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Distributed Energy Resources

Wis. PSC Declines to Issue Declaratory Order in DER Proceeding

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission in December declined to issue a declaratory order in a proceeding that would have given third parties the right to sell electricity directly to public utility customers, a proposal that was opposed by public power groups in the state.

At issue is a petition filed by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association in May 2022 to determine the applicability of a third-party financed distributed energy resource system.

In November 2022, Municipal Electric Utilities of Wisconsin, Great Lakes Utilities and WPPI Energy submitted a reply brief in the proceeding arguing that the MREA request should be denied because it is not supported by existing Wisconsin law and because it would harm public utility customers.

MEUW is the statewide trade association representing Wisconsin’s 81 municipal utilities, while GLU and WPPI Energy are joint action agencies.

The Wisconsin Muni Group said that the “regulatory compact” grants public utilities an exclusive right to provide electric service to customers in defined service territories in exchange for the obligation to serve customers within these territories and submit to regulation of the terms of service, including price.

“The regulatory compact has worked well in Wisconsin for more than a century -- not just for the regulated public utility monopolies, but for their customers, as well, all of whom get the benefit of rules and regulations designed to ensure that rates are fair and non-discriminatory; that electric facilities are well-designed and properly operated to ensure safety and reliability; and that consumer interests are protected,” the Wisconsin Muni Group said.

MREA “seeks the right to serve whatever customers it chooses without the obligations to serve or submit to regulation. While that may be good for some customers in certain circumstances, the record in this Proceeding shows that it will not be true for many customers in numerous other circumstances,” the Wisconsin Muni Group said.

“Petitioner has not demonstrated why the Commission should be willing to abandon its own precedent and cede its regulatory authority by granting the relief Petitioner seeks,” they told the PSC.

The Wisconsin Muni Group also noted that in comments submitted in the proceeding jointly by State Senator Julian Bradley, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Utilities, Technology and Telecommunications and Representative David Steffen, Acting Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities, said that the Commission should leave the matters raised by the petition to the Legislature, or at a minimum, convene a rulemaking procedure.

Citing the Commission’s own precedent for deferring the matters raised in similar, previous petitions, the two state lawmakers “dispel the notion that the relief Petitioner seeks merely clarifies existing law,” the Wisconsin Muni Group said.

“Given that the Commission has opted in other proceedings for a more cautious path in developing and potentially implementing new policies to address issues of paramount concern to customers and other stakeholders when it comes to evolving technologies and new models of utility regulation, similar caution is warranted here where arguably even more is at stake.”

A nearly identical petition made by Vote Solar (9300-DR-106) was approved in part by a vote of 2-1 in December 2022.

MEUW joined six other intervenors to file a petition in March 2023 seeking to reopen the docket. The matter is pending.