Families upset over WE Energies proposed rate hike

Hundreds filled the Wilson Center to voice their opposition toward WE Energies' proposed rate hike Wednesday evening.

\"It is painful,\" said Jackie Ivy.

The energy company has proposed a 1.8% percent increase, which means residential customers will see their bills go up about $5.00.

For struggling families in Ivy's neighborhood, a rate increase boils down to some difficult decisions.

\"Pay WE Energies, or buy a loaf of bread, so you can provide dinner that night,\" Ivy explained.

\"It tends me to believe that the rich, get richer, and the poor, get poorer,\" said Jimmy Freiheit.

Freiheit and his family installed solar panels last year.  He expressed concerns over his long term investment after WE Energies decided to adjust how they will compensate and charge customers who generate their own power.

\"We're proposing customers that do generate their own power, pay their fair share for the maintenance of that grid,\" said Cathy Schulze, a spokesperson for WE Energies.

\"Had I known about it a year ago, before I installed solar panels, I probably would have thought twice,\" said Freiheit.

Officials with WE Energies say the rate increase is necessary to keep their system reliable.

\"It's a modest rate increase and that's for us to be able to continue to improve our system, modernize the grid,\" said Schulze.

Ivy emphasizes what seems like a modest increase to some-- isn't the case for families in need.

\"I suggest they look at an income based two tier paying system,\" said Ivy.

The Public Service Commission will make a final decision on the proposed rate increase before the end of the year.       

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