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What I learned about 'your community energy company'

This is one of those cases, maybe you can relate, where I got an email from a friend notifying me of something offensive happening on a grand scale. I then submitted my public comment through the appropriate channel.

In this particular case, I also asked someone who knew a little more about the issue and then wrote a blog post about it.

In this particular case, I then got a letter from the Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the company charged with the offense. I'm sure I'm not the only one to get the letter, and I'm sure he didn't write it, though it does seem he signed it with real ink, not that that really matters.

I know where I stand on the issue, but I'm not sure I'm actually right.

When I hear about big, egregious, and totally, absurdly upsetting things being done by corporations/governments/people-with-power, I'm like, not surprised. I actually expect it, in a cynical sort of way. And now that I know just a teensy bit more, I'm so glad that in this case, other people who understand more are taking up the fight.

It all chalks up to the general truth that living in a capitalist country during an era of corporate power is hard on people.

So, this is what MG&E is doing: 

"Your community energy company" proposed changing the rate structure. There was some press, enough people, like myself, responded negatively, and they have "significantly modified" their proposal. That all seems pretty reasonable to me.

Both the original proposal, and the modified proposal, charge us more to connect to the grid as a baseline cost. They feel like they have to do this because the cost of doing business has increased. They want to make sure the grid is reliable because "as more and more of us manage larger and larger segments of our personal and work-related lives digitally, system reliability will become even more critical."
In the official words from the MG&E website (and the letter I received):
The customer and grid connection charges reflect many of the costs of providing access and basic service to customers who are connected to the electric grid. To a large extent, these costs do not vary depending on how much energy someone uses. MG&E believes that it is fair for every customer who is connected to the electric grid and benefits from it to pay these costs.
For a residential electric customer, we are proposing an increase in the customer charge from approximately $10.50 per month to about $15 per month. The grid connection charge will be about $4 per month. These costs are offset by a slight reduction in the energy charge (per kilowatt-hour [kWh]). As a result, the average residential customer using 550 kWh per month will see very little change to their overall electric bill.
Also, this important bit for the people with solar panels (my friends who tipped me off to this issue in the first place):
For those customers who have already installed renewable energy systems, like solar, the rate request includes "grandfathering" existing rates to preserve the benefits of their investments.

And this is what my Alder is doing about it:


Ledell Zellers, who I like not only because she reads my blog, told me she agrees with my gut reaction: "Wanted to let you know that I am a co-sponsor of a resolution allocating $60,000 for the city to intervene in the MG&E rate case. I agree that the way MG&E wants to restructure its rates is going in the wrong direction," she wrote in a personal email to me.

The Alders, who make hardly any money themselves, are asking the City of Madison to hire an outside person, someone with no personal stake in the issue presumably, to "represent the city's interest in having rates that are in harmony with our sustainable/energy efficiency ethic." That all seems pretty reasonable to me.

Now that I stuck my hand into this hornet nest, this is what I think:

I really have no idea. Seems like maybe the process is working? Maybe, like lots of things, it's complicated?

Maybe I should just watch Lorrie, this summer's fourth and final Peregrine Falcon to have left the nest, fly around the stacks while I bike home?

When I stopped to take the photo above, a guy leaving work with his hardhat asked if I was photographing the falcon. He was really friendly. I asked what he did at MG&E. "I'm the manager," he told me. I can't find him on the company staff pages, and who the heck knows what the "manager" at my community energy company does. Again, I think I should probably go back to watching the birds and be grateful other, more knowledgeable folks than I are figuring this whole thing out.

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