by James Buchen, WUI Executive Director

Legislation has been introduced (SB 490, AB 527, SB 702) that will exempt entities that own or operate renewable generating facilities from traditional utility regulation. The effect of these bills will be to shift significant costs to nonparticipating electric customers and give access to Wisconsin’s energy grid to developers of such projects at no cost to them.

Under current law, persons that provide energy to the public, directly or indirectly, are considered utilities subject to regulation by the PSC. This regulatory scheme is designed to protect consumer interests while providing reliable energy at a reasonable cost. The system also serves to minimize the potential for one group of residential rate payers to be forced to subsidize the price of energy for another group of residential rate payers. In addition, the system ensures that utilities have the necessary capital to finance the construction and maintenance of a large scale, reliable, low cost energy system by providing investors with a fair rate of return on their investments.

Wisconsin utilities are committed to prudently expanding renewable energy generation including substantial investment in solar and wind energy. 

Under Senate Bill 490 and Assembly Bill 527:

  • An electric utility (and its customers) would be required to purchase all the output from a “community solar” generating facility at expensive subsidized rates – guaranteed for at least 25 years. The subsidy would be paid for by other non-participating customers.
  • “Subscribers” of the “community solar” facility would receive bill credits at subsidized rates established by the Public Service Commission.
  • If a customer’s credits exceed their monthly bill, the excess would be carried over to the next month’s bill in perpetuity.
  • If the “community solar” facility was not fully subscribed, the utility and its customers would pay the subscribers additional bill credits for the unsubscribed output of the facility at the utility’s retail rate.

Senate Bill 702 creates an exemption from utility regulation for entities that own, operate, manage, control, or lease renewable energy generating equipment placed on a premises owned or occupied by another person. The exemption would apply to a wide range of renewable generating facilities including rooftop solar, solar fields, wind farms and hydroelectric dams.

Under all these bills, non-regulated renewable generating facilities would be allowed to produce energy and sell it to utility customers for a premium price, risk free, upending the well-functioning utility regulatory model. Meanwhile, the local utility would be required to maintain the grid and infrastructure to support the facilities, including providing reliable power during times when the facility is not producing power. In addition, grid interconnection and administrative costs associated with the non-regulated facilities would likely be passed on to all utility customers.

Well regulated, utility scale renewable generation is the most cost-effective way to enjoy the benefits of no carbon emission electricity without the adverse consequences of a scheme that would raise costs for most utility customers. 


Next Steps:  Call, write or email your legislators and ask them to vote against SB 490, AB 527 and SB 702.
To find your legislators contact information, either phone, address, or email, click here.
Enter your address in the box on the bottom right (under Who are my Legislators) 

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