We Energies looking to hike electricity rates, public can weigh in

MILWAUKEE -- We Energies is looking to raise rates for electricity, and Monday, October 1st, the city's Public Service Commission debated the proposed rate hike.

We Energies is seeking to raise residential electric rates between $4.50 and $5.50 per month in 2013 and by $2.85 per month in 2014. The utility says it needs more money to meet federal and state regulations, including a project that will reduce emissions at the Oak Creek Power Plant, a wind farm in Columbia County and a biomass plant near Wausau.

The rate hike would also cover cost overrun, including legal fees from lawsuits tied to the expansion of the Oak Creek plant.

"We've made those costs available to PSC and they will take a look at whether or not any of those costs, whether it was for the Oak Creek facility, or any of the other costs, were prudently-incurred and will determine whether they should be in the rates or not," Brian Manthey with We Energies said.

The Commission listened Monday to both supporters and opponents of We Energies proposed rate increase.

"You've got people whose lives depend on what they're trying to pay every day and it's so hard for them. These bills keep going up and up and up and they're underwater," Patricia McManus, who opposes the rate hike told the Commission Monday.

Opponents to the rate increase say costs should be the shareholders' problem -- not the public's.

"Especially people who are struggling already. They're working two or three jobs. Even if they're not working because they can't get a job, and we have a lot in our community," McManus said.

Through the first half of 2012, We Energies reported a $22 million increase in profits compared to the first six months of 2011. We Energies says that's due largely to people using more electricity during a very hot summer, which also led to higher costs.

There is another hearing Monday night, October 1st at 6:00 p.m. at the Best Western Midway in Brookfield.

If customers cannot attend a public hearing, but would like to provide comments, an online participation option is available on the PSC's website at http://psc.wi.gov  through October 1st. Participants should click on the "Public Comments" button on the PSC's homepage and click on the case title.