Some MG&E shareholders pushing for greater focus on clean energy

Some Madison Gas & Electric shareholders are pushing the utility to more aggressively pursue clean energy sources, and recently submitted a resolution requesting a study of the electric vehicles sector.

This resolution was voted down at the last MG&E shareholder meeting on May 16. It was submitted by MG&E Shareholders for Clean Energy — a group of shareholders who are particularly concerned with the utility’s current reliance on fossil fuels and want to see a more drastic shift toward clean energy.

Though the motion was rejected, Don Wichert, the group’s co-founder and co-chair, says they got about 7 percent of the votes.

“For a small group — about 90 out of almost 34,000 shareholders — we thought it was a good start,” Wichert told WisBusiness.

He says MG&E needs to be “proactively forward-looking on the electrification transportation market.”

“We [were] asking MG&E to drive the next phase of a comprehensive assessment that should benefit shareholders and the local community,” he said.

Steve Schultz, corporate communications manager for MG&E, says the vote on the shareholder resolution “showed overwhelming support for the leadership that management has already shown on this issue.”

He told approximately 90 percent of shareholders voted in support of the initiatives and clean energy plans management is already pursuing.

“We will continue to build on what we’re doing,” he said.

Members of the shareholder group say they were motivated by concern for young members of their families, and the environment in which they will grow up.

“The resolution builds on recent clean energy initiatives by the City of Madison and Dane County,” said Beth Esser, co-founder and co-chair of the group. “Using clean renewable energy to power the transportation sector will have immediate positive health impacts by reducing pollution from fossil fuels — a benefit to our whole community, including my two young children.”

Marianne Ewig, another member of the shareholder group, says this resolution would have fit into MG&E’s existing Energy 2030 Framework for pursuing more clean energy sources, adding that it would be particularly beneficial for her grandchildren.

MG&E’s board of directors issued a statement in opposition to the proposal, which states the company “has neither purview nor decision-making authority over the transportation sector.”

“Instead, we encourage and promote electrification by working in partnership with the many stakeholders who do exercise control in the transportation sector to encourage and promote electrification,” the statement reads. “Because the company is already actively working in partnership with customers and stakeholders, a study by the company is not needed in order to encourage our action, or action by others, in this area.”

Wichert says he’s “disappointed they rejected the proposal.”

“We think MG&E needs to be a clean energy leader, mostly because constituents are progressive and environmentally conscious,” he said, adding he thinks the board is too conservative, and doesn’t match the desires of those constituents.

“It’s composed of retired executives, and I don’t think they really know that much about renewable energy, or the environmental consequences of MG&E’s reliance on fossil fuels,” he said.

Jeffrey Keebler, CEO of the utility as of March of this year, has pledged to pursue more clean energy sources, and support the company’s Energy 2030 Framework, which has a goal of supplying 30 percent of retail energy sales with renewable resources by 2030.

“MG&E is in discussions to further the use of [electric vehicles] in the City [of Madison’s] transit fleet,” Schultz added. “Enabling new technologies, including EVs, is a priority under our Energy 2030 framework.”

See the proposal and board response:

See MG&E’s Energy 2030 Framework:

–By Alex Moe