Season 4 • Episode 11

Voice of the People


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About Episode 11: Voice of the People

In a time when corporate spending is protected as free speech, each of us must wonder how our voices will be heard. Utility companies have deep pockets, and their lobbyists are a fixture at state capitol buildings. Big businesses have big energy budgets and their associations are adept at making their issues a priority. And both of these industry sectors work together to create advocacy groups to advance common interests. So, what about residential energy customers? What about small businesses? Our resources pale in comparison. How are our voices heard and how are our concerns addressed?  

Luckily, for most residential and small business ratepayers in the Midwest, we are represented by a state Citizens Utility Board (CUB). These non-profit groups work tirelessly to make sure that our needs are represented at public utility commission and legislative hearings. For decades they have taken a hardnosed approach at keeping electricity costs low while ensuring that expenses aren’t shifted to the electric bills of homes and small businesses. 

In the context of the energy transition, CUBs advocacy role is critically important if we want an energy system that best serves people. We discuss the energy transition and the benefits of increased citizen involvement with Tom Content, long-time journalist and Executive Director of the Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin. 

About Out Guest: Tom Content

Tom is the Executive Director of the Citizens Utility Board. He joined CUB in 2017 after working for more than 30 years as a journalist. He became interested in energy and what it costs households while sitting in the back seat, waiting for what seemed like forever, during the gas lines of the ‘70s. After graduating from Boston University’s College of Communication Tom worked at newspapers in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania before moving to Wisconsin. He reported on utilities and worked as business editor at the Green Bay-Press Gazette in the 1990s and then moved to Milwaukee, where he covered energy, utilities and sustainable business for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. His reporting on energy and climate change won the National Press Club’s Stokes Award for Energy Writing in 2007.  

Episode Resources:

We need people from across the state to get involved. And because it’s your energy future, …it’s all of our energy future. And if we don’t get involved, it’ll be built for us and it’ll focus on the supply side like we’ve been talking about almost way too exclusively. We need the public to say to demand energy efficiency.

– Tom Content, Executive Director, Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin

0:20 – Big business energy spending vs residential ratepayers 

1:17 – The role of a Citizens Utility Board 

4:04 – The energy transition’s origins 

8:41 – Decisions surrounding utility rates of return 

11:13 – Importance of CUB and Energy Democracy 

13:35 – CUB funding and activity 

18:11 – Evolving energy issues and solar PV 

20:45 – Energy poverty issues 

28:20 – Impact of recent federal legislation 

33:34 – Coordination recommendations to leverage federal funds 

39:11 – “Magic wand” solutions 

43:21 – Building a movement 

Rise Up Podcast Live Event!

    Join Nick Hylla, MREA Executive Director & Rise Up Podcast host, for Rise Up Live Events and a live panel during The Energy Fair! Hear from the guests of Season 4 throughout the weekend followed by a Q&A session on Sunday.  

    Catch Tom Content, “Putting Consumers First in the Energy Transition”

    • 4 pm. Saturday, June 24th in the Special Events Tent


    Address: 7558 Deer Rd. Custer, WI 54423
    Phone: (715)-592-6595

    The Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) is a nonprofit organization with the mission to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable living through education and demonstration.