PSC Energy Assessment Prompts Strong Industry Response

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin’s (PSC) draft biennial energy assessment became a vehicle for state manufacturing groups to put a marker with the agency on electrical rates. The statutorily required assessment, entitled Strategic Energy Assessment (SEA), describes the agency’s views on the availability, reliability, and sustainability of Wisconsin’s electric energy system. PSCs final report can be found here.

With respect to adequacy and reliability of Wisconsin’s electric supply, PSC found that the state’s planning reserve margins are forecasted to remain above targets. For 2016–2022, margins are expected to be between 13.6 and 16.9 percent. These margins, once tight and of concern to industrial customers, have now become a bone of contention.

Beginning in the late 1990s, Wisconsin utilities, particularly We Energies, invested heavily in generation and transmission projects to address concerns over system reliability. At the time, virtually everyone agreed Wisconsin needed more generation and transmission. Those investments appear to have overshot actual needs, however. In the final SEA, PSC notes that “Wisconsin currently has surplus capacity.”

Various groups provided comments on the draft SEA report, including joint comments filed by the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group and Wisconsin Paper Council (Industry Group). In their comments, the industry group requested PSC provide additional information comparing the relative competitiveness of Wisconsin’s energy rates with neighboring states and rest of the country.

This information, according to the group, “will show that energy and capacity are not available at reasonable prices in Wisconsin.” With respect to excess capacity, they recommended that PSC and the utilities investigate tariffs and other requirements that may be restricting the ability to sell excess capacity.