The purchase of
Integrys Energy Group by Wisconsin Energy Corp. could have a
significant impact on smaller utility companies owned by
municipalities like those in Hartford and Slinger — more than is
obvious at first blush.
The state Public Service Commission on May 20 approved of the
acquisition. Integrys is the parent company of Wisconsin Public
Service Corp. of Green Bay. The $9.1 billion deal was previously
approved by federal and Michigan regulators and shareholders of each
Besides the possible impact on electricity rates paid by consumers,
Hartford City Administrator Gary Koppelberger thinks the small
utilities could also be impacted in other, not so obvious, ways.
'The merger is also expected to result in the relocation of electric
line workers from Wisconsin to other Midwestern states where demand
and wages are higher,' Koppelberger said. 'Assuming this is true,
the Wisconsin market for electric line workers will tighten,
resulting in upward pressure on labor costs.'
Koppelberger said although Hartford Electric pays its line workers
at the high end of municipal electric utilities in Wisconsin,
investor-owned utilities offer higher wages with competitive
benefits and entitlements.
Slinger Village President Russ Brandt said the village's electric
utility is small so it has difficulty in hiring line workers.
'We have a long-term electric power purchase agreement with WPPI
Energy so our costs can't fluctuate much,' Brandt said. 'We have a
joint agreement with the Hartford Utility for help from them on
projects. Our utility is so small that we only have two line
workers, when we should have three or four. When one is on vacation
or ill we need help from Department of Public Works employees or
from Hartford's utility.'
Integrys, WE Energies and local municipal utilities are also part
owners of American Transmission Co. which owns and operates many of
the region's electric transmission lines. Concerns were raised
because much of the company is owned by the two companies and its
subsidiaries. Wisconsin Ene-rgy’s subsidiaries own about 26 percent
of ATC, and Integrys owns about 34 percent.
As part of the merger, the companies agreed to vote under the
Integrys 34 percent ownership on issues pertaining to ATC to ensure
the merger does not increase the companies’ ability to use ownership
or control of transmission facilities to give them a competitive
Reach reporter Joe VanDeLaarschot at