Utilities, like any business, are generally responsive to their customers, so speaking up about particular programs, energy sources, fuel mix goals, and other items of interest can help them understand and meet customer demands. There are few different areas in which you can take meaningful action with your utility:
Get to know your utility
Wisconsin’s electric utilities generally maintain information-rich websites detailing available programs and services, meetings, and ways to get in touch.
One opportunity to amplify your voice at an investor-owned utility is to engage with investors or become one yourself. Since IOUs are owned by shareholders, these investors have a strong voice in how these utilities operate. The general public can engage with IOUs by reaching out to investors to discuss issues, or by purchasing stock and becoming an investor. Stockholders can vote on resolutions and engage management.
Show up at meetings hosted by your utility to learn more about proposed projects and decisions being made by utility leadership, and to share your opinions with your representatives.
Participate in elections if you’re eligible, or become an officer yourself. Few customers take advantage of this opprotunity. Nationally, 72% of electric co-op board elections have less than 10% average turnout, which is much lower than average national voting for presidential and mid-term elections and local municipal elections.
State law requires all member-owned electric co-operatives to host an annual meeting. These include member updates, the opportunity for members to voice opinions on co-op policies, and board elections.
Take advantage of the programs that your utility offers that you’d like to see more of. This demonstrates there is real demand and support for these programs and could spur more. Some examples include:
- Installing solar panels on your home or land. Utilities have different policies regarding the size of installations (to align your supply and demand) and net metering (how you’re compensated when you supply excess power from your panels back into the grid).
Take part in a community solar program
- IOU examples include: MG&E's Shared Solar, Xcel's Solar* Connect Community
- Muni examples include: River Falls Municipal Utilities and New Richmond Utilities
- Co-op examples include: Vernon Electric
Purchase green power on your electricity bill
- Some IOU examples include: Alliant Energy's Second Nature, MG&E's Green Power Tomorrow, We Energies' Energy for Tomorrow, WPS' NatureWise, and Xcel's Windsource.
Participate in Focus on Energy programs
Take advantage of Focus on Energy programs. Focus on Energy is a statewide energy efficiency and renewable energy program. It is funded by Wisconsin’s IOUs and participating munis and co-ops. If your utility is one of over 100 utilities that participate in Focus on Energy, you’re eligible to participate in Focus on Energy programs such as cash incentives to purchase smart thermostats, cash incentives for solar and geothermal installations, free pick-up of old appliances plus a cash incentive, discounts and information on efficient lighting and appliances, etc. Visit your utility’s website to see what programs are offered.