Op Ed

We Energies’ Rate Hike Falls Hardest on Poor and Minorities

PSC wrongly approves price gouging that will increase income disparities in Wisconsin.

By - Jan 9th, 2023 05:19 pm
Oak Creek Power Plant. Photo taken November 13, 2021 by Dave Reid.

Oak Creek Power Plant. Photo taken November 13, 2021 by Dave Reid.

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.

Though this rate increase will affect all We Energies customers, it will disproportionately harm Black, Hispanic, and Latinx communities in Wisconsin. Additionally, the PSC ignored the request to require We Energies to adopt an energy efficiency and low-income program that would have helped people pay their bills— and the increased rates are starting during the brutal winter months in Wisconsin. 

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.

The PSC is supposed to protect the interests and well-being of Wisconsinites. Its additional scrutiny in this past case is an important step toward a solution, but its approval of We Energies’ increased rates simply empowers one of the largest utility companies in the state to take advantage of and price gouge its customers.

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.

Categories: Environment, Op-Ed

2 thoughts on “Op Ed: We Energies’ Rate Hike Falls Hardest on Poor and Minorities”

  1. ringo muldano says:

    Obviously, as we all know, it got really, really cold around Christmas time,” We Energies spokesman Brendan Conway said.

    “If you keep it at 72, maybe try to see if you can keep it at 71 or 70. When you go to sleep, turn it down to 68, maybe 65,” Conway said.

    FU, Brendan… a$$wipe

  2. Wardt01 says:

    2 of the 3 PSC Commissioner’s are already appointees of Tony Evers. this wasn’t an “evil Republican” scheme. your 2nd paragraph is purposely misleading.

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