Hundreds of thousands of electric customers' bills will increase
by $9 a month, as state regulators on Thursday sided with
utilities that say they need low-use customers to pay their fair
share of maintaining infrastructure.
Service Corporation, which serves about 443,700 customers in
northeastern and north-central Wisconsin, had asked regulators for
permission to raise its monthly fixed rate from $10.44 to $25 and
reduce variable usage fees by a couple cents per kilowatt hour.
The utility said
the increase was needed to ensure consumers who use less energy
pay their fair share for maintaining infrastructure, such as
transmission poles and power plants. Consumer advocates have
countered the increase is designed to recoup revenue lost through
conservation and punish low-usage customers.
The state Public
Service Commission voted 2-1 to approve the request but limited
the monthly increase to $9 rather than the $15 jump the utility
wanted. Commission chairman Phil Montgomery and Commissioner Ellen
Nowak voted to approve the package. Commissioner Eric Callisto
voted against it, PSC spokesman Nathan Conrad said.
fixed rate increase and the hourly usage fee dip will translate to
roughly a 3 percent increase in the average residential consumer's
annual electric bill, Conrad said.
Kerry Spees said in an email to The Associated Press that the
utility felt the initial request was justified but called the
PSC's ultimate decision "a big step in the right direction of
getting our fixed costs better aligned with the fixed charge.
executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, called the PSC's
decision a mistake.
fixed charges hurts our most vulnerable low and fixed income
households and frustrates residential and small business
customers' ability to lower their bills by using less
energy," she said.
Madison Gas &
Electric and We Energies also have asked the PSC to let them
dramatically increase their monthly rates as well, saying they,
too, need to make sure customers pay their share for maintaining
infrastructure. The commission is expected to make a decision on
those requests later this month.