Affordability. Fairness. Equity. Safety. These are front and center for CUB as we gear up for another year as the voice for small businesses, homeowners and renters across Wisconsin.
Let’s take a quick look at the trends we’re seeing for 2021 affecting the energy and utility landscape.
First off, the pandemic. As we all continue safe practices amid concern about new strains of COVID-19, we are working on behalf of those hardest hit by the virus–gripped economy.
Utility customers need to shelter in place, practice social distancing and stay home. In response to the pandemic and those concerns, the Public Service Commission has barred shutoffs of utility customers until the winter moratorium ends on April 15.
We will continue to urge that safety and health be job one. We know that unpaid utility bills are growing and have called on Congress to provide relief to reduce the size of those unpaid bills. The COVID-19 bill passed in December includes funding for utility customers behind on their bills and low-income customers of water utilities. Those are important. More is needed.
Next, the bread and butter for CUB – representing residential and small business customers in utility rate cases. 2021 will be no ordinary year. This could be the most active year for rate cases at the PSC in a generation.
All five of the major investor-owned utilities are expected to file plans in the next several months to raise customers’ rates. That hasn’t happened in roughly 20 years!
We are committed to keeping rates affordable and making sure the utilities are not padding their requests with unnecessary expenses.
The transition to a cleaner, low-carbon energy system is front and center for utilities, for the new administration in Washington, and for the Evers administration as well.
CUB is the small customers’ voice for affordability and equity in the clean energy transition. We are encouraged that solar prices are falling, but replacing current power plants with new plants won’t be cheap! The utilities will be compensated for the power plants they need, but they should not continue to profit on plants they no longer need.
More attention needs to be focused on how energy is used in homes and businesses — and finding ways to save more of it. All too often, headlines and policy circles are dominated by talk of how utilities are going to supply energy. But more attention needs to be placed on the buildings where energy is used. Taken together, buildings account for 40% of total carbon emissions. And steps to save on energy (and carbon emissions) mean more dollars for businesses to grow and for homeowners and renters to pay for other needs.
CUB is a member of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee for the state Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy’s clean energy plan. CUB will be a voice on this issue in rate cases at the PSC this year as well.
Finally, we’re continuing our efforts to modernize an outdated funding system for CUB’s work. With a better funding model, CUB will have access to additional resources and know-how to help advocate for you.
Our funding plan was included in a bill that won widespread bipartisan support last year. The only reason it never made it over the finish line was because of the pandemic and the impact it had on the Senate’s work calendar.
Our proposal, if adopted, would cost ratepayers less than 2 cents a month on their electricity bill, but would go a long way toward ensuring the CUB becomes an even stronger advocate for affordability and fairness in the years to come. In the past six years CUB has helped save more than $500 million on utility bills. With our new funding model, we’ll help save even more. That’s a pretty good return on an investment of pennies per month.
After a year dominated by the pandemic, politics, and protests, we’re hopeful that 2021 can be a year of progress on multiple fronts. We’ll keep you posted.
To hear more about what CUB is up to this year, check out CUB’s YouTube channel on Friday at noon. CUB Utility Analyst Corey Singletary and Executive Director Tom Content will livestream a conversation about what CUB’s working on and our focus for the year ahead.