- Wisconsin Public Service Corp. (WPS) has asked the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to add a fixed charge of $6 per month to its residential customers' electricity bills, EnergyWire reports, on top of the $19 per month of fixed charges it has won from the commission over the past two years.
- If approved, the WPS proposal would lower variable residential charges based on power usage, shifting more of the utility's revenues to fixed fees. A rate design that emphasizes variable charges, the utility argues, could result in lower utility revenues as increases in efficiency and a higher penetration of rooftop solar drive down customer energy usage.
- The solar industry, meanwhile, has upped its opposition to the raft of recent fixed charge increases in the state, arguing that the new rates amount to an unfair tax on customer-sited technologies. Last week, a Wisconsin circuit court overturned $4/kW monthly fixed on solar customers from We Energies approved by the commission in 2014, saying the rate structure discriminates against solar owners.
Solar advocates argue the limited grid penetration of distributed energy resources (DERs) does not justify the fixed charges WPS is asking be imposed on customers in its northeast Wisconsin service area. The utility responds that it wants to be ahead of what it sees as a coming boom in distributed resources.
Utility data provided in proceeding shows that fewer than 50 of the 450,000 WPS customers installed residential solar in 2013 and 2014, and only a few more than 50 have installed solar in 2015.
A total of 340 WPS customers — about 0.08% of the customer base — have installed distributed generation during the last 10 years, and 221 of those pay their full fixed costs, according to solar advocates in the state. The WPS unrecovered revenue used to justify a need for a fixed charge increase is $21,000, about 0.002% of total 2013 revenue, contributors from RENEW Wisconsin and the Environmental Law & Policy Center wrote in March.
WPS is far from alone in its quest for higher fixed charges. In the last year, regulators in the state have approved increases for We Energies and Madison Gas & Electric as well.
In tossing out the We Energies fixed charge increase, the Dane County Circuit Court stalled a planned $3.79/kWh increase on monthly charges specifically targeted at rooftop solar customers. For the typical residential solar customer, the fixed charges would have amounted to about $19 a month.