Climate action group rallies to support rooftop solar, lower energy bills
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Climate activists gathered at the Dane Co. Farmers’ Market on Saturday to let others know about what they’re calling “dangerous proposals” from both Madison Gas and Electric and Wisconsin Power & Light.
Grassroots climate action organization 350 Wisconsin says the proposals before the Public Service Commission (PSC) would both raise rates on all customers and also change the way net metering works, or the process where solar panel owners can sell excess energy back to the grid.
350 Wisconsin’s Co-Executive Director Emily Park said the proposals by the two electric companies would make that process more difficult and confusing for everyday consumers, which she says are low to middle income households, small businesses, non-profits and churches.
“These cost saving measures are critical for these groups to afford rooftop solar. Without that it’s really the wealthier homes who can afford it or major corporations,” Park said at the rally on Saturday.
Earlier this year, MG&E asked the PSC to increase its natural gas rates by 2.27% and its electrical rates 1.5% next year, according to the utility company. It is also exploring increases for the following years natural gas and electric rates, estimating they would be in the ballpark of 1.26% and 1.9%, respectively.
MG&E spokesperson Steve Schultz asserted the net metering change will mean savings for its customer base as a whole, because it would no longer have to pay the higher price for the electricity, which it noted is considered a “fuel cost.”
“Our proposal helps maintain energy affordability for all customers as it only addresses the price of the energy the customer is not using and selling to/being purchased by MGE on behalf of all MGE electric customers,” he contended, arguing customers who use do normally end up feeding electricity back onto the grid are still saving money because of the solar panels the customers installed on their homes.
Whether you’re a customer of these utility companies or not, Park encourages people to submit a comment to let the Public Service Commission know about these issues before the deadlines next month.
“We want to tell Madison Gas & Electric and Wisconsin Power & Light that everybody in Wisconsin wants access to affordable renewable energy that will protect our state and our climate for generations to come,” she said.
The rally on Saturday included dancing from 350 Wisconsin’s “Art Collective” group, which Park says is a way they like to bring joy to a scary topic.
“We know that climate work, thinking about the climate crisis, can be scary,” Park said. “It’s overwhelming. It’s so big. But what we want to highlight is that there is still hope with our dances and our skits.”
The deadline to submit a comment for Wisconsin Power & Light is Oct. 4 while the deadline for MG&E is Oct. 26.
“We want to tell Madison Gas & Electric and Wisconsin Power & Light that everybody in Wisconsin wants access to affordable renewable energy that will protect our state and our climate for generations to come,” Park said.
Park added the farmers’ market is a great audience because they know people in attendance care about the planet and about local farmers.
If the proposal were approved, MG&E users who already have solar panels connected to the grid would not be moved to the new plan, the utility explained in its description of the program. It would only affect those who apply to connect after April 1 of next year.
New net metering customers would get an upfront payment of up to $1,000 before being switched to the alternative plan.
Click here to download the NBC15 News app or our NBC15 First Alert weather app.
Copyright 2023 WMTV. All rights reserved.