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Potential rate freeze possible for WE Energies customers

A rate freeze for four years, that’s what WE Energies is trying to make happen for customers.

The proposal will be up for discussion in Madison Thursday.

Over the years the company has accumulated debt from their various projects. For years they’ve held off on passing that cost onto customers. They’re hoping this freeze will give them time to formulate a plan, but not everyone is on board with it.

The proposal would freeze your 2016 base rates until the end of 2019. But some are skeptical of this plan.

“There are a lot of costs that have built up over the years that haven't been passed on to customers. With this plan, we're worried that the early 2020's could be when we're in for a balloon payment on a mortgage or something where you just see costs shoot up,” says Tom Content, executive director of Citizens Utility Board.

The board advocates for residential and small businesses utility prices. Aside from freezing rates, WE Energies is asking to extend a pricing program from businesses that they say has helped create more than 2,000 jobs by offering discounts to those companies.

“When some folks get discounts it's kind of like an off ramp for them where the rest of the other customers don't have such an off ramp, and in this proposal they want to make those discounts permanent,” says Content.

The board says WE energies customers are already paying big bucks, the 7th highest in the Midwest. Content believes this proposal will only add to that headache.

“One of our concerns with this proposal is that Wisconsin customers are being billed for things that have nothing to do with Wisconsin and more to do with Michigan,” says Content.

That’s because of customers the energy company has in the upper peninsula of Michigan.

“We feel that this is in the best interest of our customers.  We've really done our best to keep rates flat and have a minimal impact on our customers. This is something is in the best interest of all of our customers,” says WE Energies spokesperson Kathy Schulze.

WE Energies say their customers haven’t had a significant increase since about 2013.

The plan will be reviewed Thursday by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin in Madison.

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