Badger-Coulee Appeal Oct., 10 - La Crosse,WI
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 The Proper and Prudent Public Discussion of Electricity Costs in Wisconsin
Badger-Coulee Appeal, October 10, La Crosse, WI 

       No public discussion stands to affect our electricity costs and environmental goals more than the possible appeal of the Badger-Coulee transmission line decision.

       In 2015, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) rejected multiple public objections and stamped approval of the costly, 170 mile, high-capacity expansion line between La Crosse and Madison. Oral arguments challenging and defending the approval will be heard in 3rd District State court in La Crosse on October 10th. At question is whether the PSC is required by law to publicly justify how our energy dollars are spent and our environmental goals met.

       The PSC is not rushing to clarify its reasoning in approving the project. Instead, the PSC is asking the court to grant the agency "great deference” in their judgments despite the agency’s refusal to study potential need under current flat and declining electricity use and other irregularities.

       The agency does not dispute that the energy growth assumptions it used to economically justify the Paddock-Rockdale 345 kV line in 2008 never materialized. Rather than discuss how the agency will prevent repeating the same mistake in Badger-Coulee, their request for "great deference” aims to avoid discussions about the bottom line altogether. Such deference would effectively say to the court, to the public, and to the electric customers that such decisions are too complicated for all of us to understand, so we must defer to their “superior" judgment.

       The PSC takes this position despite five years of steady requests for transparency and cost analysis from more than 90 local governments, 12 state lawmakers, and record public participation in public hearings. With electricity use flat and declining, most states are shifting investments to energy efficiency, modern load management and local power development because, unlike utility expansion, they guarantee savings and rapid CO2 reductions. Electric customers, who would assume debt for Badger-Coulee over the next 30-40 years, do not take lightly any dismissal of economic and environmental accountability.

       Proven, lower cost solutions emphasizing efficiency improvements in our homes, farms and businesses were charted by state lawmakers in 2009 when they approved a $1 per month increase in Focus on Energy rebate pools. Though the lawmakers’ request met PSC inaction in 2010, public discussions with state lawmakers revived as utilities starting asking for historical fixed fee increases to pay for expansion and ballooning utility debt.

       Opposition to highly questionable transmission expansion is erupting in every hill and dale in southwest Wisconsin as transmission builders propose another high capacity expansion line between Madison and Dubuque. Cardinal Hickory Creek would be the eighth high capacity line approved in our state in ten years. Persons from these communities will be joining court observers in La Crosse.

       The appeal brought by the Town of Holland is already successful in exposing attempts by a state agency to discourage public discussion of prudent electricity cost accountability. This “day in court” presents a rare opportunity to let one’s presence speak for every concerned electric customer in the state.

       No matter the outcome on the 10th, it is very possible that we will look back at the PSC’s attempt to justify Badger-Coulee as a key turning point in our energy future. Oral arguments start at 1:45 pm at the La Crosse County Court House, 333 Vine St.

Judy Brey, Reedsburg, WI
Don Campbell, Dodgeville, WI
Richard and Kim Cates, Spring Green, WI
Rob Danielson, La Farge, WI
Brian and Nicole Feyrer, Middleton, WI
David Giffey, Arena, WI
Laurie and Richard Graney, Platteville, WI
Michael and Julie Kauper, Middleton, WI
Andy and Entela Lushaj, Middleton, WI
Michael McDermott, Black Earth, WI
David Stanfield, Blue Mounds, WI
Todd Timmerman, Platteville, WI
David Wernecke, Baraboo, WI
Lila Zastrow and David Hendrickson, Seymour, WI 


(rescheduled due to flooding)

    with Pete Gruendeman
   Sat., October 29, 10AM, La Farge, WI 

     Many energy users are striving to lower their energy use to help stop unnecessary power lines and frac sand mining. Many are equally aware of contributing to environmental harm with every dollar they spend on electricity or gas.  I would like to share with you a novel way to profoundly reduce your household dependency on dirty grid power and natural gas while saving thousands in coming years.

     As a DIY enthusiast, my workshop will promote a unique application of existing technologies that people with basic power tool and electricity understandings can use to slash their negative environmental impacts up to 33%. Once materials are in hand it takes about 3 to 4 days a dedicated work.

     The project involves directly wiring the output of 6-8 off-the-shelf solar panels to the bottom heating element an electric hot water heater. If you have a natural gas or propane hot water heater, another electric tank is added to pre-heat the water before it reaches the gas or propane unit. The system I installed last January for my personal use used only 15 cents of electricity from the grid over the last 7 months. Unassisted, the water heater would have used more than 1100 kWh’s of power.

     Thirty-five years ago "solar water" was only done with the large, black, solar panels that circulated water. Many households found these systems too complex, expensive to install and requiring too much maintenance. My system has none of these challenges and will save me about $4,400 over the next 20 years. It cost me $2,100.

      The installation requires a sunny location of about 150 square feet for the photovoltaic panels and another person with electricity experience to confirm your wiring with you. Licensed electricians will either shudder at the notion of directly powering a hot water tank with DC power or deeply appreciate the elegance. My favorite part is there is no reason to get the electric company involved as the PV system is not “grid-tied.” Most DIYers can rack and mount the 45 pound solar electric panels on their roof, garage or stand in the yard.

     Judging from personally building three PV--> DHW systems, 2,000 Watts of PV is about the right amount to provide hot water for a family of four. Here is a basic budget: 

     * Solar Panels and mounting hardware $2,000- $2,500    
     * 8 gauge copper wire $50- 120    
     * Controller (optional) $300- 350
     * Disconnect Box $30    
     * High Temp Shut-Off Switch $50-$350    
     * If you not have an electric water heater: 80 gallon water heater
             $800  (Best with a standard 11.5 NPS element thread) 

     The project I helped Mike plan for his house in Stoddard, WI uses 1,600 Watts of PV, and cost $2,650, complete.  He did all of the installation on his own wiring it to an existing 50 gallon electric water heater. He and I agree that an 80 gallon tank and 2,000 Watts of solar PV would improve environmental and monetary benefits over time. The savings from using much less, dirty, grid power will re-pay our investments in 10 to 13 years. Persons who pay federal taxes can take a tax credit up to 30% of the investment and reduce the pay back period to 7-10 years.

     I hope you will be able to join us at the free workshop sponsored by SOUL of Wisconsin.

 Photovoltaic Direct to Electric Hot Water
Workshop w/ Pete 
 Sat., October 29, 10 AM - 12 Noon
S3803 Corps Rd, la Farge, WI
  There is no charge for the Workshop
Email to make a reservation


Area Meetings- Cardinal Hickory Creek


Grassroots and local government efforts opposing the possibility of yet another high capacity transmission line across Wisconsin lands and communities

      Congratulations to the Town of Belmont (Lafayette Co. WI) who adopted a PSC Information Request Resolution on September 20th to help ensure transmission builders provide cost benefit analysis of all energy options and the PSC conducts their own analysis for the Environmental and Economic Impact Study.  Citizens from the Town of Lima and Belmont are reaching out to neighbors in adjacent towns encouraging the towns to consider adopting the resolution.  Interested citizens are encouraged to attend meetings at: 

  • Town of Platteville (Grant Co.)  Monday, October 10th at 7:00 p.m, at the Township Shed on County D South.
  • Town of Blue Mounds (Dane Co,) October 3, at 7p.m - Town Hall, 10566 Blue Vista Road
  • Village of Mount Horeb Board (Dane Co.)  October 5, at 7p  Village Hall 138 E Main Street 

           Driftless Defenders will hold its next meeting on Wednesday, October 26 at Dodger Bowl at 318 King St. in Dodgeville. For more information and a copy of the most recent newsletter, contact Robin Schumacher at .


Achieving Fair Allocation of Grid Costs

  by Rob Danielson
     Former WI Public Service Commissioner Mark Meyer recently joined acting Commissioners in declaring that fair distribution of utility grid costs depends on getting the rate right for solar power produced in our homes, farms, businesses and in community solar gardens.

     It disappoints me to see Myer foreground the economic rights of a tiny number of well-intending individuals without mentioning a single advantage bestowed on utility interests.  As electric customers, we are the only parties that pay for grid expense. As a former public servant, Meyer is in excellent position to help ratepayers understand how costs are accumulated, paid for and make fresh suggestions.

     Even before our use of electricity started to drop, the PSC pegged our rising rates on a 15 year ”spending cycle” for new power plants and transmission expansion. Now, to continue paying off the debt that will persist for 30 years and longer, the PSC has allowed utilities to run up fixed fees to cover the drop in use. The result is making families who are trying to conserve pay more while giving high-use households effective rate reductions. We have a lot of utility debt. Totaling up just the fee increases since 2012, Wisconsin households will pay $7 billion more over the next 30 years.

     The higher costs and environmental consequences have revived “waste not - want not” values. Even with meager rebates for energy efficiency and solar compared to adjacent states, Wisconsin electric customers are collectively using less and less power. So why are the utilities so committed to “waste more - want more” utility infrastructure?

    Pin this on your 1990 refrigerator: Foremost, for-profit electric utilities seek to keep customers on-grid paying down the massive debt they profit from. Every time the PSC permits a new transmission line, substation or power plant, utility interests are guaranteed 10-13% interest, plus operation, maintenance and other collections over the 30-40 year mortgage periods. The PSC does not tally up and print the billions in debt amassed. It allows utilities to hide long term indebtedness by publicizing only initial construction costs for new projects.

     Records show that energy efficiency and solar are, by far, the most cost-effective measures to slash CO2 emissions and control costs and utility debt. Wisconsin lawmakers must create precise PSC policy that allows these end-user improvements to fairly compete with utility infrastructure proposals and do their magic. Legislators can insure that all electric customers pay fair share of the accumulated utility debt through these goals:
  • Make utilities compete with debt-free, end user investments to prevent the PSC from adding non-essential, utility debt;
  • Triple available rebates in our energy efficiency and renewable energy program. The required $1 per month would dramatically reduce use and return billions in net savings. If Wisconsin lawmakers approve the same Focus on Energy increase they did in 2009 (rejected by the PSC in 2010), we would meet more than 50% of the EPA’s CO2 reduction goals, save $16 billion in energy costs, spur $50 billion in economic benefits and create 380,000 new jobs over the next 30 years; 
  • Stop increasing facility fees. Apply the golden rule to utility debt with customers paying proportionally to the amount of electricity they consume. This requires much smaller rate increases over the next 5-7 years than those induced by new debt and growing waste. Solar customers would pay their full fair share of debt in the cost of grid power they use at night and on cloudy days.

     Most non-solar households greatly prefer buying clean power produced by their solar neighbors instead of fossil fuel-laden grid power. Home, business and community solar improvements add no collective debt, lower grid costs and so deserve the same, retail, rate utilities are paid.

     Eventually all of the above will happen because it’s the only spending path we can afford. The essential lobbying efforts that finally tip the scale will not come from organizations or energy specialists but regular customers who understand where energy dollars need to go.


Ho-Chunk Nation Approves Rights of Nature Amendment

 Following a vote of full membership, the Ho-Chunk Nation will be the first tribal nation in the United States to formally amend their constitution to grant that “Ecosystems and natural communities within the Ho-Chunk territory possess an inherent, fundamental, and inalienable right to exist and thrive.”  The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted the nation draft the amendment the applications of which the tribe will begin to plan at the Traditional Ecological Knowledge conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin, at Viterbo University on October 14th. 

Bill Greendeer, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and the Deer clan, proposed the amendment.  He explained, “Passing the Rights of Nature amendment will help us protect our land."


80 Feet is Enough! and companion Wisconsin Easement Action Team [WEAT] are coalitions of landowners, local govern-ments, legal experts and energy activists strategizing to block Enbridge’s interest in constructing a $2.6 to $3 billion dollar, 42-inch diameter underground pipeline spanning 300 miles across Wisconsin. This addition would be capable of transporting roughly the same amount of Canadian Tar Sand Oil as the the Keystone XL pipeline increasing WI’s fossil fuel toting capacity to more than 2 million barrels of oil per day. Organization resources include news/action alerts, interactive maps of affected properties/lands and meetings.  WEAT is modeled after a Nebraska effort successful in challenging pipeline easements in that state through legal challenges, property owner unification and sharing legal costs. The non-profit organization has compiled a list of cautions and FAQ's for landowners,
Bold Iowa is launching Bold Action Teams using non-violent direct action to stop construction along the entire length of the Dakota Access pipeline in Iowa. Contact: Ed Fallon, 515-238-6404  Sign pledge 

The Standing Rock mobilization against the Dakota Access Pipeline is a critical movement moment for the Environmental and Climate Justice Movement.  Over 5,000 Indigenous People from over 280 Nations and Tribes have mobilized to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and through collective power, ceremony, and direct action, they have forced an injunction against one of the largest pipeline projects in North America. Follow developments at Sacred Stone Camp   Support Resources for the Standing Rock Water Defenders. Sign Petition to the President to exercise his power as Commander in Chief to make the Army Corps of Engineers revoke the permits for the pipeline.
What Are
You and Me Gonna DO?

Is the title of a book Gov. Gay-lord Nelson wrote when many readers were school children  in the 70s. Today, a key obstacle to a better energy future is the limited understandings of our state legislators con-cerning energy laws. Too few understand that laws passed in 1998 eliminated PSC obligation to thoroughly weigh lower-cost, non-transmission alternatives like energy efficiency and local solar power whenever a utility proposes a new power plant or expansion transmission line.  Please consider taking 30 seconds to thank one or more of the following state lawmakers for their interest in restoring electric customer priorities:  Rep. Pope; Rep Considine; Rep Hesselbein; Sen. Shilling; Rep. Billings or encouraging one of these lawmakers to participate in an upcoming meeting they have been invited to: Rep Berceau; Rep. Doyle; Rep. Nerison; Sen. Vinehout and Rep. Ed Brooks. Stay tuned as we expand this effort to more state lawmakers.
Annual Meeting w/ Guest Speakers

Save The Hills Alliance
Sat., Oct. 29,
1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Veteran's Center
Menomonie, WI

The program will address the social impacts of frac sand mining, quality of life and practical monitoring roles that individuals can perform in protecting their communities and influencing change in state policies. Speakers include Thomas Pearson, Assoc. Prof. of Anthropology, Social Science Dept, UW-Stout and Kimberlee Wright, Attorney and Executive Director of Midwest Environmental Advocates in Madison.  For more information about the meeting, email Cheryl Miller or phone 877- 353-4976. For more information about frac sand mining activism in Wisconsin, visit Concerned Chippewa Citizens
Are You Exploiting the Powers of your Household?

Its been a while since that 1973 home work assignment. It's never to late to discover clever, low-cost ways to become a 21st Century Load Defector to save money, slash emissions and live with cleaner conscience.  If your household electric bill is greater than 700 kilowatt hours, per month, it's likely you can make significant improvements. Learn more about the energy and emission savings tips and email SOUL for your personalized, online ledger to record your month to month and year to year progress. More tips.   Photo: The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the Wisconsin Historical Society)
.  ever having robust energy efficiency opportunities, but I bet you didn't see one  this coming. On the first of September, the PCS opened a docket to explore the possibility of taking some of the (recently reduced) funding from our energy efficiency program, Focus On Energy, and using  it for promoting broadband internet or,...?  Further, one has to formally to become a public intervenor to make comments. Thanks to USGBC Wisconsin for the heads-up on this.  They have prepared instructions on how to file to intervene,.. by SEPT 15.  
20th Century Utility Assumptions Failing Ratepayers in 21st Century

Article by  David Roberts explaining causes for skyrocketing cost increases and unwitting liabilities utilities are bringing upon electric customers as they refuse to embrace cost-effective solutions. Companion article  by Roberts' provides an overview of New York State's Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) program in which the NY PSC ordered utilities to apply $200,000 towards energy efficiency, local power and load management instead of spending $1 billion upgrading an older substation. See also Sept 2016 progress report on the initiative.

Support stronger environmental protections for thousands of miles of electrical power line right of ways in Wisconsin by signing this petition to the WI PSC asking the agency to adopt widely accepted vegetation management practices for creating diverse plant communities with small trees and shrubs that reduce maintenance and enhance wildlife habitat, forest ecology and aesthetic values..
LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP to support ratepayer energy investment priorities is only $5!  Membership numbers are especially important when SOUL intervenes in utility cases and seeks funding for engineers and other experts.  Consider two or more memberships for your family. Donations above the $5 fee are tax deductible. Join online here or mail a check to SOUL of Wisconsin, PO Box 146, La Farge, WI 54639 
Copyright © 2016 Wisconsin Energy Awareness Initiative, All rights reserved.

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