The Wisconsin Legislature kicked off it’s 2023-24 biennial session in late January and is currently busy reworking the State Budget. The revised Budget is expected to be adopted by the Legislature by the end of the fiscal year – June 30, 2023. Then, the Legislature will return to Madison in September to consider individual bills including at least two proposals that could impact your utility investments.

Legislation has been introduced that would authorize “community solar” projects to be developed and operate outside of the current system of utility regulation. Specifically, these bills would allow outside interests to build solar generating facilities and require existing utilities to connect them to their distribution system. It would also allow existing utility customers to “subscribe” to the “community solar” project and receive a credit against their regular utility bill based on the share of kilowatt hours represented by their subscription.

This legislation is a back door attempt to circumvent Wisconsin’s long-standing system of utility regulation for the benefit of out of state interests. In other states that have adopted similar laws, the primary investors in so called community solar projects are some of the nation’s largest investment firms. They are attracted by provisions of the law that guarantee them preferential returns at the expense of the existing regulated utilities and their customers.

Wisconsin utilities are investing heavily in solar generation. As a result, their customers are already receiving the low/no carbon benefits of solar without the need for largely unregulated third parties to come into our state and compete unfairly with our existing utilities. Last session, legislation was considered that would have provided a right of first refusal to incumbent transmission line owners when building new lines. Wisconsin needs such a law in order to avoid imposition of a new Federal system of deciding who gets to build transmission lines based in part on a competitive bid process. Where this process has been implemented the result has been extensive litigation and expensive delay in constructing needed infrastructure. In addition, it results in a patchwork of different transmission line owner/operators which is inefficient and expensive. As a result, many states have adopted “right of first refusal” legislation to avoid the new Federally imposed system. Appropriate legislation is expected to be introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature shortly.

WUI’s Day at the Capitol will provide an excellent opportunity for investors to discuss these and other critical issues with members of the Wisconsin Legislature. We hope you will be able to join us for this important event.

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