Xcel Energy is seeking to impose $36 million in rate increases on Wisconsin consumers this year to pay for renewable power and infrastructure projects. The funds will be generated by raising natural gas prices by 10 percent, and electricity prices by 6 percent, according to a request filed with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. For consumers who are not paying attention, the rate hike in their natural gas bills will lead them to believe natural gas, rather than renewable power, is causing spikes in their electricity bills.
Xcel company officials are proudly boasting, rather than apologizing, for adding more expensive wind and solar power to customer bills.
Construction of Xcel Energy’s Courtenay Wind Farm. Image courtesy of YouTube.
“We’re now at 25 percent renewable and 55 percent carbon free energy, which is amongst the highest levels in the country in terms of clean energy,” Xcel regional vice president Don Reck told Wisconsin Public Radio.
Under monopoly utility structures in Wisconsin and most other states, utilities like Xcel are guaranteed a specific rate of return on their investments. By spending more money on expensive electricity sources, Xcel guarantees itself more money in profits. For this reason, Xcel has a long record of lobbying for renewable power mandates.
Not only is wind power more expensive on its own, but it typically requires the construction of new transmission lines and expensive grid equipment to deal with fluctuating wind speeds and power generation. Reck said some of the money from the rate hikes will be spent on such grid equipment.
Wind power, comprising a majority of power under the Wisconsin renewable power mandate, is a poor environmental substitute for natural gas, hydro power, and wind nuclear power. A full-spectrum environmental analysis shows only coal power performs worse than wind power in environmental impacts.