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Wisconsin Public Service Commission

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
Agency overview
Headquarters610 N. Whitney Way; Madison, Wisconsin 53707-7854
Agency executive
  • Ellen Nowak, Chairperson

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin is an independent regulatory agency responsible for regulating public utilities in the energy, telecommunications, gas and water companies located in U.S. state of Wisconsin.[1][2] As of 2010, the agency regulated more than 1,100 electric, natural gas, telephone, water, and water/sewer utilities.

The commission consists of three full-time commissioners that are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Wisconsin State Senate in staggered six-year terms. The current commissioners are Phil Montgomery, Mike Huebsch, and Ellen Nowak. All of the current Commissioners were appointed by Governor Scott Walker. Commissioner Ellen Nowak was appointed Chairwomen in 2015.

The commissioners are assisted by a staff of auditors, accountants, engineers, rate analysts, attorneys, planners, research analysts, economists, consumer specialists, and other support personnel. The staff is divided into several divisions: Gas and Energy Division, Telecommunications Division, Division of Water, Compliance, and Consumer Affairs, Division of Administrative Services, and the Office of General Counsel.[2]

Wisconsin's 28 electric cooperatives are not subject to the Public Service Commission.[2]

Notable rate cases

In 2014, the Public Service Commission came under atypical scrutiny for three utility rate cases. The primary issue in the three cases was the matter of distributed generation. The cases drew widespread opposition from ratepayers regarding increases in the fixed fees for all customers.

The largest utility of the three, We Energies, also proposed increasing fees on customers who generate their own power, like those with rooftop solar. The case generated thousands of public comments opposing the changes. Around 500 ratepayers came out to protest the rate case at the Public Hearing in October.[3]

The Public Service Commission’s staff analyst on these cases, Corey Singletary, testified that We Energies had not provided enough evidence to justify the changes they requested.[4] Through discovery, We Energies was forced to reveal that it had commissioned and paid for a study stating that net metering customers provided a net benefit to all ratepayers, contradicting their claims in the rate case.

Despite the lack of evidence to support the changes, the Commission voted to approve the requested increase to the fixed charges both for all customers and the additional charge on self-generators. Chairman Phil Montgomery and Commissioner Ellen Nowak supported the change, while Commissioner Eric Callisto dissented.[5]


Public Service Commissioners are prohibited by Wisconsin statute from communicating with parties with a substantial interest in the outcome of a pending case. There have been two major scandals involving violations of this law, both involving We Energies.[6]


During a pending utility merger between Wisconsin Energy Corp. and Northern States Power, the Commission defended themselves against allegations of improper communication between one of the Commissioners and utility executives regarding the merger.[7]


During the pending We Energies rate case, Commissioner Ellen Nowak appeared to violate both the ex parte rules and the law requiring Commissioners to remain impartial. In both March and June, Commissioner Nowak appeared on panels for conferences hosted by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI).[8] In both panels, she advised her own utilities on ratemaking practices. In the June panel, titled “Utility Regulation and Success in a Low Growth Economy,” she appeared alongside We Energies CEO Gale Klappa.[8] There was also question as to whether any other communication occurred between Commissioner Nowak and Klappa or other utility staff.

Groups and individual ratepayers called for Commissioner Nowak to recuse herself from the case due to her lack of impartiality.[9]

See also


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ a b c "About Us", Wisconsin Public Service Commission.
  3. ^ Thomas Content (October 7, 2014). "We Energies proposal wants to alter solar rules, fixed fees". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  4. ^ Thomas Content (August 23, 2014). "Electric rates could rise 5% in January for We Energies customers". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  5. ^ Kari Lydersen (December 3, 2014). "On utilities and solar, Wisconsin goes its own way". Midwest Energy News. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  6. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 801.15(4)".
  7. ^ Pete Millard (February 2, 1997). "Aggressive stall tactics taint PSC". Milwaukee Business Journal. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  8. ^ a b Barbara Vergetis Lundin (November 26, 2014). "TASC suing WI PSC to overturn rate case ruling". Fierce Energy. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  9. ^ "Wisconsin Utility Sought Solar Fees After Regulator Advised CEO". Bloomberg. Retrieved March 23, 2015.

External links

This page was last edited on 19 March 2020, at 01:33
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