Rate hikes for electric and natural gas customers served by two of the state’s largest utilities were approved by Wisconsin utility regulators at the beginning of December. Profits that utilities can collect was also reduced amid outcry from financially-strapped ratepayers. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission approved an overall electric rate hike of 8.8 percent for We Energies and 9 percent hike for Wisconsin Public Service, according to commission staff. This increase is higher than initial proposals, but less than the changes they suggested at a later date, which would have shifted more costs to residential customers.
During fall, the utilities owned by Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group asked for an electric rate hike of 13 percent for We Energies residential customers and nearly 15 percent increase for Wisconsin Public Service customers. Had this initial plan been approved, the increase would have cost the average homeowner at least $14 more per month starting in January 2023. Instead, We Energies residential customers will see costs rise by $11 to $12 more per month, according to preliminary figures from the commission and utilities, while WPS customers will see costs rise by $9 more per month.
These rate hikes arrived as customers continue to struggle with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and record-high inflation. “It didn’t pan out too well for residential customers, particularly for We Energies,” Tom Content, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, said. “One of the key bottom lines from the customer’s point of view was that a double-digit increase would just be unfair and hard to swallow for residential customers in 2023. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re left with.” According to Commissioner Tyler Huebner, more than 1,700 people have already weighed in on We Energies’ rate hike proposals, most of them citing cost pressures.
Natural gas rates are estimated to increase by 6.2 percent, or roughly $47 annually for Wisconsin Gas customers, and a 9.5 percent increase, or roughly $63 annually for Wisconsin Electric Gas customers. WPS gas rates will see a 7 percent overall increase, expecting gas customers to pay $20 to $30 more per month this winter. Brendan Conway, spokesperson for the utilities, said they’re still evaluating the decision, but regardless he says typical bills for residential customers should remain under the national average.
The Commission is expected to finalize and approve a written order on its decision this month. We Energies serves more than 1.1 million electric customers and 1.1 million natural gas customers in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Public Service provides electricity to 457,000 electric customers and 338,000 natural gas customers.