Thank you for your email. And I mean that. I want to take a few moments to answer your concerns about recycling.
It looks like the core of your question is really about conservation efforts.
We have always supported conservation efforts by assisting our customers-large and small-in finding ways to use energy more efficiently. As you may know, the way in which conservation programs are administered has changed significantly over the past 15 years (by law).
Conservation in the Past
During the 1980s, demand for electricity was growing quickly and the state utilities along with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin used aggressive conservation programs to delay the need to build additional power plants, which would have resulted in higher electricity prices for consumers. The conservation-related programs of the 1980s that offered rebates, appliance pick-ups and other incentives were very successful in raising consumer awareness about the pay-back benefits of energy efficiency. This is the program that picking up your refridgerator would have fallen into. In fact, Our Smart Money Energy program was recognized among the most successful in the country. This program and others like it helped positively influence the market (both manufacturers and consumers) toward energy-efficient products and helped remove inefficient appliances from our system.
With these market forces at work, the newly established market could sustain itself since both the supply and the demand existed. This approach is used in many industries where an incentive is used to introduce a new product or service. This market approach also created an opportunity for new businesses to get into the energy conservation business with new services and products. This approach to stimulating the market, however, has a point of diminishing returns. Rebates, discounts and appliance turn-ins at some point become more costly to administer than the benefits gained from conservation.
Since then, the market has sustained itself in two ways: (1) consumers, in general, understand the benefits of energy efficiency and make their purchases accordingly--even without financial incentives AND (2) manufacturers, in general, have developed the technology to make appliances that are energy efficient and affordable. The gaps in the level of efficiency and the prices have closed over the years, making financial incentives less necessary from a marketing standpoint.
That's not to say that the role of conservation efforts today isn't important. In fact, last year's energy crisis in California coupled with soaring natural gas prices, has triggered renewed attention throughout the country on the important role of energy efficiency.
Conservation Today - Wisconsin Focus on Energy
Under a 1999 state law, electric utilities were required to collect a Non-taxable Customer Charge beginning in November 2000 from all retail electric customers. The funds that we collect are then transferred to the Department of Administration's Wisconsin Focus On Energy (WFOE) programs. Among other things, WFOE was created as a way to more efficiently fund and administer a single, statewide conservation program rather than individual utilities running independent programs. Because our customers contribute more than 50% of the funding to Wisconsin Focus on Energy, we have a vested interest in ensuring that our customer have access to the benefits. We have employees throughout our company who are working closely with WFOE on issues related to new services for consumers, access to those services and communications.
Consumers can reach the WFOE program office at 1-800-762-7077 or online at www.wifocusonenergy.com.
You may not be aware of the following activities and programs that we continue to offer:
· Our Web site, www.WE-WG.com includes an entire section on Energy Efficiency for consumers. It also has a number of links to other organizations that we consider good sources of consumer information.
· The Web site also includes a section for ordering free
literature on energy conservation.
· We distribute approximately 2,000 pieces of efficiency-related literature each month including our "100 Tips," which has been very popular with customers.
· We offer a Speakers Bureau program on energy conservation at
no charge to customers.
· Our media relations team regularly provides energy efficiency information to the news media via information packets, phone calls, referrals to our Web site and other sources.
· We use our existing sponsorships and the associated radio advertising spots to provide conservation messages during Brewers, Bucks, Waves and Admirals games.
· Our Time-of-Use plan encourages evening and weekend energy use by offering a discounted rate during these periods. Approximately 30,000 customers are enrolled.
· The Energy Partners program is an air conditioning program that pays customers an incentive for allowing us to cycle their air conditioners off and on during high electric demand summer days. We have 25,000 customers in this program.
· We are working on a new energy conservation guide that will be included in January bills. This guide will highlight the conservation activities that will make the biggest difference in overall usage in residential homes.
Power the Future
Conservation efforts help delay the need for additional generation capacity. But at some point-even with aggressive conservation-the demand for electricity begins to outstrip supply. It's been more than 15 years since a new baseload power plant was built in Wisconsin. With electric demand in our state growing by about 3 percent per year, conservation efforts alone will not meet the kind of growth we're seeing.
With our Power the Future program, we'll retire older, less-efficient coal plants and replace them with new state-of-the-art coal-based units to reduce emission and increase combustion efficiency. Combined with stepped-up commitment to renewable fuels, conservation programs and greenhouse gas mitigation projects, the new plants will improve the overall environmental performance of our generating facilities while we ensure a reliable supply of reasonably priced power for consumers.
It's our job to "keep the lights on," and since it takes a number of years to build power plants, making plans now for plant improvements and the construction of new plants is the responsible thing for us to do. This is how we plan for our customers' energy future.
energy for tomorrow program(tm)
Participation in our renewable energy program directly supports the development of new renewable resources that release little or no emissions, provide clean power to run homes and businesses, and help offset the reliance on traditional generating facilities. While we are committed to increasing our use of renewable energy sources-just as we are to conservation-these initiatives don't eliminate the need for new generating facilities.
I hope this information is helpful in clarifying our activities and communicating our commitment. It's a balancing act. We know that not all of our activities are popular and well-received by all customers, but be assured that the business decisions we make are based on responsible, thorough planning. We will continue to look for innovative ways to make it easy for our customers to save energy and save money. Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.