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PSC Finalizes Utility Rate Freeze And Discounts For Big Firms

Consumer Group Raises Concerns, Calls For Reduced Rates

Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

Wisconsin’s utility regulatory agency has reaffirmed its support for a two-year rate freeze for customers of two large power companies in the state, We Energies and the Wisconsin Public Service Corp. But a consumer group says part of the ruling sets a precedent that could harm residential ratepayers statewide.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin on Thursday made final a preliminary ruling it made last month in the rate case. Citizens Utility Board Executive Director Tom Content argues that instead of a freeze, the agency should have ordered a rate cut.

“Because right now, We Energies rates are seventh-highest among 49 utilities across the Midwest, and we wanted to see them move rates down in this case,” Content said, adding that customers are footing the bill for a lot of past construction of power plants, and could face much higher payments two years from now.

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Content also said the PSC allowed some large customers of the two utilities potentially permanent access to discounted rates, meaning small firms and homeowners may eventually pay more. “It’s almost like they’re creating two utility systems for one utility,” Content said.

Content said the agency agreed to a study of the discounted, or so-called market rates, but decided not to wait for the results. Lobbyists for big firms say the discounted rates are needed to help the companies compete.