A New Look at the Cost of Your Electricity

Our good friends at GreenBuild TV have brought our attention to a very interesting concept for reducing the cost of our electricity here in Wisconsin through deregulation.  We think this is an interesting concept and an even more interesting topic and wanted to share this and ask for your comments in the process.   

A New Look at the Cost of Your Electricity

Could the Value of your Home be impacted by electric deregulation? Community Choice Aggregation could be the answer and a new path for WI job growth and consumer savings.

Real estate and the value of homes are tied to the economic activity of the local area. A number of states are passing laws that allow for Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) or Municipal Energy Aggregation (MEA). CCA allows cities and counties to pool the energy load of the residential, businesses and cities’ load in order to purchase energy on everyone’s behalf. The local utility still delivers the power, maintains the lines, customer billing and basic customer service. CCA offers communities and competitive energy suppliers a huge opportunity to bring energy costs down to consumers and create jobs bringing locally owned green energy to the community. In fact CCAs or MEAs are saving consumers in IL over 25% off their electric costs, 10-25% in NJ, 5-10% in MA, and creating green energy development and energy efficiency in CA and other markets.

cca flowchart

Recently, COMPETE Coalition submitted formal comments to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission urging the state’s Legislature and the governor to end monopoly protections for the state’s utilities and allow homeowners and businesses to choose among competing electricity service suppliers.

The Wisconsin utility regulators are taking public comment on a statutorily mandated Strategic Energy Assessment.  The Commission noted that energy rates “continue to increase across customer classes” in Wisconsin, “frustrating” consumers’ efforts to save money by reducing energy usage. “Many ratepayers have expressed their anger and frustration publicly and directly to the Commission about utilities raising rates during a time when they are using less in order to reduce their energy costs,” the Commission noted.

The Commission also noted that Wisconsin’s retail rates are above the average rates for both the Midwest and nationally. For Wisconsin residential and commercial customers, rates are the highest in the Midwest. Paying high rates for electricity is hindering rather than helping our local economies to grow, create jobs and support economic prosperity. Being #1 with the highest electric rates is not the economic development banner WI needs for the future. “The Commission must continue to investigate ways to mitigate energy rate increases to ensure Wisconsin remains competitive in a global marketplace,” the draft assessment said.

Just imagine the local economic impact if 25% of everyone’s electric bill stayed in their pocket and could be spent on commerce? What if one of the conditions for the electricity being purchased by the city required local renewable energy to be part of the mix, helping create local contracting and maintenance jobs?  What if a community owned solar garden was built on city land or brownfield, thereby driving down the cost of going solar 40% or more compared to putting it on your house?

Competition and aggregation combined can do amazing things in driving down costs and creating innovation for the future. When you have a monopoly, commonly known as your electric utility company, it removes every incentive to drive down costs or create new ways for energy generation and delivery. Monopolies are only good for people owning the monopoly. The goal then is to keep things the same. But in today’s world, communities must innovate or die a slow death when challenged with changing markets everywhere else. Deregulation is well proven in states all across the country, so WI can follow successful blueprints on the path to savings and innovation. But it is going to take communities, consumers and businesses to push the market along. The grid for delivering electricity needs to be regulated since it is a basic infrastructure. But by deregulating the cost of generating electricity, it provides investors the opportunity to take on  the risk of building a power plant, and not you and I as ratepayers.

Economic activity and job growth helps to grow the value of housing and land. More people competing for the housing inventory increases the value and price. The demand then increases the number of homes being built to fill that demand.  The goal is ultimately to be building Net Zero Energy homes, buildings and communities. Walworth County is the perfect place to start.

For further information on supporting deregulation and Community Choice Aggregation, contact info@ecovisionslc.org . Let the competition begin!

Eco-Vision Sustainable Learning Center, a 501 (C)(3) non-profit corporation, promotes renewable energy, energy efficiency, green building and sustainable living through education and demonstration.

A New Look at the Cost of Your Electricity was original published for the Talkin’ Green column. Download a copy of the column from the Lake Geneva Regional News Real Estate Guide.

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