We Energies closes “Energy Partners” program

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- We Energies has announced it is ending its "Energy Partners" program. The program was voluntary, and We Energies customers could sign up, and receive money off their We Energies bill during the summer months, on the condition that the utility could cut off power to their air conditioning units during peak demand -- for up to a six-hour period.

The program was introduced as a way to conserve energy for We Energies customers.

"There was a concern across the state that we didn't have enough capacity to meet the demand on those really high energy days -- those days when it gets really hot," Citizens Utility Board Executive Director Charlie Higley said.

In a letter sent to customers who have been part of the program, the company announced that incentive program was ending. One of the reasons is because it was only activated once in the past seven years.

"The Public Service Commission agreed it was not a cost-effective way to run this program," Higley said.

The Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin criticized the move -- asking We Energies to evaluate its "interruptible rates" program for commercial and industrial customers, who also benefit with lower rates, in exchange for allowing its utilities to be turned off during high electricity demands.

Higley was referring to its power markets incentives, in which the rules and stipulations differ from energy partners.

"They were getting that annual bill credit with or without the use of the system. All customers were paying for that program," Higley said.

We Energies spokeswoman Cathy Schulze said with the closing of the "Energy Partners" program, the utility will save about half a million dollars, which will benefit the majority of We Energies customers who were not in the program.

We Energies says there were only about 40,000 customers in the program -- out of more than 1.2 million homes, and with upgrades to its power supplies there was no need to keep this around.

And in response to We Energies announcement, "Focus on Energy" also released a statement to help customers conserve and save on their utility bills.

"We Energies customers should visit www.focusonenergy.com to find easy ways of decreasing both their electricity and natural gas bills.  Focus on Energy is Wisconsin utilities’ statewide energy efficiency and renewable resource program.  We team up with utilities across the state and offer a variety of  incentives to Wisconsinites who install cost-effective energy savings measures throughout the year.”