Both sides: MG&E shareholders push toward clean energy

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- An activist group in Madison is working to bring clean energy to the city, but says Madison Gas and Electric is shutting down the issue.

This comes one day before the annual MG&E shareholders meeting. MG&E representatives tell NBC15 News the company has already made great strides in the field of renewable energy, but activists with MG&E Shareholders for Clean Energy say it’s not enough.

“We need actual changes, we don't just need more commercials, more pictures of solar panels and windmills, we need a plan,” says Tony Gibart, attorney and member of MG&E Shareholders for Clean Energy.

MG&E Shareholders for Clean Energy is calling for action, working to bring 100 percent renewable energy to the company by 2050.

Shareholders say they made that proposal at last year’s shareholder meeting, but weren’t allowed to pose the same question for this year’s meeting.

“The Securities and Exchange Commission sided with them saying that our resolution was micromanagement and did not need to be in the proxy statement, and would therefore not be voted on by shareholders,” say Beth Esser, co-coordinator of MG&E Shareholders for Clean Energy.

In a statement, MG&E reps say the group has never been denied the right to vote. According to them, last year’s resolution failed by about 90 percent of votes.

The statement reads in part, “MGE sought to exclude the proposal this year because it was overwhelmingly voted down last year, not because of any change related to the SEC … MG&E already is pursuing renewable energy aggressively and has consistently stated that if we can go further, faster toward deep decarbonization by working with our customers, we will."

“Because MG&E has succeeded at silencing us as shareholders this year, we think it's really important for the community to say that they want to see this road mapped,” Esser says.

According to MG&E’s 2018 annual report, the company is working toward 30 percent renewable energy by 2030, and bringing carbon dioxide reductions to at least 80 percent by 2050.

Shareholders say those numbers aren’t up to par.

“They are making steps in the right direction, but we think it's important for people to look at the details,” Esser says.

Activists are now asking more community members to join their cause.

“We want the community to have a voice,” Gibart says. “MG&E says it's our community energy company. So if there's overwhelming support from the community, we think that's something MG&E has to, and should, pay attention to."

MG&E Shareholders for Clean Energy have created an online petition, asking for 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

So far, more than 500 people have vote for the proposal. Esser says the group hopes to present final results to MG&E at the end of the month.

On Tuesday, MG&E announced a goal of net-zero carbon electricity for its customers by 2050.

Read MG&E’s entire statement here:

As a matter of fact, this group has not been denied the opportunity to bring this resolution to a vote. In fact, it was brought to a vote last year. Members of this group submitted a virtually identical proposal last year. Shareholders voted overwhelmingly–approximately 90%–against the proposal and in support of MGE management's position that the report was not necessary because of the path MGE already is on and the activities toward deep decarbonization that are already underway.

Obviously renewable energy will be a key part of reaching our goals. Whether meeting our carbon reduction goals while maintaining safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable service will require 85%, 95% or 100% renewable energy will be determined over the next 30 years as technology continues to evolve. Neither the IPCC nor the MCS utilize 100% renewable energy to meet their respective long-term climate goals. Both studies rely on technologies that are not yet commercially available.

MGE already is pursuing renewable energy aggressively and has consistently stated that if we can go further, faster toward deep decarbonization by working with our customers, we will. Since introducing our Energy 2030 framework about three and a-half years ago, we have developed projects that will increase our owned renewable capacity by more than 500% in the near term.

We are committed to working with all customers to meet their own renewable energy and carbon reduction goals. We support the clean energy goals set by many of the communities we serve and continue to work with these communities to help reach our shared energy goals.

MGE sought to exclude the proposal this year because it was overwhelmingly voted down last year, not because of any change related to the SEC.