Across the Grid: Fair Rates for Wisconsin’s Dairyland’s Fall 2017 Newsletter

From the Desk of the Executive Director – Hurricane Season Caused Tremendous Damage, Utility Workers Restored not only Power, but Faith in Communities

The fall of 2017 will be remembered as one of the worst hurricane seasons in history. Mother nature has taken her toll on Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and much of the southern United States. Decimating the power grid resulting in loss of electricity for millions. The sheer fright that these hurricanes brought to millions of our fellow countrymen was astounding. However, like we do for our friends and neighbors in times of need, many stepped up to help those who we unable to help themselves through these crises.

With the help of thousands of utility workers nationwide, many from right here in Wisconsin, power was restored to many of the areas hit hardest by the hurricanes.

We can’t control bad weather, but those who operate Wisconsin’s power grid are constantly working to ensure reliable electricity is available whenever it is needed.

However, for those who have not been in a cataclysmic weather event, what happens when weather wipes out the grid?

You lose lights, you lose television, you lose the Internet, you lose your cell phone, and you lose access to anything with a plug. But those are just the creature comforts that you initially see.

Yet, matters become serious quickly. No electricity means no access to fresh water. We need electricity to move water through the pumps that bring it to our homes and businesses.

No electricity means that the motor on our major appliances like out refrigerator and freezer has stopped. If one keeps the doors closed the refrigerator has 4 hours and the freezer has 24 hours before they quit keeping things cold.

What if gets really cold or really hot outside? Trouble starts there too. Clearly access to reliable electricity controls the furnace in our homes. But, many are unaware that air conditioning has special electricity requirements that necessitate the use of the electric grid.

At FRWD we like to say, The Wisconsin Power Grid – ready when you are.

Thankfully, utility workers are trained and on hand when events happen and work around the clock to restore power and stability to the grid.


Mark Meyer
Executive Director
Fair Rates for Wisconsin’s Dairyland

Rate Freeze Brings 2 years of Relief for Utility Customers

This fall, the Public Service Commission approved of a two-year rate freeze agreement with Wisconsin Energies’ and Wisconsin Public Service’s ratepayers.

Why is this important? To start, it is a rate FREEZE. This is the opposite of what you are used to hearing about. When a energy provider approaches the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to request a change in their rates it is almost always to increase their rates – not to freeze them.

This action is will have a broad reaching impact nearly 3 million Wisconsin residents.  The combined services territories of the two utilities cover roughly two-thirds of the state.  The freeze will also impact a large number of industrial and commercial customers, which are found in a greater concentration in this part of our state.

It also means that in two years, customers benefiting from the freeze will have seen six years of small or no increase in the rate on their electric bill.

To put this in context, one of the the last rate freezes by a major utility in the state of Wisconsin was by Alliant Energy in 2010.

What is it? Under the approved plan, electric rates excluding increases in fuel costs, will be frozen for the next two years. Historically if these adjustments for fuel are made they are small. The price of natural gas will be the driver in this review.

This two-year rate freeze also helps establish new real time pricing tariffs for large industrial customers and is being extended and expanded to include real time pricing tariffs for not only existing, but new customers as well. In essence, this agreement creates a better footing for ratepayers and the utility to work together in ensuring that customers are not being over charged, and that the utility is being as effective as possible with ratepayer dollars.

It is few and far between that a utility company seems to get good press in the state of Wisconsin. This rate freeze has allowed the media, as well as the public; to see We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service are putting their customers needs first.

At FRWD, we applaud the rate freeze, and look forward to continued interaction between the Badger State’s utility companies, large and small, and the customers they serve.

The Wisconsin River and Hydroelectric Power

The Hardest Working River in America. That is a bold statement, and it has been made over and over again about the Badger State’s Wisconsin River.

While many in the past would have put forth the idea that the hardest working river in America could have been either the Mississippi or Missouri rivers, due to commerce uses. The fact of the matter is that those two rivers pale in comparison to the power produced by the Wisconsin River. Thus making the Wisconsin River, America’s truly hardest working river.

With an annual output of nearly one billion kilowatt hours of electricity, The Wisconsin River stretches from Northeast Wisconsin at the border with the UP to Prairie du Chien at the river’s mouth on the Mississippi River. The 25 hydroelectric plants that dot the shores of the Wisconsin River provide enough energy to provide for the residential needs of more than 300,000 people.  To put that into prospective that would nearly cover all of the home electrical needs for every resident of Madison and Green Bay combined.

… The Wisconsin River generates nearly One Billion kilowatt hours of of electricity each year… 

As a natural resource, the Wisconsin River is continually giving back to the people who appreciate her majesty. Along her route the river drops nearly 650 feet, and in that drop the electric power is born for the people of Wisconsin. The dams that harness the power range in height from 12.5 feet at the Otter Rapids station just west of Eagle River to 92 feet at the Grandfather Station between Tomahawk and Merrill which are both owned by Wisconsin Public Service.  At 31 MW the largest generator on the Wisconsin River is near Prairie du Sac and owned by Alliant Energy.

The hydroelectric plants that ensure the continued harnessing of the world’s leading source of renewable energy are generally owned and operated by public utilities, which is to be expected in Wisconsin. However, paper mills that reside on the 420 miles of the river’s shoreline own a large number of the plants as well. By utilizing the river for paper production as well as for their electrical needs, these companies have helped increase the use of hydroelectric power, while also ensuring that grid stabilization is in place by using less of other forms of electricity that many of their neighbors utilize.  Some of the electricity is sold other energy suppliers.

While Wisconsin utilities are on the leading edge of understanding and utilizing renewable energy resources, it is amazing that the largest producer of renewable energy in our state comes from the hardest working river in the United States, and has provided reliable energy for decades. By producing more than one billion kilowatt hours of usable energy, the Wisconsin River has, and will continue, to be a monument to proper resource usage that is not only beautiful to witness, but helps keep the lights on for people throughout the region.

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