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WEC ENERGY GROUP REPORTS SOLID FIRST-QUARTER RESULTS

WEC Energy Group has reported net income of $510.1 million, or $1.61 per share, for the first quarter of 2021 – up from $452.5 million, or $1.43 per share, from last year’s first quarter.
Consolidated revenues totaled $2.7 billion, up $582.8 million from last year’s first quarter. “Our positive first-quarter results were driven by colder weather, economic recovery in our region and a strong focus on operating excellence,” said Gale Klappa, Executive Chairman. “Our people and our infrastructure were put to the test and performed remarkably during a
bitter cold stretch in February when temperatures in the northern portion of our service area dropped to minus 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Ongoing investments in our energy grid and our diverse fuel mix kept the economy moving and our 4.6
million customers warm and safe.”

WEC ENERGY GROUP SETS ENVIRONMENTAL GOALS

WEC Energy Group has unveiled a series of new and more aggressive environmental goals. The company says it is committing to a sixty percent reduction in carbon emissions at its electric plants by 2025, relative to 2005 levels, and an eighty percent reduction by 2030. That’s up from its previous goal of seventy percent by 2030, with the utility last year having pledged to become net carbon neutral by 2050.
The company says it plans to reach those targets in part through a $16 billion-plus capital investment plan. The plan calls for billions in investments in renewable energy projects.

XCEL TO LAUNCH INNOVATIVE NEW PROGRAM TO SUPPORT MICROGRIDS

Xcel Energy has received approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to begin offering the state’s first program to support microgrids and other resiliency projects for large business customers and governmental entities who require a higher than standard service reliability.
The Resiliency as a Service Program provides support through Xcel Energy ownership, installation, operation and maintenance of resiliency assets such as battery storage, renewable energy arrays and back-up generators at a customer’s location. The program allows customers to choose resiliency options that best meet their needs and work with Xcel Energy and its contractors to design, construct and maintain their system.
“We have had discussions with many different customers who, for various reasons, have significant resiliency needs, and in many cases, those needs are coupled with sustainability goals as well,” said Mark Stoering, president, Xcel Energy-Wisconsin.

WUI LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

By James Buchen, WUI Executive Director

The Wisconsin Legislature began it’s 2021- 22 session in January and is currently in the middle of deliberations on the State Budget. The Budget, as introduced by Governor Evers in February, contains a number of energy related provisions that may be adverse to utility shareholder interests. Fortunately, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has voted to remove these provisions and they are unlikely to be included in the final version of the Budget which is expected to pass sometime in late June. 

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MGE, ALLIANT SEEK ELECTRICITY RATE HIKES FOR 2022

Madison Gas and Electric and Alliant Energy have each filed applications asking regulators to approve electric and gas rate hikes for 2022. These would be the first increases in five years. MGE is requesting a 5.9 percent increase for its electricity revenue, which the company proposes to offset with excess collections that resulted from lower than expected fuel costs in 2020. If approved, that would add about $4.91 a month to the typical residential bill, according to MGE’s estimates.
The company is also seeking annual increases of about three percent and 1.7 percent for natural gas rates in 2022 and 2023,which the company says would cost residential consumers an additional $17.75 next year and $8.30 in 2023.
MGE says the rate increase is needed to begin paying off new investments in renewable energy resources, including the
company’s one-third share of the $400 million Badger Hollow solar farm under construction in Iowa County. Alliant Energy
notified regulators Wednesday that it has agreed with consumer and environmental advocates on elements of a rate case that include a 6.2 percent increase to electricity revenues and an 8.4 percent increase in gas revenue.

ANOTHER CARDINAL-HICKORY LAWSUIT

The proposed high-voltage power line between northern Iowa and southwestern Wisconsin faces yet another legal challenge.
Environmental groups have sued the Army Corps of Engineers in federal court over its permit allowing utilities to place towers in the Mississippi River for the $492 million project known as Cardinal-Hickory Creek. The National Wildlife Refuge Association, Driftless Area Land Conservancy and three other organizations say the agency violated federal environmental law by failing to take a “hard look” at the environmental consequences of the 101-mile line on public waters and lands, wildlife, recreation and property values.
“The Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project is vital to the future of our region’s renewable energy and clean energy economy,” the utilities said.

STATE RECEIVES OVER $21 MILLION TO HELP PAY OVERDUE UTILITY BILLS

Over $21 million in federal funding will be used to assist in paying overdue utility bills in Wisconsin. The money will be used to help over 36,000 Wisconsin utility customers pay their overdue utility bills. Money for the initiative comes from the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and is distributed through the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program.
Wisconsin Governor Evers said that it has been a tough year for people to make ends meet, but is hopeful that this will help Wisconsin residents with their utility bills. Companies are hopeful that additional federal funds will be made available in the future.

ALLIANT ENERGY SUBMITS “NOTICE OF INTENT TO SETTLE”

Alliant Energy has notified the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin of its intent to enter into a settlement agreement regarding electric and natural gas rates in Wisconsin for 2022 and 2023. Alliant Energy has a settlement in principle with several Wisconsin-based stakeholder organizations, including the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group (WIEG) and Sierra Club, which further manages customer costs and enables a thoughtful transition to clean energy.
During the two years covered by the settlement in principle, Alliant Energy anticipates placing nearly 1,100 megawatts of new solar generation into service in Wisconsin. The company’s utility-scale solar plans are currently under review by the PSCW. The settlement in principle further aligns rate increases in Wisconsin with customer cost savings, particularly related to retiring the Edgewater 5 coal facility. The agreement also reflects the company’s continued operation and maintenance cost management practices.

WE ENERGIES AND WISCONSIN PUBLIC SERVICE, IN PARTNERSHIP WITH MGE, ANNOUNCE STATE’S LARGEST RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECT

We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service, the largest utilities in WEC Energy Group, in partnership with Madison Gas and Electric (MGE), are proposing to purchase the Koshkonong Solar Energy Center, a planned 465-megawatt (MW) solar and battery storage project in south-central Wisconsin. If approved, the project would be the largest renewable energy project in the state.

The Koshkonong Solar Energy Center would feature 300 MW of solar generation and 165 MW of battery storage, which can store solar-generated power and provide customers with “sunshine after sunset.” The project is planned to be built in Dane County, southeast of Madison. The total investment is expected to be $649 million.

This is the third large-scale solar and battery project announced in 2021 by We Energies, WPS and MGE. Earlier this year, the companies announced plans for the 325-MW Darien Solar Energy Center and 310-MW Paris Solar-Battery Park.
“The Koshkonong project is another key component in our effort to build a sustainable future and ensure electric reliability in the region,” said Tom Metcalfe, president — We Energies and WPS. “We saw this winter in Texas and other states the dangerous results when people are without heat and power. Our focus on investing in affordable, reliable and clean energy means customers will have the energy they need when they need it.”

We Energies and WPS would own ninety percent of the project. Madison Gas and Electric would own the other ten percent, comprised of 30 MW of solar energy and 16.5 MW of battery storage, from the facility located in the Towns of Christiana and Deerfield in Dane County.

The project is being developed by Invenergy. If approved, construction is expected to begin in late 2022 with commercial operation in 2024.

ALLIANT ENERGY ANNOUNCES FIRST-QUARTER RESULTS

Alliant Energy has announced U.S. generally accepted accounting principles and non-GAAP consolidated unaudited earnings per share (EPS) for the three months ended March 31 as follows:
“We had a solid start to the year with more than twenty-five percent of our 2021 guidance midpoint coming in the first quarter, and we are reaffirming our 2021 guidance range of $2.50 to $2.64,” according to John Larsen, Alliant Energy Chair, President and CEO. “We are also excited to have achieved the first 675 megawatts of our nearly 1,100
megawatt proposed solar expansion in Wisconsin.”

ALLIANT ENERGY ANNOUNCES SIX MORE SOLAR PROJECTS

Alliant Energy has announced plans for six solar projects totaling 414 megawatts as part of its move to add 1,000 megawatts of solar power in Wisconsin by 2023. The six projects — projected to cost $515 million — would be in Dodge, Grant, Green, Rock and Waushara counties.

The projects, which will require approval by the Public Service Commission, are in addition to six solar projects totaling 675 megawatts that Alliant announced in May of 2020. Those projects are in Grant, Jefferson, Richland, Rock, Sheboygan and Wood counties.

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STATE REGULATORS APPROVE UTILITIES’ PLANS FOR MANAGING PAST-DUE BILLS

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has accepted utilities’ plans for managing the amount of money customers owe on unpaid utility bills as many people have fallen behind due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the PSC issued an order in March that barred utilities from disconnecting service due to nonpayment during the COVID-19 crisis. Regulators decided to end the year-long moratorium on utility shutoffs beginning April 15, 2021.

As of February, more than 93,000 residential customers met the threshold for disconnection due to unpaid bills along with roughly 4,800 business customers. By the end of last year, utilities had seen customers’ past-due balances grow to at least $309 million — an increase of fifty-eight percent from the year before.

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LEADERSHIP CHANGE AT ALLIANT SUBSIDIARY TRAVERO

Travero, the Iowa based logistics solutions subsidiary of Alliant Energy and parent company of CRANDIC Rail, has announced a transition in executive leadership. Kevin Burke has retired as President of Travero after 40 years with the company. Lisha Coffey has become the new the president after most recently serving as the company’s Chief Operating Officer.

NEW LAW INCREASES FUNDING FOR THE CITIZENS UTILITY BOARD

A new law signed by Gov. Tony Evers provides for additional funding for the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), which often battles with utilities over rate cases. The changes will allow the PSC to authorize up to $900,000 a year to the CUB with money coming from Wisconsin’s investor-owned utilities. It also revises a 2017 law that encouraged utility settlements in rate cases but created a timing mismatch from when CUB worked on cases and when it could request funding.

WEC ENERGY GROUP UTILITIES WON’T SEEK 2022 RATE INCREASE

WEC Energy Group has announced its utility subsidiaries will not seek approval from state regulators for potential increases to electric, natural gas and steam rates that would have gone into effect January 1. The utilities, which include Wisconsin Electric, Wisconsin Public Service and Wisconsin Gas, would have sought rate increases of four percent to six
percent to recover more than $300 million in revenue deficiencies.

Instead, the utilities are seeking approval from the Public Service Commission to apply certain balances from transmission credits, earnings sharing and cost escrow to cover a portion of the revenue deficiency. Management at the utilities would then be responsible for covering half to two-thirds of the revenue deficiency by finding efficiencies and cost reductions.

MGE LOOKS TO PURCHASE PART OF GRANT COUNTY WIND FARM

Madison Gas and Electric Company is seeking approval to buy part of a Grant County windfarm that would provide enough clean energy to power 4,000 of its households. MGE and the Wisconsin Public Service have announced their intention to ask the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to allow them to purchase the Red Barn Wind Farm. If the proposal is approved, MGE would own 9.1 megawatts of the 92-megawatt wind farm that will be built in the Towns of Wingville and Clifton in Grant County. WPS would own 82.5 megawatts of the 12,000 acre property.
The company said the Red Barn Wind Farm is another opportunity for MGE to invest further in cost-effective, clean energy as it moves toward carbon reductions of at least sixty-five percent by 2030 and a goal of net-zero carbon by 2050. MGE explained the purchasing of the wind farm would help MGE meet energy and capacity needs as it moves away from coal-fired electricity. The company plans to retire the Columbia Energy Center in Portage by the end of 2024.

WE ENERGIES AND WISCONSIN PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCE ANOTHER LARGE-SCALE RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECT

We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service, subsidiaries of WEC Energy Group are advancing plans for a new 325-megawatt solar and battery storage project. 
The Darien Solar Energy Center is the company’s second proposed large-scale solar and battery project announced this year. If approved, the $446 million Darien Solar Energy Center would feature 250 MW of solar generation, which is equal to powering 75,000 homes, and 75 MW of battery storage, which can store solar-generated power and provide customers with “sunshine after sunset.” The project is planned to be built in Rock and Walworth counties, Wisconsin. 
Last month, the companies announced plans for the 310-MW Paris Solar-Battery Park. If approved, the $426 million Paris project will be built in Kenosha County, Wisconsin.

GOVERNOR EVERS RE-APPOINTS TWO REGULATORS

Governor Tony Evers has reappointed two Wisconsin utility regulators. Evers appointed Rebecca Valcq to a second two-year term as chair of the Public Service Commission and Tyler Huebner to a six year term as commissioner. Valcq was appointed to the commission in 2019. Her term expires in 2025. Huebner was appointed last year to serve out the term of former Commissioner Mike Huebsch, who stepped down in February 2020 with one year left on his term.

Commissioner Ellen Nowak was appointed in January 2019 for a second time by former Governor Scott Walker to complete the term of former Chairman Lon Roberts. Her term expires in 2023.

UTILITIES SEEK $19.2M IN POLLUTION CONTROL FOR COLUMBIA COAL PLANT SET TO CLOSE BY 2025

The owners of the Columbia Energy Center are proposing to spend nineteen million dollars to prevent groundwater contamination as they move to close the coal-fired power plant in the next four years. Alliant Energy, the majority owner, had announced earlier that it would retire the plant’s two units in 2023 and 2024, saying it would be more cost effective than keeping the 45-year-old plant running. But federal regulations require a new coal ash handling system designed to prevent toxic chemicals from leaching into groundwater, so the plant’s owners are asking regulators to approve a temporary solution to comply with the law and keep the plant running until they can replace it with clean energy.

XCEL ENERGY SETS ANOTHER SINGLE-YEAR RECORD IN CARBON REDUCTION

For the second year in a row, Xcel Energy has hit a significant milestone in its quest to deliver 100 percent carbon-free electricity to customers by 2050. The company broke its own record for a single-year drop in emissions in 2020, cutting carbon emissions company-wide by approximately six million tons, a 12 percent reduction over 2019 levels. That’s equivalent to taking nearly 1.2 million cars off the road for a year. In 2019, Xcel Energy achieved a 10 percent reduction over the previous year.
Since 2005, the company has reduced carbon emissions by fifty-one percent as it leads the nation’s clean energy transition. Xcel Energy’s 2020 carbon reductions outpaced the industry, which is ahead of any other part of the economy. At the end of 2020, it is estimated the U.S. electric power sector had reduced carbon emissions just under 40 percent from 2005 levels, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“We’re making tremendous progress towards delivering on our clean energy goals,” according to Ben Fowke, Chairman and CEO of Xcel Energy. “Even after factoring in the effect of the global pandemic on our operations, we are well on our way to achieving our goal of reducing carbon emissions 80 percent by 2030 and are more than halfway to delivering 100 percent carbon-free electricity to our customers, all while keeping their service reliable and energy bills low.”
Several factors contributed to the 2020 carbon reduction results. Xcel Energy continued to significantly increase wind generation on its system, becoming one of the first energy providers in the United States to reach 10,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity online for customers in the states it serves.
The company added more than 800 megawatts of new wind projects in late 2019, in addition to bringing nearly 2,200 megawatts of new wind projects online in 2020. By the end of 2021, Xcel Energy estimates that approximately thirty-five percent of its energy will be from wind. Through the company’s wind expansion, it has delivered approximately $430 million in fuel savings to its customers from 2017 to 2020.