The Southeast Wisconsin Solar Group Buy (SWSGB) recorded a spectacularly successful 2021 season by signing up enough new customers to create an additional 50 kilowatts of solar-generated electricity in our region. Yet, a supply chain issue coupled with an antiquated, self-serving policy of We Energies threatens to snatch that success away.
Simply, if you want a solar array for your home, business or non-profit, We Energies will not allow it to be turned on, and it appears they will not allow it anytime soon.
These solar projects cannot be built, and subsequently turned on, due to the unavailability of a multi-meter socket. We Energies requires that nearly all solar arrays utilize two meters; one to measure energy used, and another to measure production of the solar array. This design requirement is antiquated at best. Nearly all Utilities in the United States have upgraded their requirements to allow for a far simpler, less costly bi-directional, single meter, which monitors both usage and renewable production.
In the best of times, multi-meter sockets are hard to come by due to low supply and demand. Because of worldwide supply chain issues, and the fact that most regions of the country have more updated equipment, dual-meter pedestals are not in high demand. Today, supplies of multi-meter sockets are nonexistent. By this antiquated, isolated requirement, We Energies has once again chosen to delay or kill renewable energy projects. From their attempts to charge renewable customers higher fixed costs, to the on-going lawsuit preventing third party financing in Wisconsin, to today’s antiquated equipment requirement, it is not the first time we have experienced this phenomenon. On the part of We Energies, it is an old, tired and obsolete strategy, delaying the inevitable.
How does this impact the future of solar in Southeastern Wisconsin?
Simply, this means that SWSGB’s newest customers cannot get their solar systems installed. For 20 months, our installation contractor, Eagle Point Solar, has been unable to acquire the pedestals despite its best efforts. Those of us who have worked so hard to bring more solar to our neighbors and neighborhoods are having that hard work stymied by a logjam over a small piece of equipment, a logjam that We Energies could remove.
The utility has made clear its inclination to slow-walk toward renewable energy sources as well as customer-owned generation. From shutting down polluting, coal-fired power plants to interconnecting solar customers, to the current fight over third-party solar, We Energies has demonstrated that it won’t cooperate unless we insist the company change its practices. Now we are hung up on another similar issue; the dual-meter pedestal.
SWSGB is a joint initiative of Greening Greater Racine and the Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps. As a non-profit, eco-justice-centered organization, we demand that We Energies be proactive in solving this problem by:
- Working with Eagle Point Solar and all other solar installers in the utility’s service area to find a workaround solution until dual-meter pedestals are available readily
- Leveraging the utility’s considerable resources to develop or find a suitable replacement piece of equipment
- Compensating customers (if the bottleneck is not removed soon) who, through no fault of their own, are being prevented from taking steps toward renewable energy – production
Furthermore, It must be noted that We Energies, the very company that holds the reins on solar installation in this market, is itself trying to enter the solar-installation business. The appearance of a conflict of interest is evident.
We Energies officials likely will assign blame solely on the supply chain issue, stating that it is the installer’s responsibility to acquire necessary equipment. But, we know better.
We at Southeast Wisconsin Solar Group Buy call on We Energies to proactively eliminate this equipment requirement by working with solar installers in the region to find a short-term solution, which allows today’s private sector solar projects to immediately move forward. Furthermore, we call on We Energies to upgrade their system to eliminate multi-meter requirements for the long term. The demand for solar in free market minded customers, businesses and non-profits is depending on We Energies to eliminate their active and passive efforts to prevent customer owned solar generation.
Because We Energies has a direct hand in drafting regulations governing its industry, and enjoys monopoly status in our energy market, the company bears the most responsibility to fix this issue quickly. Let’s push them to work with us so we can get back to adding more customer-owned solar to Southeastern Wisconsin. We Energies, please do what other utilities have already done, and update your antiquated multi-socket equipment requirements.
For any questions or concerns you can reach Brian Gleichauf at (414) 306-0486.