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Energy JUstice

IS A HEALTH ISSUE

Take Action

The Public Service Commission, a part of the Wisconsin Government, is considering public input on We Energies rates until November 14, 2022. It is important to share your story as a health professional and how this impacts your patients or community. 

What can you ask for?

We Energies needs to reduce the proposed increase.  The 13% rate increase is unacceptable -- but so is an 8% or a 6% increase. The PSC could ensure affordable prices by lowering the company's guaranteed profit margin. 

They need to stop doubling-down on fossil fuels and embrace sustainable, affordable clean energy. We Energies claims that the rate increase is going to clean energy projects -- yet they plan to continue to run their coal plants and have pushed for costly gas projects rather than more affordable solutions that benefit health like energy efficiency.

 

The root of the problem is that bills are unaffordable and houses are inefficient. Even bill pay assistance programs do not address the root of the issue. We Energies needs to create a program that targets households with high energy burden and provide energy efficiency and weatherization programs.  This will reduce energy burden, reduce carbon emissions, and save ratepayer money.

Express support for the  Wisconsin Environmental Justice & Infrastructure Initiative which is calling for:

  • Funding to help energy burdened, low-income, and BIPOC ratepayers lower and pay their energy bills

  • Solutions created with the most vulnerable ratepayers

  • A broad stakeholder group to oversee these goals and funding

FAQ

What is happening?

  • Before We Energies can increase how much it charges customers, it must get permission from the Public Service Commission (PSC), a branch of the Wisconsin government. They must explain how much money they 'need' and why. We Energies is currently asking for an increase of 13% for residential customers. The PSC asks the public and experts for input and decides how much to allow the utility to increase rates.

What is the Public Service Commission?

  • Since essential utilities such as electricity, gas, water, and telecommunications, are given monopoly status within their geographic service region in Wisconsin, the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) job is to regulate these services. This regulatory agency consists of three full-time commissioners appointed by the governor in staggered six-year terms and confirmed by the state senate. The PSC is responsible for many critical decisions that relate to health, such as where fossil fuel plants will be constructed, and they require public input to support their decision-making. They make decisions through the “dockets” they decide to consider.

What is energy burden and how is it driven by systemic racism?

  • "The legacy of racist housing policies, and job and income discrimination, contributes to more families of color living in inefficient homes and having higher energy costs than white families, which forces these families to make trade offs between utility payments and other necessities and to navigate even more cumbersome and disenfranchising system hurdles. Meanwhile, energy efficiency improvements to alleviate the cost burdens are largely inaccessible to low-income families, and awareness of programs is often low." - Energy Burden in Milwaukee: Study Reveals Major Disparities & Links to Redlined Areas. 

  • African Americans in the U.S. are more likely to experience an energy burden due to the housing stock available from racial residential segregation (Hernández et al., 2016), which contributes to health inequities.

How is this related to health? 

  • Recent analyses have found that energy burden is a central social determinant of health. It was so influential on premature mortality, self-reported health, and life expectancy, that only race and education had stronger influences (Reames et al., 2021).

  • Higher energy burden is associated with asthma, respiratory issues, and increased mental health impacts (Wells et al., 2015, Brown et al., 2020). 

  • Inefficient heating or cooling systems can lead to thermal discomfort, hypothermia, or heat stress (Chen et al., 2017). Heat risks are increasing as climate change brings more intense heat waves to the Milwaukee area. An improperly heated home doubles the rate of respiratory issues and puts teens at five times the risk for mental health problems (Drehobl & Ross, 2016). It can also increase heart disease, arthritis, rheumatism, and infection rates (Lidell & Morris, 2010). 

  • Electricity shutoffs cause health and safety concerns and can be particularly dangerous for older adults and young children that need powered medical devices or refrigerated medications (Brown et al., 2020). 

  • In cases where energy burdens are too high, households often sacrifice health to pay for energy bills, leading to chronic stress and exacerbated healthcare costs down the road (Hernández et al, 2016). More than 25 million US households report reducing or forgoing food or medicines to pay electricity costs (EIA, 2015).  This situation often referred to as “heat” or “eat” poses high risk of malnutrition for children (Frank et al., 2006).

  • On the other hand, the health benefits of energy efficiency upgrades are well documented and include reduced rates of heavy fever, asthma, headaches, sinusitis, respiratory allergies, and angina (Jacobs et al., 2015). In fact, the latest WAP evaluation showed that the program’s health benefits exceeded energy benefits (Tonn et al., 2015).

How can I learn more? 

I have additional questions, who can I talk to?