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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.

GALE KLAPPA AGREES TO STAY AT WEC ENERGY GROUP INTO 2024

Gale Klappa has agreed to stay on as executive chairman of Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group until May 2024.

XCEL ENERGY PLANS LARGEST SOLAR PROJECT IN WESTERN WISCONSIN

Xcel Energy’s clean energy transition has taken another significant step forward with a recent agreement with Western Mustang Solar, LLC to construct a 74-megawatt solar array to be located on privately owned land in Pierce County, Wisconsin. When completed, it will be owned and operated by Xcel Energy and be the largest solar facility in western Wisconsin.
Xcel Energy currently has more than 760 megawatts of large-scale, universal solar capacity on its system and was the first major utility in the nation to announce a vision to deliver carbon-free electricity to all customers by 2050.
Ranger Power LLC, a utility-scale solar development company, is developing the project on behalf of Western Mustang Solar, LLC. Pierce County approved local permits in August that will be needed to build the project on nearly 1,100 acres of land in the town of Gilman in the northeastern part of the county. Once built, the project is expected to generate nearly $300,000 a year in shared revenue payments for Pierce County and the town of Gilman.

WE ENERGIES WILL RETIRE ITS OLDEST OAK CREEK POWER PLANT BY 2024

We Energies will retire the oldest part of its coal-fired power plant complex in Oak Creek in 2023 and 2024 as its parent company shifts to more efficient power generation, including renewables, as part of its largest-ever capital projects outlay of $16 billion. The retirements will not include the Elm Road Generating Station in Oak Creek, which was part of the $7 billion Power the Future initiative completed a decade ago.

XCEL ENERGY THIRD QUARTER 2020 EARNINGS REPORT

Xcel Energy has achieved strong third quarter results despite the ongoing pandemic and has launched important new initiatives to support customers, employees and communities through these challenging times. As a result, it is narrowing its 2020 earnings guidance to $2.75 to $2.81 per share. In addition, it is initiating 2021 earnings guidance of $2.90 to $3.00 per share. Over the next five years, the company plans to invest $22.6 billion in base capital. It also has proposed to invest an incremental $1.4 billion related to requests from Minnesota to help address the economic impacts of COVID-19. The proposal, which includes grid investment, solar facilities and modernizing aging wind farms, would create 5,000 jobs and expand the company’s renewable portfolio, all while keeping customer bills low. It also outlines a 10-year vision to power 1.5 million electric vehicles, saving customers $1 billion on fueling costs and cutting carbon emissions by nearly 5 million tons annually by 2030.

XCEL ENERGY DECLARES DIVIDEND ON COMMON STOCK

The Board of Directors of Xcel Energy has declared a quarterly dividend on its common stock of 43 cents per share. The dividends are payable January 20, 2021, to shareholders of record on December 23, 2020.

WEC ENERGY GROUP TO INCREASE DIVIDEND BY 7.1 PERCENT

The Board of Directors of WEC Energy Group has announced it will increase the company’s common stock to 67.75 cents per share in the first quarter of 2021. This would represent an increase of 4.5 cents per share. The dividend, which would be equivalent to an annual rate of $2.71 per share, would be payable March 1, 2021, to stockholders of record on February14, 2021.

XCEL ENERGY ENDS USE OF COAL AT BAY FRONT BIOMASS POWER PLANT

For the first time in more than a century, Xcel Energy will no longer use coal as a backup fuel at its Bay Front biomass power plant in Ashland, Wisconsin. The last shovel of coal was burned in the plant’s boilers on December 1st.
Since 1979, Bay Front has burned more than 6 million tons of biomass, including sustainably harvested local waste wood. Over the years, Xcel Energy has made several technological improvements at Bay Front including an $18 million project in 2015 that improved the air quality and boiler control systems, making it one of the cleanest biomass power plants in the nation. This advanced modernization project also reduced the need to use coal as a backup fuel at the plant. Moving forward, the company will use natural gas to serve as a back-up fuel to biomass if needed.
“In 2006, the plant operated on about 64 percent biomass and used about 48,600 tons of coal,” according to Bay Front Plant Manager Dave Fulweber. “This year, we will operate on 98 percent biomass and use about 4,200 tons of coal. Beginning next year, we will no longer use coal and work closely with our local wood vendors and add more agriculture partners to operate on nearly 100 percent biomass.”

GARCIA-THOMAS ELECTED TO WEC ENERGY GROUP BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Cristy Garcia-Thomas, Chief External Affairs Officer for Advocate Aurora Health Inc., was elected to the board of directors of WEC Energy Group effective January 1st.
“We’re delighted that Cristy has agreed to serve as a director,” said Gale Klappa, executive chairman. “Her leadership in the highly regulated health care field, and her experience in customer care, external affairs, and diversity and inclusion will add another dimension of strength to an engaged and effective board of directors.”
Garcia-Thomas joined Aurora Health Care, the largest employer in the Milwaukee region, in 2011 and was previously president of its Foundation. She has more than 25 years of experience in leadership roles including president and CEO of the United Performing Arts Fund and publisher and vice president of the Specialty Media Division of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Garcia-Thomas is a graduate of Kansas State University. She also is a graduate of executive programs at Northwestern University and Harvard Business School.

XCEL ENERGY LAUNCHES NEW EV HOME CHARGING PROGRAM

Xcel Energy is launching a new electric vehicle program for residential customers that would simplify and significantly lower the cost to install EV chargers at their homes. The program aligns with Xcel Energy’s vision to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2030 from 2005 levels in the electricity provided to customers and to supply 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050.

Under the program, known as EV Accelerate At Home, eligible customers can choose to have Xcel Energy install a smart EV charger with embedded energy-monitoring capabilities. This equipment can charge a customer’s EV faster than a charger that plugs into a typical household outlet. Customers can pay for the equipment and charging service monthly on their bill or up-front. Participating customers can save the most money when charging their vehicles exclusively during off-peak hours from midnight-8 a.m.

PSC ALLOWS REFINANCING OF WE DEBT

The Public Service Commission has voted unanimously to allow We Energies to issue bonds for $100 million of its investment in pollution controls at the Pleasant Prairie plant, which shut down in 2018. The financing arrangement, known as securitization, is expected to save ratepayers about $40 million while allowing the utility to recover its investment.
Similar to refinancing a mortgage, securitization allows a utility to sell low-interest bonds and use the proceeds to pay back investors for the cost of an asset, such as a power plant, that is no longer in service. Ratepayers then pay back the bond holders at a much lower interest rate — in this case around 2.5% versus more than 9.5% without securitization.

XCEL ENERGY PROPOSES MICROGRIDS TO IMPROVE RELIABILITY

Xcel Energy wants to provide some users in Wisconsin with custom-built systems of generators and batteries known as microgrids to bolster resilience against violent storms and other disruptions.
The utility has asked regulators to approve a pilot program designed to serve large customers who need “higher than standard” service reliability at datacenters, hospitals and municipal services like first responder stations, communications centers and emergency shelters.
While the program is based on one tested at by its Colorado subsidiary, Xcel said it has heard from Wisconsin customers who would like the service. The cities of La Crosse and Eau Claire have signaled support for the program and say they hope to use microgrids at their wastewater treatment plants and other public facilities.

XCEL ENERGY TO REDEEM OUTSTANDING SENIOR NOTES

Xcel Energy has announced that it submitted a redemption notice to the trustee to redeem all of its outstanding 2.60% Senior Notes, Series due March 15, 2022 (Notes) on December 1, 2020, (Redemption Date). The redemption price is equal to the greater of the outstanding principal amount of the Notes and a make whole premium, which will be calculated three business days prior to the Redemption Date in accordance with the terms of the Notes and related indenture, plus accrued and unpaid interest to the Redemption Date. The aggregate principal amount of Notes currently outstanding is $300,000,000.

PSC APPROVES ELECTRIC RATE FREEZE, GAS INCREASE FOR MGE

Madison Gas and Electric customers will pay 4.1 percent more for natural gas next year but see no change in electricity rates. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has voted unanimously to approve a one-year rate structure negotiated between the utility, consumer advocates and UW-Madison. It is expected to cost the average residential customer about $27 next year. The $19 MGE charges residential customers each month, regardless of how much electricity they use, is the second-highest among Wisconsin utilities.