Bill Will Keep Wisconsin’s Power Grid In State’s Hands And Out Of The Control Of Federal Regulators Or Out-Of-State Developers

Guest column from Wisconsin State Senator Julian Bradley.

Bill Will Keep Wisconsin’s Power Grid In State’s Hands And Out Of The Control Of Federal Regulators Or Out-Of-State Developers

Today, I introduced legislation to retain Wisconsin control over the safety and reliability of our state’s power grid instead of ceding that control to federal regulators and opportunistic out-of-state developers. This bill, known as Right of First Refusal, prevents fragmentation of the state’s transmission grid and retains the regulation and operation of the grid in Wisconsin.

A little over 20 years ago, Wisconsin’s economic future was in doubt because we lacked reliable energy. A fragmented transmission network was operated by utilities only to benefit their customers. Utilities were disincentivized from making investments in their own transmission network because those investments could benefit competitors at the expense of their own ratepayers. This resulted in Wisconsin being cut off from cheaper power, experiencing decreased reliability and the transmission system not operating in an economically efficient manner. That changed in the late 1990s, when the Republican Governor and Republican-controlled Legislature engaged in a multi-session effort to make sure that Wisconsin had a safe, reliable, and economically efficient transmission network.

Reliable power is critical to the safety and economic well-being of Wisconsin and not something we should roll the dice on to benefit out-of-state hedge-funds and developers.

Those out-of-state entities wish to take away Wisconsin’s ability to decide who owns and maintains critical infrastructure in our state. Their goal is to add assets to their investment portfolio, by fragmenting our transmission infrastructure to benefit their hedge-fund investors. This is exactly why legislation was enacted over 20 years ago, to build a robust statewide transmission network and to get away from individual entities dissecting our transmission network for their own economic interests.

There are now many examples of where these merchant transmission developers have moved into a state, promised to build a project at a bargain basement price and the projects come in over budget and significantly delayed. Just last month one such developer asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to double their payment for the project, from $259 million or less to a new contract at $553 million, a 113% increase!

In addition, under the proposed federal process, projects are delayed almost two years, preventing access for Wisconsin ratepayers to less expensive energy and jeopardizing reliability.

This is why almost all the states in the region have adopted this legislation, including Indiana under then-Republican Governor Mike Pence, Texas under Republican Governor Greg Abbott and in Iowa under Republican Governor Kim Reynolds.

My legislation is simple, maintains Wisconsin’s regulatory oversight of the state’s transmission infrastructure and keeps what is working for Wisconsin:

It preserves the role of the State Public Service Commission (PSC), whose members are appointed by the Governor and confirmed with the advice and consent of the State Senate, in deciding who owns and operates the transmission infrastructure in the state versus federal regulators.

It requires that Wisconsin’s transmission developers competitively bid the construction of their infrastructure which will be reviewed and approved by the PSC in an open, transparent process.

Our transmission grid is safe and reliable, and our current regulatory system is responsible for maintaining that safety and reliability. As chairman of the Senate Utilities Committee, charged with overseeing our state’s energy infrastructure, I am not interested in jeopardizing its reliability and safety to benefit out of state developers. Please join me in supporting this important legislation.

Senator Julian Bradley (R-Franklin), represents Wisconsin’s 28th Senate District.

This column originally ran in the Wisconsin Daily Star.

Last Update: Sep 22, 2023 1:15 pm CDT

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