We Energies’ Misguided Solar Policies Out of Step with Community Vision
Milwaukee, WI: Businesses, nonprofits, elected officials, and individuals gathered today to speak out against We Energies’ solar tax, demonstrating the growing momentum against the proposal. The press conference, hosted by the Wisconsin Solar Coalition, featured a wide range of voices calling on We Energies to drop their solar surcharge, which would force people who have invested in solar energy to pay extra fees and is widely seen as an attempt to monopolize the solar industry.
The growing protest against the solar tax comes against a backdrop of other clean energy initiatives advancing in the area. This afternoon, the Milwaukee City Council moved to introduce a resolution to commit the area to a 100% clean energy future through a city-county task force focused on climate and economic justice. “We Energies could prove itself to be an advocate and promoter of economic fairness and justice through this process or an adversary,” stated Milwaukee City Council President Ashanti Hamilton, sponsor of the resolution. “We’re hoping that they choose to be the former because they, above anyone else, could have the greatest impact in moving this agenda forward.”
State and local elected officials, including Sen. Chris Larson, Milwaukee Sup. Steve Shea, and Racine Sup. Fabi Maldonado agreed on the urgency of a clean energy transition. “Racine County and Wisconsin cannot afford to not go solar. The rest of the world is beating us in creating these new clean energy jobs,” stated Fabi Maldonado, Racine County Board Supervisor. “We are moving forward towards clean energy with or without We Energies.”
Small business owners also condemned We Energies’ anti-solar approach. “To demonize individuals and small businesses who have made the stretch to do something good for their environment and communities is unconscionable,” stated Ryan Clancy, an owner of Bounce Milwaukee, a local business that recently invested in solar panels. “We Energies’ repeated attempts to tax us unfairly are clearly designed to discourage future customer-generated solar.”
“The idea of a tax on solar by We Energies is pretty inconsistent with the American way of life. If we want to grow our own food, the grocery chains don’t try to stop us. If we want to build our own house, the housing industry doesn’t try to stop us,” added Mike Cornell, the Director of Business Development and CIO at Arch Electric, Inc. “Heck, if we want to get water from a river instead of the utility, we can, so what’s the difference? What’s next?”
Nonprofits and schools would also be affected if the proposed surcharge goes through. “Escuela Verde students, staff, and community supporters spent over three years raising funds to put solar on our school last year. Currently, our students track both the carbon offset and the money we save with our panels,” stated Joey Zocher, science teacher and co-founder of Escuela Verde, a local public charter school. “Our students will notice this tax and it will be clear that We Energies values profit over our earth. This is not just a financial issue, it’s a moral and ethical issue.”
“Affordable solar power is transforming our nation’s energy landscape for the better, and instead of bringing that opportunity and innovation to its customers, we are seeing more of the same from We Energies: unfair fees that will protect its corporate profits at the expense of consumer options and a brighter energy future for the people of Wisconsin,” said Will Kenworthy, Midwest Regulatory Director with Vote Solar. “We are speaking out with state and national partners today to remind We Energies executives that it’s their job to serve the public and to urge the Commission to reject these anti-solar, anti-consumer fees.”
As an increasing number of businesses, individuals, nonprofits, schools, and governments make their commitment to clean energy clear, We Energies is increasingly out of step with the needs of Southeast Wisconsin. “The answer to our climate change and pollution issues is “blowin’ in the wind” and shining in our skies,” stated Sister Janet Weyker, founder of the Eco-Justice Center and neighbor of We Energies’ Oak Creek coal plant. “We need to move forward in providing more jobs and a better Wisconsin economy through clean solar and wind energy.”
“Humanity is facing a global crisis on a scale we have never seen before. Power monopolies were created to address energy needs of the early 20th Century, but the model is badly in need of an update,” stated Greg James, a residential solar owner in We Energies territory. “Utilities like We Energies must stop impeding progress.”
At the beginning of May, We Energies filed a proposal at the Public Service Commission that would impose a significant surcharge on customers who own solar power systems. This new surcharge could slow down solar development in the state and is widely seen as an effort to throttle customer use of clean energy. We Energies introduced this proposal despite publicly acknowledging a need to expand solar energy in its territory. We Energies proposed a similar surcharge back in 2014, which was ultimately struck down by the courts. More information can be found at wisolarcoalition.com. The Wisconsin Solar Coalition is a growing alliance of nonprofits, businesses, and individuals.
More information about the City-County Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity can be found here.