New Energy for an Old Coal Plant: Inside the Beloit College Powerhouse with Dan Schooff

Madison, WI – Is there a second life for retired power plants? For the latest episode of the Electric Wire podcast, we joined Dan Schooff, currently the Chief of Staff and Secretary at Beloit College, and a former Beloit-area legislator and WI Department of Administration Secretary, to tour the Beloit College Powerhouse on the banks of the Rock River to see the transformation that has taken place there.

The Beloit College Powerhouse was originally a coal plant built in the early 1900’s, and was recently reimagined as a student center for the college. Dan led the efforts on this massive undertaking, and in our interview, he shares more about preserving and restoring the historic power plant, and the core mission of sustainability that drove efforts to use geothermal heating and cooling on this award-winning structure.

Listen to the Electric Wire, Episode 18, “New Energy for an Old Coal Plant: Beloit College Powerhouse Tour and Interview with Dan Schooff” here:


New Podcast Episode: Navigating the Roadmap to Zero Carbon Docket

Madison, WI – The latest episode of the Electric Wire podcast features an interview with Joe Fontaine, the case coordinator for the Public Service of Wisconsin’s current open docket on the Roadmap to Zero Carbon (5-EI-158). Joe helps navigate the Commission’s recent order in this docket, and we discuss upcoming items relating to Performance Based Regulation (PBR), the Focus on Energy Quad Planning Process, utility resource planning, and consumer affordability.

Listen to the Electric Wire, Episode 17, “Navigating the Roadmap to Zero Carbon with Joe Fontaine,” wherever you listen to podcasts, or on our YouTube channel, here:

Links mentioned in episode:

Link to Docket 5-EI-158:

‘This is starting on the right path’: Hawaii sees early successes with performance-based regulation (July 29, 2021)


New Podcast Episode: A Lucid EV Conversation with Daniel Witt

Madison, WI – On the latest episode of The Electric Wire podcast, Daniel Witt, Head of State and Local Public Policy at Lucid Motors, joins to discuss more about Lucid Motors, the benefits of electric vehicles, EV battery reuse and recycling, making supply chains local, and policies impacting the electric vehicle industry.

Listen to the Electric Wire, Episode 16, “A Lucid Conversation with Daniel Witt,” wherever you listen to podcasts, or on our YouTube channel, here:

New Podcast Episode: Thinking Outside the Landfill: Solar Panel Recycling

Madison, WI – Not only is the energy produced by solar panels clean, but cutting-edge recycling technology makes them fully sustainable as well.

On the latest episode of The Electric Wire podcast, host and Executive Director of the Customers First! Coalition, 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.

Listen to the Electric Wire, Episode 15, “Thinking Outside the Landfill: A Conversation About Solar Panel Recycling,” wherever you listen to podcasts, or on our YouTube channel, here:


Madison, WI – The Electric Wire podcast, a production of the Customers First! Coalition, debuted in February 2020 as a way to keep listeners informed on Wisconsin energy and utility issues, and we thought it was time to take a look back on some of our favorite moments from the past year and a half of the Electric Wire!

Matt Spencer, Government Affairs Manager, Madison Gas and Electric, joins Kristin Gilkes, Executive Director, Customers First! Coalition, 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.

Listen to the Electric Wire, Episode 14 -Ten Powerful Moments on the Electric Wire, wherever you listen to podcasts, or on YouTube here:

New Podcast Episode: Hot Take: Community Solar

Madison, WI – The latest episode of the Electric Wire podcast 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

New Podcast Episode: Energy Assistance During the Pandemic

Madison, WI – The latest episode of the Electric Wire Podcast will 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 for non-payment comes to an end on April 15. The Electric Wire Podcast is a production of the Customers First! Coalition, an organization dedicated to preserving Wisconsin’s affordable and reliable electricity.

This episode’s 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

The episode addresses the following questions:

  • 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 podcast also includes helpful resources for connecting in-need customers with bill-payment assistance as the disconnection moratorium for non-payment comes to an end.

Listen to the full episode by downloading or subscribing to the Electric Wire on all podcast channels, or listen at the Customers First! Coalition YouTube channel, here:

New Podcast Episode: Regulation, Reliability…and Texas

Madison, WI – 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 includes:

  • John Carr, Vice President – Power Supply, Dairyland Power Cooperative
  • Paul Griffin, Executive Director, Energy Fairness
  • Kira Loehr, Partner, Perkins Coie

Listen to The Electric Wire, Episode 11, “Regulation, Reliability…and Texas” wherever you listen to podcasts, or on our You Tube channel, here: 

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 in Podcast

“The real problem in Texas: Deregulation,” Opinion Column by Paul Griffin, Utility Dive, February 24, 2021

“Texas Energy Co-Op Files For Bankruptcy After Storm, High Bill,” NPR, March 1, 2021

Other Relevant Reading

“Texas Electric Bills Were $28 Billion Higher Under Deregulation,” Wall Street Journal, Feb. 24, 2021

“Texas Overcharged $16 Billion for Power During Freeze, Monitor Says” Wall Street Journal, March 4, 2021

“The $16 Billion in Texas Power Overcharges? Monitor Says Only $3.2 Billion Can Be Undone,” Wall Street Journal, March 11, 2021

“Texas PUC doubles down on refusal to reprice $16B market ‘error’ under pressure from leg, governor,” Utility Dive, March 12, 2021


Other Podcast Episodes Relating to this Topic

The Energy Gang Podcast: “The Texas Grid Failure,” Feb. 24, 2021

Columbia Energy Exchange: “Making Sense of the Texas Energy Crisis,” Feb. 22, 2021

Press Release: CFC Applauds Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance Program Announcement

MADISON – Earlier today, Governor Tony Evers announced the Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which would provide $322 million in funding to help support Wisconsinites who have experienced income loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Customers First! Coalition applauds this announcement and has been supportive of the funding since it was being considered by Congress late last year.

“Providing relief for utility arrears is an important step towards helping electric customers keep up with their bills during the pandemic and ensuring energy providers can continue to provide the safe and reliable power that is needed more than ever,” according to Kristin Gilkes, Executive Director of the Customers First! Coalition.

Through the program, rental and utility assistance payments are made directly to the landlord or utility provider on behalf of the tenant. The DOA will partner with Wisconsin Community Action agencies and Energy Services, Inc. to accept applications and distribute rental and utility assistance.

In a typical year, LIHEAP, the Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program, which is also funded by the federal government and implemented by the states, serves only a fraction of the households eligible for assistance. Additional energy assistance funding for in-need households due to COVID-19 is critical to both to help customers and ensure utilities can continue to fund operations while continuing to provide power, which currently cannot be disconnected due to non-payment because of the annual winter disconnection moratorium.

The Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance Program is funded by the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program and administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury. More details about the Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance Program are available here.

The Customers First! Coalition is an alliance of customer, business, labor, and environmental organizations; municipal and cooperative electric utilities; and an investor-owned utility.  The Coalition has worked together for more than two decades to promote public policies that preserve Wisconsin’s affordable and reliable electricity. 


Press Release: New Podcast Episode Features Discussion on Coal Plant Closures and the Clean Energy Transition

MADISON, Wis. – Recent coal plant closures and the utility industry’s transition to cleaner energy sources are the topics of a new podcast episode released by the Customers First! Coalition, a Madison-based organization with the goal of safeguarding affordable and reliable electricity for all Wisconsin electric customers.

The tenth episode of The Electric Wire podcast features a panel to discuss coal plant closures and the clean energy transition from the perspective of several different stakeholders, including Tom Content, Executive Director, Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin; Todd Stuart, Executive Director, Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group; Scott Smith, Assistant Vice President – Business and Regulatory Strategy, Madison Gas and Electric; and, Dan Litchfield, Renewable Energy Project Developer, Invenergy.

Listen by subscribing to The Electric Wire wherever you get your podcasts, or at the Customers First! Coalition You Tube channel here:

The Electric Wire podcast is a production of the Customers First! Coalition.