RENEW opposes recommendation to raise MGE’s green power rate

Posted on October 22, 2009. Filed under: General |


From RENEW Wisconsin’s comments on a recommendation (see page 9) from Public Service Commission staff to increase the premium rate from 1 cent/kWh to 2.3 cents/kWh for MGE’s Green Power Tomorrow program:

To the Commission:

I would like to comment on the recommendations from PSC staff (witnesses John Feit and Jerry Albrecht) to increase the premium charged to Green Power Tomorrow subscribers. I approach this issue from a multiple of perspectives: (1) as a professional renewable energy advocate; (2) as a 100% program subscriber (since 1999); and (3) as a proud owner of a 1.7 kW solar electric system that was installed after Madison Gas and Electric launched its Clean Power Partners program in 2008.

All of MGE’s Clean Power Partners, (including me) sell the output from our solar systems to Green Power Tomorrow program subscribers through a 25 cents/kWh buyback rate. Among these customer-producers of clean energy are TDS Custom Construction, Goodman Community Center, City of Madison, Dane County Regional Airport, Madison No Fear Dentistry, and Isthmus Engineering.

The solar buyback rate is supported through voluntary purchases of renewable electricity. When the Clean Power Partners program was announced, MGE envisioned a 300 kilowatt ceiling on solar energy purchases through the special tariff. All Clean Power Partners must subscribe to Green Power Tomorrow. At the same time Clean Power Partners was launched, MGE reduced the subscription premium to a penny per kWh. The declining premium sparked a significant upsurge in subscribership, which enabled MGE to carve out a larger space for solar electric production supported by the program. The ceiling on the Clean Power Partners program is now one megawatt.

I mention Clean Power Partners to highlight the link between subscription volume and solar electric production. The larger the volume of electricity flowing through Green Power Tomorrow, the greater the amount of solar generation that the program can support. The reverse, however, is also true. . . .

Let’s summarize the consequences of a higher premium:

1) Decline in program participation rate, due to a combination of economic impacts and negative reinforcement.
2) Decline in program revenues, forcing MGE to compensate through higher rates on all customers.
3) Premature seizing up of the solar electric marketplace in the Madison area.

It is highly ironic that the PSC would consider inflicting such a cascading sequence of perverse outcomes to a nationally recognized renewable energy program like Green Power Tomorrow. Just last month, MGE’s renewable energy program received the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Utility Green Power Program of the Year Award. The award was announced at the Green Power Leadership Awards banquet in Atlanta, Georgia. The honor bestowed to MGE was well-deserved . . .

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    A statewide nonprofit dedicated to promoting economically and environmentally sustainable energy policies and practices in Wisconsin.

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