MAY BE TIME FOR MMSD TO UNPLUG FROM WE ENERGIES
By KEVIN SHAFER, MMSD Executive Director
All of us already pay some of the highest energy rates in the Midwest as We Energies customers.
Now, We Energies wants to charge the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District at least $1 million more than the $5 million MMSD pays every year, regardless of how much energy we actually buy from the utility.
Currently, MMSD can self-produce 65% of the energy needed to power our South Shore Water Reclamation Facility in Oak Creek. MMSD soon will be able to create all the energy needed to run the Jones Island Water Reclamation Facility in Milwaukee during dry weather. This energy will be produced from renewable biofuels that are less costly than natural gas.
Staff from We Energies provided input on our plans to build the renewable energy projects. Decisions were made to invest in those projects based on rate structures that had been in place for many years. Never once did anyone from We Energies give us a courtesy call to let MMSD know of massive pending changes.
MMSD's 1.1 million ratepayers already pay at least $1 million for demand charges every year for peak demand energy when MMSD needs extra power to minimize sewer overflows. Just flipping the switch to turn on the deep tunnel pumps is a $100,000 charge or more the first time we do this each month. Then MMSD pays additional charges for the following 12 months due to this higher demand.
We Energies wants MMSD to pay even more money due to what the utility says are additional costs. What is curious is that MMSD has yet to see any proof or documentation of the claim and it appears We Energies does not have to purchase energy to ensure MMSD has power. Its new Oak Creek facility is not operating anywhere near full capacity. In fact, We Energies filings with the Public Service Commission fail to demonstrate how and why costs to serve MMSD are different than any other large customer.
MMSD is willing to pay its fair share for energy used to treat wastewater and protect the environment, and has been doing that for many years through the payment of peak demand charges.
Rather than passing on the cost of this and future rate increases to our ratepayers, if approved by the PSC, this rate increase will force MMSD to seriously look at generating all of our own power and unplugging from We Energies. We've just started a long-range planning effort to decide our capital improvement needs to protect the environment, and unplugging from We Energies has moved to the front of this effort.
In the near future, MMSD will need to purchase additional power from We Energies during wet weather, and our goal in this debate is to keep MMSD customers from getting soaked by the power company.
Over the longer term, if MMSD no longer needs We Energies, its income will be reduced $4 million to $6 million each year. That's a loss I hope the utility doesn't try to spread to its remaining energy customers.