MILWAUKEE (AP) — Electricity rates in Wisconsin are the highest among eight Midwest states, but residents might not be paying as much as those in neighboring states because they use far less power on average, according to a new study.
An analysis of the state’s energy situation, which was released Thursday by the state Public Service Commission, found that 2015 marked the first year that Wisconsin’s rates for residential, commercial and industrial electric customers ranked higher than Michigan and six other Midwestern states. But the analysis also found that monthly residential electric bills in Wisconsin last year were nearly $8 less than the average of all eight Midwest states.
Wisconsin residents are paying less on average because they use 19 percent less electricity each month compared to the Midwest average, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The report, known as the Strategic Energy Assessment, credits energy efficiency and conservation programs, such as the statewide Focus on Energy program, with keeping the state’s average residential usage flat over the last two decades.
Rates in Wisconsin have grown over the past decade because of the state’s power plant and power line building program, as well as aggressive moves to rein in air pollution from the smokestacks of the state’s older coal-fired power plants, the Public Service Commission said.
The Citizens Utility Board, a customer group that advocates for residential customers, argues that the report highlights the need to keep a close eye on utilities’ moves to increase rates.
“Infrastructure costs are built into customers’ rates, and once those costs are included they stay in rates for a long time,” said James Woywod, Citizens Utility Board’s lawyer. “This ranking highlights the need for stakeholders and the state to take a close look through the lens of customers at proposals that will increase rates.”
The report determined that Wisconsin has plenty of power on hand to meet the needs of customers.
State law requires utilities to have a cushion of 14 percent more supply available than customers will need on the hottest day each year, and Wisconsin will have at least 14.2 percent to 17.5 percent between 2016 and 2022, according to the report.
In 2013, coal supplied 65 percent of the state’s electricity, natural gas supplied 12 percent and hydroelectric, biomass, wind and solar accounted for the rest.