2018 Rate Review
Delivering security, comfort and quality of life
Who we are
Superior Water, Light and Power Co. (SWL&P), a wholly owned subsidiary of ALLETE Inc., delivers reliable electricity, natural gas and water to customers in Superior, Wisconsin, and adjacent areas. We have served the city of Superior and surrounding areas in northwestern Wisconsin since 1889 and provide security, comfort and quality of life to 15,000 electric customers, 13,000 natural gas customers and 10,000 water customers. We do not provide sanitary sewer or trash removal services, and we do not receive any income from property taxes.
By purchasing electricity at wholesale prices, we are able to combine reliable service with rates that are among the lowest in Wisconsin and competitive nationally. Having connections to two interstate pipelines also provides for competitive rates and enhanced reliability for our natural gas system. Our state-of-the-art water treatment system draws water from Lake Superior, provides high-quality water to customers and has the capacity to serve large industrial water users.
Why we requested rate adjustments
For our customers, we know there’s no right time for a rate increase. But we think we’re on the right track in building a safe and reliable energy and water future for Superior — and this rate adjustment will support those efforts. We’ve made investments to strengthen the safety and reliability of the energy and water systems, and added new tools for you to manage your energy and water use. Unlike most other businesses, we need regulatory approval to adjust rates, so we’re asking the independent Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) to review our request. Our initial request for $2.4 million per year is likely to be changed by the PSCW after a required audit. Any rate adjustment must be approved by the PSCW—SWL&P cannot adjust its rates without the independent commission’s approval.
The rate adjustment would support upgrades to our delivery systems that will improve safety, reliability and service quality for customers. We need to constantly invest in our delivery systems to maintain and improve reliable service, and the cost of these investments rises as costs for material and labor increase. Some of the investments covered in the proposed rate adjustment are:
- Replacing two miles of 100-year-old water mains under Belknap Street.
- Gas system upgrades, including new pipes with a 300-year lifespan, within areas of Superior to improve safety, efficiency and leak detection
- Replacing switchgear at the Winter Street substation that is 50 years old and has exceeded its useful life. A failure at the substation caused an outage in September 2015 that affected 4,200 customers for five hours.
- A water overflow project at our water treatment plant to protect the safety and quality of our customers’ water.
- Continued installation of Advanced Metering Infrastructure, or smart meters, that allow customers to track their energy and water use and also improve the safety of our systems and allow us to detect outages quickly. All of our electric customers now have these meters, and all water and natural gas customers will have them by the end of 2020.
How would the rate adjustments affect my bill?
The average residential customer would see an increase of $2 per month for electricity, $1 per month for natural gas and $4 per month for water, or $7 per month total. All residential customers would see an expected increase of $5-$14 per month for all three services, depending on their usage levels.
How do customers benefit?
We think of our company as delivering security, comfort and quality of life. That means when we do our job, our customers’ lights are on, their homes are warm and their water is safe all day, every day. The services we deliver are essential to our modern quality of life and contribute to public safety and health. We invest in our water system to prevent problems such as those experienced in other parts of the country, where entire cities could not use tap water due to harmful contaminants. When we upgrade our gas system, such as removing low-pressure zones, we are able to identify and detect leaks more quickly to prevent catastrophic events. All of our investments are aimed at maintaining and improving the level of service and safety our customers have come to expect for the past 129 years.
How can customers offset the rate adjustments?
The easiest way to offset any increase under the rate adjustments is to conserve energy and water. A convenient way to accomplish this is to sign up for MyAccount at the SWL&P website. MyAccount allows customers with AMI meters to track their energy and water use in real time. Customers who do not yet have AMI meters can view their monthly use. Tracking your use can help spot any problems or offer ideas for conservation. For instance, a leaking toilet can cost up to $20 per month, and will show up on MyAccount if you track your water use.
Customers also can request a free Home Energy Assessment through Focus on Energy, a nonprofit organization that partners with Wisconsin utilities to help customers conserve energy. Contact us at 715-394-2200 to schedule your free home energy assessment. Focus on Energy also offers free energy-saving products and other incentives, such as $75 toward qualifying smart thermostats that can save up to $120 annually in heating costs.
If you are having trouble paying your bill, please contact us at 715-394-2200. You may be eligible for home heating and weatherization assistance.
Did the Husky refinery incident affect the rate adjustment
Yes. While our rate adjustment request was largely complete before the April 26, 2018, Husky incident and was largely the result of important infrastructure improvements, the information we have available says that Husky will not be using the same amount of water in 2019 while the refinery is offline, and rates are set on assumed system usage. While the Husky refinery is offline we are obligated to maintain our water system, which must be available to serve the entire system including the expected restart of operations at Husky. We have filed testimony with the PSCW asking for permission to review water rates as soon as Husky comes back online. The Husky event does not have any effect on adjustments to electric or natural gas rates. Husky and all large customers help maximize economies of scale for operating utility systems and help keep costs affordable for all customers.