Initiative for Competitive Energy to advocate for more competitive rates

The newly formed Initiative for Competitive Energy will advocate on behalf of businesses and other utility customers in southeastern Wisconsin, seeking more competitive electric power rates for the region.

Setting electric power rates is an administrative process undertaken by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. ICE will bring analysis of rate impact to these proceedings, so that commissioners will have a more complete story of how electric rates affect utility customers.

With that analysis brought to the table, commissioners “can make decisions that reflect the needs and the expectation of the public,” according to ICE Executive Director Dan Eastman.

He says rates in the southeastern region served by We Energies have spiked over the last two decades, reaching a point where they are “extremely uncompetitive.”

“Wisconsin has seen a significant increase in electric utility rates in the last 15 years, which is hampering economic growth,” said Steve Vock, technical director for ICE. “Numerous studies have demonstrated that high electric prices produce lower or negative economic growth in states. Particularly vulnerable are manufacturers — the heart of Southeastern Wisconsin’s economic base.”

Eastman says some of the poorest people in the state are paying the highest electric bills, and taking part in these administrative proceedings on their behalf is the only way to make their voices heard.

“One way to fix it is just to show up — and that’s what we plan to do,” Eastman said. “Show up with good analysts, lawyers, argue for lower, more competitive electric rates. Then it’s up to the PSC to decide.”

He insists that for the PSC members to do their job right, they need a “complete record,” and that’s just what ICE will provide.

“It’s a good thing; more voices are always better than just a few,” Eastman said.

Moving forward, ICE will be paying particular attention to the two-year rate freeze that’s been proposed by We Energies.

“We are concerned by the rate freeze. We know rates are very high today, so locking them in doesn’t seem like good public policy,” Eastman said. “That’s the thing we’re watching — we’ll be intervening on that case.”

A release lists MillerCoors, Neenah Foundry, Neumann Companies and Westbrook Management as members of ICE. Eastman declined to name others.

–By Alex Moe