News Briefs


PSC Considers Third-Party Financing

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) is considering whether to allow third-party financing of solar installations, a move that would threaten Wisconsin’s historically well-regulated utility system that provides safe, reliable, and affordable electricity equitably to all cooperative members. The proposal would allow unregulated entities to sell power in the state, which goes against state statute.

Vote Solar and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association filed the petitions with the PSC after the legislature did not act on the issue. WECA, Customers First! Coalition (CFC), and Wisconsin Utilities
Association provided testimony opposing the request. CFC, which advocates for all utility customers and members, argued, “This is a major piece of energy policy, and if granted, the Petition will upend a model that has been successful in Wisconsin for over 100 years. There are substantial concerns about consumer protection and cross-subsidization raised by the Petitioner’s request.”

Middle-Mile Fiber to Washington Island Complete

Cellcom reports it has now completed the middle-mile fiber connection to Washington Island.

In 2018, the underwater electrical cable serving Washington Island suffered catastrophic damage and had to be replaced. WIEC General Manager Robert Cornell advocated to have a fiber line included with the electrical cable replacement, bringing fiber internet service to the island for the first time. The PSC supported the project with two broadband grants.

“WIEC was fortunate to have the support of a local company that truly cared about helping our rural community. This allowed us to pursue and win additional grant funding and positions us for the future and project to serve every single home and business on Washington Island, not just picking the easy ones,” said Cornell.

Shellenberger Featured Speaker at WECA Annual Meeting

The WECA 2022 Annual Meeting took place on November 15–16, 2022, in Stevens Point with electric cooperative leaders from across the state in attendance.

The meeting featured a presentation by Michael Shellenberger, best-selling author and Time Magazine’s “Hero of the Environment.” His books include San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities and Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. Shellenberger has been a climate and environmental activist for over 30 years and spoke of his experience supporting nuclear energy.

The annual meeting also included discussions on supply-chain constraints and challenges, funding availabilities under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, election results and what they mean for electric co-ops, and more.

Rural School Districts Awarded Electric Bus Grants

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded grant money for electric and propane buses to 19 Wisconsin school districts, most of which serve some electric cooperative members. The “Clean Bus Program” is aimed at spurring a transition to electric buses and requires the retirement of diesel-fueled buses in exchange for the funding.

Wisconsin districts were awarded almost $26 million for the purchase of 73 buses as well as charging infrastructure. The Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA) includes the $5 billion grant program for school districts to purchase new clean buses, with a focus on electric buses.

The EPA is currently reviewing additional applications and the agency plans to announce more grantees in the coming weeks.

Report: Wisconsin is 10th Most Energy Efficient State

The personal-finance website WalletHub released its annual report on the most and least energy-efficient states, and Wisconsin comes in at number 10 for most energy efficient. The ranking is down from last year, when WalletHub listed Wisconsin as the 8th most energy-efficient state. The group compares both home and auto energy efficiency in its assessment.

Of 48 states (Alaska and Hawaii are not ranked due to limited data), Wisconsin ranked:

  • 8th Home Energy Efficiency
  • 16th Vehicle-Fuel Efficiency
  • 29th Transportation Efficiency

Barron Electric Hosts Candidate Forum

Barron Electric Cooperative held its candidate forum on October 19, where co-op staff and directors had the opportunity to ask candidates questions relating to energy industry issues, as well as other topics. Candidates in the 25th State Senate District race, Romaine Quinn (R-Barron) and Kelly Westlund (D-Ashland), participated, as well as Tom Tiffany (R-Wisconsin) and Dick Ausman (D-Wisconsin), who ran to represent the 7th U.S. Congressional District.

Quinn and Tiffany won their races. Quinn’s win gave Republicans a supermajority in the Senate by flipping the seat held by Janet Bewley, who did not seek re-election.