Madison Gas & Electric’s new CEO, Jeffrey Keebler, pledged to keep the utility headed away from fossil fuels as he addressed his first shareholders meeting Tuesday.
“We know renewable energy is important to many of our customers and to many of you, our shareholders,” Keebler told the 1,850 people gathered for the luncheon meeting at the Madison Marriott West hotel in Middleton.
Keebler said he is “committed” to the goals of MGE’s Energy 2030 plan that calls for 25 percent of the utility’s retail electric sales to come from renewable fuel projects by 2025, and 30 percent by 2030.
He laid out plans to move in that direction, including installing charging equipment in the homes of customers with electric cars and offering residential customers a “smart thermostat” program to hold down their power use during peak summer days.
Keebler said MGE is “actively pursuing” a site for a second Shared Solar program because the first one — a 500-kilowatt solar array on the roof of the Middleton municipal operations center that started operating in January — is fully subscribed and has a waiting list.
Keebler said MGE is in discussions with the city of Madison on the prospect of “further use of electric vehicles” in the city’s fleet, and he said the utility will initiate a program called “Customer Forward” that involves updating technology to deliver information and interact with customers “in the way they want to engage with us.”
MGE also announced plans in February for the proposed Saratoga wind farm, in northeast Iowa, that could produce up to 66 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 47,000 homes when the 33 turbines are at top capacity.
“This is how we will continue to build a community energy company together,” Keebler said.
Keebler paid little heed, though, to a resolution introduced by a shareholder group — the first ever included on MGE’s proxy ballot.
The resolution, proposed by MGE Shareholders for Clean Energy, called on MGE to “develop a road map” to transition the community toward electrified transportation.
“We want MGE to be a leader in getting local experts, national experts also, to evaluate and develop a road map, using renewable energy to supply that,” spokesman Don Wichert said prior to the meeting.
Wichert said that while the utility is taking some steps, it’s not a “comprehensive nor a coordinated effort.”
MGE’s board had urged a “no” vote on the resolution.
Keebler announced results of stockholder voting at the end of the meeting, saying directors Regina Millner, Londa Dewey and Thomas Stolper had been re-elected, and shareholders agreed to a proposal for an advisory vote on executive compensation every year, but he lumped other resolutions together, saying more than 90 percent “supported management positions” on the questions.
In an interview after the meeting, Keebler said the board opposed the resolution because it called for leading a study beyond MGE’s own facilities. “We’re very supportive of electric vehicles,” he said, but added the company doesn’t think another study is needed.
Asked why the resolution was not read, he said, “We don’t read any of the resolutions. Time just does not allow it.”
Wichert said he was surprised the proposal was not even mentioned. “On the plus side, Jeff Keebler did say a lot of great things and I’m delighted that he said they’re going to move toward a cleaner energy future.”
MGE officials also paid tribute during the meeting to Gary Wolter, who turned over the company’s reins to Keebler in March after serving as CEO and president for 17 years, the longest-serving CEO in MGE’s history.
Wolter, who continues as board chairman, said he will “forever be grateful for the many years that I had the privilege to lead this company.”