Expert Testimony in Wisconsin Reviewing Plant Fuel Costs for Two Utilities
Synapse provided expert testimony and analysis to support Sierra Club in reviewing Wisconsin Power and Light (WPL) and Madison Gas and Electric’s (MGE) Fuel Cost Plans for 2021. Synapse’s testimonies focused on reviewing the operational practices used by MGE and WPL at the companies' coal-fired power plants at the Columbia Energy Center and Elm Road Generating Station. We also evaluated the plants' recent economic performance and discussed the risks these uneconomic unit commitment practices pose to MGE and WPL’s ratepayers. We found that the companies have not historically used price-based unit commitment process either in practice or in developing their annual fuel cost plans and that the current fuel planning process anticipates and enables uneconomic unit commitment by the companies.
We recommended that the companies be required to model their units operating economically for planning purposes, and to refresh their current plants to reflect this assumption. Further, we recommended that the companies be required to economically commit their units into the market, or otherwise to document their unit commitment decision-making process. Finally, we recommended that the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin make clear to utilities that their unit commitment practices will be subject to prudence reviews in the future reconciliation dockets.