Walk-O-Meter

Work with utilities to reduce the cost of energy for homeowners and employers

Work with utilities to reduce the cost of energy for the benefit of employers and homeowners alike. Governor Walker is committed to keeping utility rates low so employers have more revenue to put into job creation, not energy costs.


Sources:

Wisconsin’s Comeback Plan, Walker campaign, July 2014

Subjects: Energy

Updates

Promise Broken: Energy prices up

We initially rated this promise in September 2017. Our rating then was Stalled.

The state Public Service Commission had reduced electricity costs for certain large electricity users by enabling them to pay the lowest going rate in the Midwest. Before that change, these big users were paying regular Wisconsin rates that were higher because, unlike market rates, they fully account for power plants and other investments in the utility's infrastructure.
 

But now, by and large, electricity costs for business customers and homeowners and renters are higher than in 2014, Citizens Utility Board executive director Tom Content told us. The board advocates for residential and small business customers.

Content noted that customers of one Wisconsin utility, Madison Gas & Electric, will see their electric rates drop by 2 percent in 2019 (though gas prices will rise 1 percent).

In May 2018, the state Public Service Commission, run by three appointees of Gov. Scott Walker, did order utilities to give customers $140 million in bill credits, ranging from about $2 to $23 for residential customers over the summer and then smaller amounts on a monthly basis for the rest of 2018. But the reason for the credits was Congress' passage of tax reform in December 2017.  

Moreover, the MG&E electricity rate reduction is also the result of the federal tax cuts  and the Madison utility taking advantage of price decreases for renewable energy sources, Content said.

Here are figures collected by the Citizens Utility Board comparing 2014 to 2017. They show higher prices in 2017 than in 2014.

Average residential utility bill (gas and electric)

Utility

Total 2014 bill

Total 2017 bill

Dollar Increase

Percentage Increase

Madison Gas & Electric

$96.85

$99.42

$2.57

2.6%

Northern States Power Co. (Xcel Energy)

$79.21

$85.27

$6.06

7.7%

Wisconsin Electric Power Co.

(We Energies)

$91.42

$93.31

$1.89

2%

Wisconsin Power And Light Co.  (Alliant Energy)

$76.13

$84.98

$8.85

11.6%

Wisconsin Public Service Corp.

$77.26

$80.56

$80.56

4.2%

 
Figures collected by the board also show that industrial electric rates (for factories, essentially), increased between 2 percent and 6.2 percent for four of the five utilities from 2014 to 2017. The rate went down 0.1 percent for We Energies.

Meanwhile, according to the board, the statewide average commercial electricity rate was 2.9 percent higher in 2017 than in 2014.

Our rating

Walker said he'd work with utilities to reduce the cost of energy for homeowners and employers. By and large, energy bills are higher in 2017, the latest year for which figures are available, than they were in 2014. So we rate this Promise Broken.

 
 

Sources:

Email, Gov. Scott Walker press secretary Amy Hasenberg, Oct. 3, 2018

Citizens Utility Board, "U.S. Rankings: Power Prices In Wis. Are Out Of Whack," September 2018

Interview, Citizens Utility Board executive director Tom Content, Oct. 4, 2018

Wisconsin State Journal, "Wisconsin utilities to return $140 million to customers," May 26, 2018

Interview, Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau program supervisor Paul Ferguson, Oct. 5, 2018

Energy prices up, despite Scott Walker campaign pledge to reduce them

With his "Continuing Wisconsin's Comeback" plan, Gov. Scott Walker pledged during the 2014 campaign to work with utilities to reduce the cost of energy.

The state Public Service Commission has reduced electricity costs for certain large electricity users by enabling them to pay the lowest going rate in the Midwest, Citizens Utility Board executive director Tom Content told us. The board advocates for residential and small business customers. Before that change, these big users were paying regular Wisconsin rates that arehigher because unlike market rates, they fully account for power plants and other investments in the utility's infrastructure.

But aside from that, costs are higher now than they were in 2014, according to data provided by the Citizens Utility Board:

Montly electricity bills for residents and small businesses

(Based on 600 kilowatt hours per month; data retrieved from state Public Service Commission)

Utility

Total 2014 bill

Total 2016 bill

Dollar increase

Percentage increase

Madison Gas & Electric

$96.85

$100.82

$3.97

4%
 

Northern States Power Co.

$79.21

$82.84

$3.63

5%

We Energies

$91.42

$94.22

$2.80

3%

Wisconsin Power And Light Co.

$76.13

$80.34

$4.21

6%

Wisconsin Public Service Corp.

$77.26

$80.58

$3.32

4%

Industrial (essentially factories) electricity rates

(Cents per kilowatt hour; data from Brubaker & Associates)

Utility

2014

2015

2016

2017

Madison Gas & Electric

8.53

8.99

8.74

8.80

Northern States Power Co.

6.53

6.67

6.56

6.68

We Energies

8.22

8.43

8.36

8.26

Wisconsin Power And Light Co.

6.27

6.39

6.97

6.87

Wisconsin Public Service Corp.

6.14

6.31

6.30

6.28

Commercial (businesses that aren't factories) electricity rates

(Cents per kilowatt hour; data from U.S. Energy Information Administration)

Statewide average

2014: 10.77

2015: 10.89

2016: 10.95

As for natural gas, prices in Wisconsin decreased from 2014 to 2016, but the state has very little, if any, leverage over them, Content said. Prices have dropped across the country partly because an increase in fracking has raised the supply, he said.

Given that so far, electricity costs by and large have increased, we rate Walker's promise Stalled.

Sources:

Email, Scott Walker spokesman Tom Evenson, Sept. 21, 2017

Interview, Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin executive director Tom Content, Sept. 21, 2017