WEC Energy Group’s southeastern Wisconsin utilities have returned to the state Public Service Commission to seek rate increases for 2024 after just completing their most recent rate case in December.
The limited reopener for the We Energies utilities – Wisconsin Electric and Wisconsin Gas – was a planned part of the most recent rate case, which itself increased electric rates by more than 9%.
The utilities are in the midst of dramatically reshaping
how they generate power, shifting away from coal-fired power plants and to renewables solar, wind, and battery storage, along with more use of natural gas. While utilities are generally on a two-year cycle for their rate cases, the difficulty of predicting exactly when new generation will come online or when older plants will be retired led the utilities to return for the limited reopening of their case.
Combined, the We Energies utilities are seeking an increase of $91.1 million to their base rates. Wisconsin Electric is seeking a $45 million or 1.3% increase for its electric customers and a $23.9 million or 4.5% increase for its natural gas customers. Wisconsin Gas is seeking a $22.2 million or 2.9% increase.
“The filings are driven by new investments in electric and natural gas infrastructure that have already been approved by the PSCW,” Brendan Conway, a spokesman for Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group, said in an email. “The We Energies filing includes these new investments and savings from the retirement of coal-fueled units at the Oak Creek Power Plant.”
New solar accounts for around $27.6 million in additional revenue requirements for 2024, led by $13.9 million for the project in the works in the Town of Paris in Kenosha County. The Badger Hollow II project in western Wisconsin will add $5.4 million, various distributed solar projects will add $6.3 million and the Darien solar project will add $2 million. Each of those projects also has rate impacts for Wisconsin Public Service, WEC’s northeastern Wisconsin utility.
While WEC has ambitious plans to transform how it generates power, progress has been hampered by supply chain issues, including difficulty clearing solar panels through customs amid greater government scrutiny of their country of origin. The timing of battery storage projects has also been pushed back by supply challenges.
Solar is not the only driver of the rate increases with the Bluff Creek liquified natural gas project in Walworth County adding $23.9 million and the Ixonia LNG project adding $22.2 million.
Ratepayers will see an $8.1 million benefit from lower operations and maintenance costs next year from the retirement of two older units at the Oak Creek Power Plant that are currently scheduled to be retired in May 2024. The retirement of those and other older plants has already been delayed once as the utility sought to ensure reliability amidst supply challenges and concerns about demand across the Midwest.