Wichert: 'We really think MGE should be a leader.'
MGE proposed increasing its flat fees while decreasing rates for the amount of electricity consumed. The company argues this system is a fairer way to pay for the cost of maintaining the grid, while critics say it will discourage conservation and green energy.
Many observers expected the commission to grant the request since it allowed We Energies to do something similar earlier this month.
But for activists, the fight is just beginning. On Tuesday they presented the company with two requests they want posed to shareholders next spring, says Don Wichert, an energy consultant.
The first would ask the company to work towards 25% renewable energy by 2025. The second would ask the company to consider including efforts to be sustainable in directors' compensation.
The company currently rewards MGE directors when the company has high earnings, good customer satisfaction and reliable service -- all areas in which MGE does well, Wichert says.
"As directors, there's nothing that rewards them for doing more on sustainability," he says. "That would include things like trying to get MGE off of coal."
Shareholders who own at least $2,000 worth of stock for a year ahead of the proxy vote can submit questions to publicly traded companies, Wichert says. The activists have six who fit that criteria, including Wichert.
Even if shareholders approve the questions next spring, they are nonbinding, and the board can ignore them. Nevertheless, Wichert says companies hate these sorts of questions and try to find ways to disqualify them.
"Typically they don't want anyone else getting involved in how the company is run," he says.
And Wichert says activists will continue putting pressure on MGE to move toward renewables.
"We want to bring attention to the corporate philosophy of what MGE is really doing versus how they've framed themselves as a green company," he says. "They do do some of that, but not to the extent most of us would like. They're tied to coal pretty heavily."
He adds: "We really think MGE should be a leader on renewable energy."