In 2014, Madison Gas & Electric proposed one of the most regressive rate structures in the country, which would have raised monthly fixed fees by over 700 percent and harmed low-energy and low-income users, and renewable energy providers. A major outpouring of outrage occurred from the community, including some MGE shareholders, who formed MGE Shareholders for Clean Energy (MGE-SCE) to encourage the company to embrace clean energy.
Last November, MGE-SCE members submitted three shareholder resolutions for the annual report (proxy statement) to be voted on by shareholders this spring. These resolutions ask MGE to look beyond the shortcomings of MGE’s 2030 Energy plan and demonstrate how MGE can be a national clean energy leader:
• MGE Energy, Inc. 2 Degrees Scenario Analysis: A similar resolution was passed last year by Exxon Mobil shareholders calling on the company to evaluate their plans to comply with the Paris accord limiting climate warming impacts to no more than 2 degrees C. The U.N. Emissions Gap Report showed the inadequacy of MGE’s 40 percent emission reductions goal by 2030 to meet the Paris target.
• MGE 100% Renewable Energy Report: This resolution requests that MGE create a road map preparing for 100 percent renewable energy, as Madison and neighboring communities make 100 percent renewable energy commitments. Without MGE vastly increasing its clean energy generation, customers in MGE territory would need to look at alternative means to reach their 100 percent goal. Shareholders believe these customers may pursue independent renewable generation that could reduce MGE’s sales.
• Electrification of the Transportation Sector Study: We’re asking MGE to partner with national and state leaders to develop a road map outlining the opportunities this technological revolution provides, so the company, its shareholders, and the community can fully realize the potential benefits.The Brattle Group’s January 2017 article "Electrification, Emerging Opportunities for Utility Growth" states: “To realize the full benefits of transport electrification, utilities will likely benefit from playing a proactive role in identifying possible social and technical systems and transmission processes needed to achieve this development.”
We are pleased MGE has embraced the concepts in our resolutions by making recent commitments since receiving our resolutions:
• Reduce carbon emissions at least 80 percent by 2050.
• Purchase a share of the Forward Energy wind farm in Wisconsin (replacing the former power purchase agreement).
• Seek approval to partner with WEC Energy Group to build solar farms with MGE’s ownership share being at least 50 megawatts.
These are positive steps, but are they enough?
Unfortunately, MGE still provides roughly 87 percent of its electricity to customers from fossil fuels, with almost 70 percent coming from coal.
Continued coal use has real costs that can contribute to asthma, hazards for people living near coal plants, and potential financial risks from stranded assets (like MGE’s ownership shares of coal plants by Portage and Oak Creek that are no longer profitable to run, but are not yet paid off) — all of which reduce MGE's reputation in calling itself a community partner and clean energy leader.
This is why MGE needs to hear from ALL their shareholders that they support clean energy by voting FOR our resolutions. It’s also important for MGE to hear from ALL their customers that they support transitioning to clean energy and reducing emissions faster than MGE’s 2030 goals.
Join us to hear more at a MGE-SCE Clean Energy meeting at the downtown Madison Public Library on April 17, with networking at 5:30 p.m. and presentations at 6:30 p.m. You can also learn more at mgeshareholders.com, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don Wichert is a Madison-based energy engineer and co-coordinator of MGE Shareholders for Clean Energy.
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