The Wisconsin Public Service Commission approved another increase in utility fixed charges Dec. 3, giving Xcel Energy the green light to increase its fixed charge from $8 to $14 a month. The company had sought an increase to $18 a month.

“Although we are happy that Xcel Energy customers will not face the full $18 monthly charge, this is still a 75 percent increase in mandatory fixed charges that is exceptionally higher than what utilities in other states are being granted by state regulators,” said Tyler Huebner, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, in a statement.

Last year the commission approved major increases in fixed rate charges for three utilities, We Energies, MG&E and Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPS). While many utilities nationwide have sought increased fixed charges, the Wisconsin commission’s enthusiastic support of the charges has made it an outlier compared to other commissions that denied or curbed such requests.

RENEW tracked 35 requests for fixed rate increases nationwide in 2014 and 2015, with Wisconsin being the only state to approve the proposals without compromises.

Last month the commission approved another fixed rate increase for WPS, to $21 a month up from $19, though the utility had sought authority to charge $25 a month. MG&E last month promised not to seek a fixed rate increase in its next rate case, after massive public outcry against the last increase.

Like the 2014 cases, Xcel’s rate case drew widespread public interest and opposition, with more than 500 public comments filed nearly all opposing the increased charge. Xcel is also seeking a fixed rate increase in its Minnesota service territory. Last spring the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission denied Xcel such an increase.

Before the commission decision, Huebner said he hoped the commissioners would “allow some time to see how customers of the other utilities react and how their ability to pay their electric bill may change because of these high fixed charges.”

Kari has written for the Energy News Network since January 2011. She is an author and journalist who worked for the Washington Post's Midwest bureau from 1997 through 2009. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, Chicago News Cooperative, Chicago Reader and other publications. Based in Chicago, Kari covers Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana as well as environmental justice topics.

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