Healthy Climate WI Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 12, 2023
Healthy Climate Wisconsin
Doctors and Nurses Join Sierra Club Wisconsin and 350 Wisconsin in Urging the Public Service Commission to Reject Madison Gas and Electric and Alliant Energy’s Net Metering and Rate Increase Proposals
Doctors, nurses, and health professionals from Healthy Climate Wisconsin (HCW) are calling on the Public Service Commission (PSC) to reject Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) and Alliant Energy’s new net metering proposals, which will unfairly reduce the compensation customers receive for the energy they produce with rooftop solar and make it more difficult for people who can’t afford the up front costs of installing solar panels to secure the financing that they need. Both utilities are also asking the PSC to approve rate increases, which means higher bills for customers as well. The Wisconsin Sierra Club and 350 Wisconsin have already formally intervened in MGE and Alliant Energy’s rate cases before the PSC.
Members of HCW advocate for an end to burning fossil fuels and a transition to clean energy as quickly as possible in order to limit the climate crisis, reduce pollution, and protect public health. Health professionals are seeing firsthand how climate change negatively impacts their patients’ health, especially this summer with poor air quality from the Canadian wildfires blanketing Wisconsin and a recent heat dome causing a dramatic rise in temperatures.
“Breathing in unhealthy air from wildfire smoke can damage the heart and lungs and weaken the immune system. Heat waves are also associated with increased hospital admissions for cardiovascular, kidney, and respiratory disorders. Climate projections show that extreme heat events will be more frequent and intense in coming decades. Net metering helps people invest in rooftop solar panels, which reduces reliance on fossil fuels, decreases greenhouse gas emissions, and contributes to a more reliable power grid,” said Claire Gervais, a family medicine physician and climate-smart healthcare lead for Healthy Climate Wisconsin.
Traditionally, net metering allows solar system owners to offset their energy costs by exporting excess electricity back to the grid. When the solar panels produce more electricity than the homeowner uses, the excess energy flows out and serves their neighbors. The utility resells this excess energy at full retail and gives the homeowner retail credits for surplus solar, which comes in the form of a reduction in their electricity bill.
MGE and Alliant’s new net metering proposals, however, will hurt customers because it will make going solar more expensive and confusing. The rates at which rooftop solar owners will be compensated for excess energy are volatile and subject to change every year, making the value of the solar investment uncertain and making it harder for people who can’t afford the upfront costs of installing rooftop solar to secure the financing they need. The proposals unfairly treat a rooftop solar owner that has a dozen solar panels on their home in the same way that they do a large corporation that installs hundreds of solar panels on a warehouse.
“Net metering supports rooftop solar, lowers utility bills, and allows equitable access to clean energy. That’s why it’s critical for the PSC to reject MGE and Alliant Energy’s new net metering proposals and send a clear message that now is not the time to derail progress made on distributed solar,” said Brittany Keyes, a physical therapist and policy and advocacy co-lead for Healthy Climate Wisconsin.
By discouraging customers from adding rooftop solar to their homes, MGE and Alliant’s proposals go against federal investments to increase access to affordable, resilient, and clean solar energy for millions of low-income households. In June, the EPA launched a $7 billion Solar for All competition, which was created by the Inflation Reduction Act’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), to expand low-income solar programs that provide financing and technical assistance to enable low-income and disadvantaged communities to install and benefit from residential solar.
“Rooftop solar can help lower income and disadvantaged communities by providing access to clean energy and reducing utility bills for households disproportionately burdened by high electricity costs. Our utility corporations are prioritizing short-term shareholder profits ahead of families that are struggling to keep their lights on. Utilities should be making it easier, not harder, for all Wisconsinites to reap the benefits of clean energy,” said Abby Novinska Lois, executive director of Healthy Climate Wisconsin. “We urge the PSC to reject MGE and Alliant Energy’s net metering proposals because they discourage investment in rooftop solar and hurt Wisconsinites, especially those most vulnerable.”
At the same time MGE and Alliant are making rooftop solar more expensive, the utilities are also asking the PSC to approve a rate increase which means even higher bills for customers. “We urge the PSC to reject rate increases that will exacerbate the energy burden already felt by those most vulnerable in our communities. The energy burden on a customer’s bill should not exceed 6 percent, which is where the threshold for high energy burden begins. Instead of raising rates and pushing for coal and gas, Wisconsin utilities must pursue wind, solar and energy efficiency to both decrease bills for customers and to decrease climate-change-causing-emissions,” said Cassie Steiner, Senior Campaign Coordinator for the Sierra Club Wisconsin Chapter.
The PSC is currently accepting public comments on MGE’s proposal from now until September 26. For Alliant Energy’s proposal, the PSC is accepting comments from now until October 4. People can quickly and easily submit their comments on HCW’s website here.
“The people of Wisconsin have a right to affordable energy, and the communities that will be most impacted by the proposed rate hikes are already facing higher energy burdens and are disproportionately impacted by the effects of the climate crisis. Any restrictions on the affordability of rooftop solar panels for households, small businesses, non-profits, and faith communities will further our reliance on planet-killing fossil fuels, and the worsening impacts of the climate crisis will continue to threaten Wisconsin communities,” said Emily Park, co-executive director of 350 Wisconsin.
On the occupied lands of the Menominee, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, and Dakota peoples
About Healthy Climate Wisconsin
Healthy Climate Wisconsin is a member organization of nurses, doctors, public health workers, and health professionals from across Wisconsin who recognize the far-reaching and detrimental health impacts of climate change and advocate for climate solutions.