Wisconsin’s Green Fire Encourages Members to Participate in Wisconsin’s Energy Democracy Process

WI Green Fire, April 25, 2022

Trisha McConnell and Jim Billings with  their 11.1 kW system with 30 panels at their home. Photo: Dane County Office of Sustainability and Climate Action
Trisha McConnell and Jim Billings with their 11.1 kW system with 30 panels at their home. Photo: Dane County Office of Sustainability and Climate Action

This blog post provides background information on parallel energy generation purchase rates. We encourage WGF members to submit comments to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin on the Alliant Energy parallel energy generation case by Friday April 29th, and stay tuned to our website for updates on further opportunities for public comments in the coming months.

Wisconsin’s Green Fire provided detailed comments to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) on parallel generation purchase rates in March 2022. We emphasized that “the time has come for the PSC to take a customer-centric approach to address the need for dramatic greenhouse gas emission reductions,” and “there should be a fundamental paradigm shift away from monopoly utilities solely building large-scale solar farms to forming a solid utility-customer partnership in a modern energy system focused on distributed generation, storage, efficiency, demand flexibility and carbon reduction. Together these energy technologies are commonly referred to as distributed energy resources (DERs)” (1).

Parallel generation is distributed energy generation (DG) that is sited at a customer’s premises. DG can produce energy for the customer’s use and produce and sell energy to a utility that exceeds customer use. The most common DG is a solar photovoltaic (PV) rooftop system. Economic benefits of installing solar include a reduction in the energy a customer purchases from a utility, and the ability for the customer to receive a fair price for excess energy sold back to the utility. Evidence from the Wisconsin Focus on Energy Rooftop Solar Potential Study shows that Wisconsin is failing to take advantage of the customer’s ability to address energy efficiency and storage, demand flexibility, and clean energy generation through a distributed or community model (2).

RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit organization that promotes renewable energy, has also provided public information on the PSC’s parallel generation docket, especially concerning buyback rates (3). The PSC directed Wisconsin’s five largest investor-owned utilities to provide modeling and calculations of ‘avoided costs’ and revise the rates the utilities use to purchase energy from DG. These rates are called ‘buyback rates,’ and are critical economic components of DG.

RENEW properly noted that when the utilities filed their buyback rate applications with the PSC in September 2021, they did not model and calculate the long-term avoided costs of local renewable DG as the PSC requested. Instead, they either cited short-term marginal prices for some costs or simply stated that DG provides no value for other costs. RENEW has since developed a comprehensive counterproposal plan for the PSC to consider, based on the criteria established by the PSC. RENEW’s comprehensive plan includes fair, reasonable, and responsible buyback rates for DG customers.

WGF agrees with and supports RENEW’s comprehensive plan for buyback rates and parallel generation, so all business owners and homeowners, landlords and tenants, and software entrepreneurs can be networked partners in a decentralized and digitalized energy system focused on a fair, equitable, and responsible transition to a clean energy economy.  Consistent and fair buyback rates (avoided energy payments) are critical to realizing the enormous economic and job creation benefits associated with a smooth transition to a clean energy economy.

We firmly believe it is time to restore the concept of “public utility” in Wisconsin so we can achieve meaningful progress toward reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs). A bold step in shaping our new energy economy is having Wisconsin policymakers committed to the central focus of restoring jobs and opportunities for all. While consumers can take important individual actions to better manage their energy use, managing large-scale change requires effective public policy and well-directed investments. Only systemic changes will allow the energy industry and energy customers to shift their roles and responsibilities to favor clean, efficient, resilient, and less expensive energy resources.

For more information, please contact Wisconsin Green Fire Energy Work Group co-chairs Kerry Beheler (kerry.beheler@gmail.com) and Gary Radloff (glradloff@gmail.com).

 

Citations:

  1. (Docket 5-EI-157): Wisconsin’s Green Fire comments on Public Service Commission of Wisconsin Investigation of Parallel Generation Purchase Rates. 3/21/2022 https://wigreenfire.org/2019/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/3-21-22-Wisconsin-Green-Fire-Comments-on-5-EI-157.pdf

 

  1. Eckstein, Jeremy; Spencer, Sophia; Hicks, Amalia; Velonis, Aquila; and Rios Romero, Sabrina. (Cadmus) (2021). Focus on Energy: The 2021 Rooftop Solar Potential Study. https://focusonenergy.com/sites/default/files/inline-files/Potential_Study_Report-FoE_Rooftop_Solar_2021.pdf

 

  1. Kell, Andrew. “Buyback Rates and the Business Case for Distributed Generation in Wisconsin.” renewwisconsin.org, 3/18/22, https://www.renewwisconsin.org/buyback-rates-and-the-business-case-for-distributed-generation-in-wisconsin/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=c46da9dc-c9ff-4aee-a1fa-c672b2ca9353