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The Electric Wire

The Electric Wire

By Customers First! Coalition
The Electric Wire Podcast is a production of the Customers First! Coalition featuring Wisconsin energy and utilities interviews and news.
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Thinking Outside the Landfill: A Conversation About Solar Panel Recycling
Not only is the energy produced by solar panels clean, but cutting-edge recycling technology makes them fully sustainable as well. On this episode of The Electric Wire, Kristin Gilkes is joined by Chris Stearns, National Sales Director at Cascade Eco Minerals, to discuss solar module recycling and the policies and costs impacting the demand for this process.
July 30, 2021
Ten Powerful Moments on the Electric Wire
We’ve been bringing you the Electric Wire podcast as a way to stay informed on Wisconsin energy and utility news since February of 2020, and we thought it was time to take a look back on some of our favorite moments from the Electric Wire. Matt Spencer from Madison Gas and Electric joins Kristin Gilkes to co-host a countdown of Ten Powerful Moments (and one honorable mention) from the Electric Wire. Themes from these top moments include bringing stakeholders together to tackle big issues in the industry; protecting all utility customers; and visualizing the new energy innovations that are propelling the clean energy transition forward.
June 30, 2021
Hot Take: Community Solar
The latest episode of the Electric Wire is a “hot take” episode, where we’ve conducted four separate mini-interviews, about 5-6 minutes each, to talk about community solar in Wisconsin. Back in 2017, the Customers First! Coalition put together a whitepaper about the community solar projects and models that fit within the regulatory structure here in Wisconsin. In this podcast episode, we’ll follow up on some of those innovative projects mentioned in the whitepaper. Our guests include: Commissioner Ellen Nowak, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (Interview begins at ~2:45) Deb Erwin, Manager of Regulatory Policy, Xcel Energy (11:00) Lynn Thompson, President and CEO, Eau Claire Energy Cooperative (17:50) Cheri Salmon, Manager of New Products and Services, Madison Gas and Electric (23:30) Links mentioned in Episode 2017 CFC Community Solar Whitepaper Electric Wire Podcast Episode: Utility Regulation and Protecting Customers Electric Wire Podcast Episode: EV Road Trip
May 27, 2021
Energy Assistance During the Pandemic
On this episode, our goal is to help listeners better understand how energy assistance is administered, how pandemic-related funding is being distributed, and what resources are available to in-need households as Wisconsin’s moratorium on disconnecting electric customers from service comes to an end on April 15. Our guests include: Barb Klug, Home Energy Plus Bureau Director; Division of Energy, Housing and Community Resources Wisconsin Department of Administration Kristy Nieto, Administrator, Division of Digital Access, Consumer and Environmental Affairs Public Service Commission of Wisconsin You’ll find answers to these questions and more: What energy assistance funding has come from the federal government since the beginning of the pandemic and how is Wisconsin administering programs to distribute this assistance? What is a first step for a customer who is behind on their bill? Who should they reach out to first and how do they know what they are eligible for? What role does the PSC play in helping customers stay on track with paying their bills and settling any disputes with utilities? What are some common questions from legislative offices as they try to connect their constituents with resources? The following resources are mentioned in this episode: Energy Benefits & Eligibility - Home Energy Plus Application 1-800-506-5596 – On-demand energy assistance application and customer care center Public Service Commission Resources Call 1-800-225-7729 to talk to a customer care representative at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin or visit to find information or file a complaint online. More information from the PSC can be found in this press release: PSC Urges Consumers to Seek Assistance before Moratorium on Utility Disconnections End Noted in the podcast: Customers should reach out to their local utility provider first to begin the process of working out a payment plan if they’re at risk of disconnection for non-payment.
April 14, 2021
Regulation, Reliability…and Texas
Widespread power outages and skyrocketing customer bills due to a frigid February freeze in Texas are raising questions about the way the state regulates power providers. We brought in a panel of experts to weigh in on questions about regulation, reliability, and what went wrong in Texas. Our panel: John Carr, VP – Power Supply, Dairyland Power Cooperative Paul Griffin, Executive Director, Energy Fairness Kira Loehr, Partner, Perkins Coie We’ll address the following questions in this roundtable discussion: What is the role energy choice played in the Texas system outages? How can we prevent this type of massive, prolonged power outage from happening here? Are grid updates needed to prepare for more extreme weather events? Was any generation source the clear winner or loser coming out of this situation? Links Referenced “The real problem in Texas: Deregulation,” Opinion Column by Paul Griffin, Utility Dive, “Texas Energy Co-Op Files For Bankruptcy After Storm, High Bill,” NPR, Other Readings “Texas Electric Bills Were $28 Billion Higher Under Deregulation,” Wall Street Journal, “Texas Overcharged $16 Billion for Power During Freeze, Monitor Says” Wall Street Journal, “The $16 Billion in Texas Power Overcharges? Monitor Says Only $3.2 Billion Can Be Undone,” Wall Street Journal, “Texas PUC doubles down on refusal to reprice $16B market 'error' under pressure from leg, governor,” Utility Dive, Other Podcast Episodes The Energy Gang Podcast: “The Texas Grid Failure,” Columbia Energy Exchange: “Making Sense of the Texas Energy Crisis,”
March 12, 2021
Coal Plant Closures and the Clean Energy Transition
With so much breaking energy news, co-hosts Kristin Gilkes (CFC) and Tom Content (CUB) first review recent headlines, including: the announced closure of the coal-fired Columbia Energy Center in Portage, WI; a new solar/storage proposal from WEC and MGE; diversity and equity reporting requirements at the PSCW; recent WI state budget and legislative news; and the devastating electric system failures in Texas. We are joined by a panel to discuss coal plant closures and the clean energy transition from the perspective of several different stakeholders, including Todd Stuart of the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group, Scott Smith of Madison Gas and Electric, and Dan Litchfield of Invenergy. Panel begins at 21:00.
February 23, 2021
Utility Regulation and Protecting Customers
We’re talking utility regulation! We start with a simple question – why are utilities regulated? (Ok, this question technically doesn’t get asked until minute 7:56, but who’s counting?) We also sort through some common terms on this topic, including discussion about deregulation, restructuring, and retail choice. These topics were central to the founding of the Customers First! Coalition over twenty years ago. Our first interview is with Commissioner Ellen Nowak of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. We discuss some basics of utility regulation from a regulator’s perspective, as well as her take on topics like retail choice and performance-based ratemaking. Next, Bill Malcolm of AARP joins to discuss his views on regulation and protecting utility customers. Follow Bill on Twitter @RTOWatchdog. He’s also available to connect on Facebook and LinkedIn. AARP web site: Interview with Commissioner Nowak begins at minute 3:30. Interview with Bill Malcolm begins at minute 35:00. CUB Illinois: Report: Since 2015, IL Customers Have Lost $1 Billion With Alternative Suppliers Link to download referenced 2019 Illinois Commerce Commission report:
January 25, 2021
2020 Year-in-Review Roundtable
What was the energy story of 2020? What about the "shock" of the year? Who's got the next bright idea for 2021? On the latest episode of The Electric Wire podcast, we've got an outstanding roundtable to help review the year of 2020 and look ahead to some brighter days in 2021.  Our roundtable includes: Chris Hubbuch, Reporter, Wisconsin State Journal Carrie Templeton, Chief of Staff, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin Heather Allen, Executive Director, RENEW Wisconsin Matt Spencer, Government Affairs, Madison Gas & Electric Links Mentioned During Podcast: Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund: Annual Renewable Energy Summit Registration Link: Wisconsin State Journal: Xcel Energy proposes microgrids to improve reliability for large customers
December 21, 2020
2020 Election Recap and Government Affairs Roundtable
In this episode of the Electric Wire, we take a look at polling and the 2020 Presidential Election results with pollster Charles Franklin, @pollsandvotes. Later in the podcast, we host a Customers First! Coalition member roundtable with some of the government affairs representatives for CFC members, including Matt Spencer of Madison Gas & Electric, Jennifer Shilling of Dairyland Power Cooperative, Joseph Owen of WPPI Energy, and Rob Richard of Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association. Interview with Franklin begins at 7:10 Government Affairs Roundtable begins at 33:55
November 5, 2020
Building Together
Kristin Gilkes is joined by Marge Anderson, Executive Vice President at Slipstream, to discuss green buildings and the upcoming October Energy webinar series hosted by the Customers First! Coalition and Slipstream. Kathy Kuntz, Acting Director of the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change also joins to discuss the Dane County Climate Action Plan’s recommendations on buildings and more. We discuss measures listeners can take today to make their homes and businesses more energy efficient. Interview with Kathy Kuntz begins at 14:13. Register for October Energy webinars: Information about Oregon, WI School District new net-zero elementary school:
October 2, 2020
Storage Space
Today we begin to unpack energy storage from a customer angle and discuss the first “storage as transmission only asset” project being developed in Wisconsin. First, CFC Executive Director Kristin Gilkes interviews Tom Content, Executive Director of the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), to discuss potential customer benefits from increased use of energy storage and how CUB will evaluate utility storage proposals going forward. Our second interview is with Bob McKee, Strategic Projects Director at American Transmission Company, who gives an overview of the company’s “SATOA” project impetus, timeline, and multi-faceted benefits. Interview start times: Tom Content – 3:29 Bob McKee - 21:10 Links discussed in the podcast: archived coverage of energy storage presentation at the CFC Game Changers Power Breakfast (link will start at ~57:00 mark): Wisconsin Energy Distribution and Technology Innovation Report: MISO Generator Interconnection Queue – Active Projects Map:
August 26, 2020
Shooting the Breeze with WISCEF and DPC
Just in time for #AmericanWindWeek, CFC Executive Director Kristin Gilkes interviews Scott Coenen of the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum regarding the organization’s mission and the status of wind in Wisconsin from that group’s perspective. Brian Rude and Jennifer Shilling of Dairyland Power Cooperative discuss their roles within the organization and on the CFC Board, as well as DPC’s investment in wind energy on behalf of co-op customers.
August 13, 2020
Energy Innovation with Wisconsin Energy Leaders
Public Service Commission of Wisconsin Chairperson Rebecca Valcq and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes join Kristin Gilkes and co-host Bob Stone of the IBEW 2150 to discuss Wisconsin’s carbon reduction goals, the Governor’s Climate Change Task Force, and the appointment of Wisconsin’s newest PSC Commissioner. Interview with Chairperson Valcq begins at 9:30 Interview with Lt. Governor Barnes begins at 27:02 Registration is still open for the April 29, 2020 Power Lunch. As we get closer to the event date, we will evaluate options to determine if we need to either postpone the event or host it online.
March 13, 2020
Electric Vehicle Road Trip!
Customers First! Coalition Executive Director Kristin Gilkes and RENEW Wisconsin’s Jane McCurry co-host this special episode all about electric vehicles (EVs) and EV policies. Gilkes and McCurry share personal and nostalgic experiences as EV drivers and discuss some of the advantages of choosing electric transportation. They also discuss current topics such as battery recycling and mining. Later, they’re joined by a panel of EV policy experts including Corey Singletary, Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin; Debbie Branson, Madison Gas & Electric; and Deb Erwin, Xcel Energy to discuss EV rates and utility issues, including how EVs can ultimately benefit all utility customers. Finally, we have added an extended interview with Deb Erwin from Xcel Energy to delve more deeply into the company’s efforts to study fleet savings that can result from electric vehicle conversion and an EV Roadmap for the City of Eau Claire. Panel Discussion begins at 16:40. Extended Interview with Deb Erwin begins at 1:05:25 APRIL 29, 2020, POWER LUNCH REGISTRATION IS OPEN! Register here:
February 26, 2020
The Rise of Solar!
The Rise of Solar! The first episode of our Energy Innovation Series focuses on solar power in Wisconsin. Heather Allen of RENEW Wisconsin joins to give a lay of the land and share her personal story of getting involved in renewable energy. Jeff Ripp of Alliant Energy discusses Alliant Energy’s recent announcement regarding an investment in 1GW of solar. Rep. Mike Kuglitsch discusses legislation he is working on to aid solar and wind workforce training grants. INTERVIEW START TIMES Heather Allen – 10:30 Jeff Ripp – 35:00 Rep. Kuglitsch - 47:15 LINK TO POWER LUNCH REGISTRATION:
February 12, 2020