We Energies Gas Outage Shows Danger of Utility’s Climate Change Obstruction

For Immediate Release December 24, 2022
Contact: Robert Kraig (414) 322-5324, [email protected]

Milwaukee: Last night, We Energies suffered a 30% disruption in their natural gas supply chain, risking a “significant natural gas outage.” The potential risk during the coldest storm in years was so significant that customers were asked to turn their thermostats down to 62 degrees to avert an outage that could have left homes without power, and Governor Evers had to be briefed late at night about the potential public safety emergency.

While We Energies has framed this is an event beyond their control, a 30% disruption in a pipeline by an interstate gas supplier, it is also the result of the utility monopolies’ deliberate policy of blocking access to easy financing of home energy weatherization and rooftop solar, which would dramatically reduce the demand for electricity, making the system more resilient to supply disruptions.

Many large utilities offer on-bill financing which allows customers to pay for energy conservation upgrades and rooftop solar on their bills with no need to pay out of pocket or secure a bank loan. The savings are so great, their utility bills still go down. But We Energies has blocked these measures in Milwaukee, putting the energy reduction measures out of the reach of any homeowners without significant assets. They have also blocked the city from creating community solar which would also lower demand for natural gas and coal, making the energy system more resilient during fossil fuel supply disruptions.

Larger scale weatherization of homes and rooftop solar are also needed to meet the greenhouse gas reduction targets in order to prevent runaway climate change. Home energy use is over 30% of greenhouse gas emissions in Milwaukee, according to an analysis conducted by the City. But We Energies is trying to squeeze out profits from its existing fossil fuel infrastructure, while slowly building a needlessly centralized renewable energy system that it can profit from and control. This is why it is using its enormous power to undermine rooftop solar, residential and business energy efficiency measures, and local governments seeking to build their own solar power.

Due in part to We Energy’s lobbying and obstruction, Wisconsin trails most other states in the critically important renewable energy transition, ranking 36th and trailing all our immediate neighbors. A 2022 study found that the resistance of the largest utility in a state has a controlling influence over a state’s climate policy.

We Energies’ climate policies are among the worst in the U.S. According to an Influence Map Study (April, 2022) We Energies is the 4th worst large utility in the nation in resisting a climate transition. A Sierra Club report (October 2022) gave We Energies a D grade for its renewable energy transition. Despite its glossy “green-washed” public relations, We Energies is only 11% of the way in its necessary renewable energy conversion, and continues to operate on 73% dirty fossil fuels.

“The gas outage threat last night further reveals that We Energies is more interested in its windfall profits than public safety,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Last night’s emergency was a direct result of We Energies’ business model.  The utility monopoly prioritizes profits and its monopoly status over preventing a runaway climate change or protecting basic public safety during weather emergencies.”

Also in the news, We Energies’ racially discriminatory pricing system is under fire. Read about it here.


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