Clean Energy Organizations Appeal Public Service Commission Decision that Discriminates Against Customer-Owned Renewable Energy

MADISON, WI – Today, the Sierra Club, RENEW Wisconsin, Environmental Law & Policy Center and Vote Solar filed a lawsuit challenging the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin’s approval of We Energies’ discrimination against homes, farms and businesses who produce and sell clean electricity to We Energies.

The We Energies proposal that the PSCW approved by a 2-1 vote violates federal and state law by paying more for power from their own systems on customer property than it pays customers who own identical systems.

Two of the three Commissioners voted in December to price electricity from customer-owned clean energy significantly lower than how the Commission allows utilities to value electricity from their own power plants. Chairperson Valcq dissented and would have treated customer generation fairly, according to the Commission’s order.

“The sun shines and the wind blows the same for everyone. It doesn’t favor monopoly utilities over the hardworking Wisconsinites who invest their own money in solar and wind,” said Elizabeth Ward, Director of Sierra Club’s Wisconsin Chapter. “We thank Chairperson Valcq for recognizing that fact and ask the Court to make sure the other commissioners get it as well.”

The petition for judicial review filed by renewable energy advocates in Dane County Circuit Court today alleges that the rates approved for We Energies favor utility-owned generation in violation of federal and state law. The groups ask the court to overturn the discriminatory rates and compel the PSCW and We Energies to provide a fair and legal price for electricity sent to the grid by Wisconsin homes, farms, and businesses.

“Renewable energy is not an either or proposition. We need to grow both utility-scale and customer owned renewable energy generation in Wisconsin,” said Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “This is about basic fairness:  there needs to be a level playing field where customer renewable energy investments get the same opportunities as utility-scale power plants.  That will ensure a robust market, create more clean energy jobs, put more homegrown clean energy in Wisconsin communities and give farmers more opportunities to lease land for renewable energy at a time when they can use some additional income.”

“We Energies clearly recognizes the value that solar provides to our electric grid, that’s how they were able to value their own solar power,” said Will Kenworthy, Midwest Regulatory Director for Vote Solar. “It’s blatant discrimination to value their solar energy higher than rooftop solar owned by their customers. If Wisconsin is going to achieve the Governor’s 100% carbon free electricity commitment, Wisconsin must ensure that every solar electron is valued fairly.”

“It’s a simple case of self-dealing. We Energies approved rates that unfairly benefitted their own programs, and the Public Service Commission said OK,” said Environmental Law & Policy Center Senior Attorney Brad Klein. “We Energies put their shareholders ahead of Wisconsin homes and businesses. The way they went about it is complex and technical, but this case itself is simple: A large company is illegally trying to squeeze out competition.”

“The law is crystal clear that electrons from monopoly utilities can’t be favored over those from your and my rooftop solar,” said David Bender, Clean Energy Attorney at Earthjustice. “We’re asking the courts to ensure the law is applied.”

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