin, the cost of basic necessities is becoming increasingly harder to afford– and energy is yet another expense that will be more costly for We Energies customers this year.
Last month, the Public Service Commission (PSC) approved a rate increase of 10.9% for electric and 9% for gas for all We Energies customers. This comes only three years after We Energies’ last rate increase, while people across the state and country struggle to afford everyday needs like groceries and gas. This rate case is a key example of how important Governor Evers’ next PSC appointment will be, and why we need this next commissioner to protect Wisconsinites rather than siding with We Energies yet again.
But where did this proposal for increased rates even come from, three years after We Energies’ last increase? We Energies has claimed that the increase in price is necessary due to its building of clean energy, but the utility has proposed several new fossil gas projects and has plans to continue to run dirty coal plants like the Oak Creek/Elm Road coal plants.
The extreme cold we saw last month showed the urgent need to invest in the weatherization of homes for the safety, comfort, and affordability of Wisconsinites. Instead of prioritizing these investments, We Energies dug their heels into using more gas, raising customers’ electricity bills without working to address the problem.
While I appreciate the scrutiny the PSC demonstrated throughout the We Energies’ rate case and the reduced return on equity, this decision ignores the 1,180 public comments gathered throughout this process, only 12 of which were in support of We Energies’ rate increase. Across the state, hundreds of people have engaged in opposition, from submitting comments and testifying against the rate increase, to rallying outside of We Energies headquarters to call on the monopoly utility to address the concerns of local residents.
Everyone deserves affordable energy, but the PSC’s rate increase approval for We Energies’ customers will only make it more difficult for people to afford what they need. As We Energies looks to again come in front of the PSC later this year, it’s imperative that Governor Evers appoints a progressive commissioner who will prioritize equity for marginalized communities and actively work to make sure that people of color and low-income peoples are not further harmed by the corporate interests of utilities like We Energies.
Cassie Steiner-Bouxa, the Senior Campaign Coordinator at Sierra Club – Wisconsin.