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UTILITIES ORDERED TO MAINTAIN SERVICE DURING HEALTH EMERGENCY

Wisconsin regulators have ordered the state’s utilities not to disconnect residential service during the ongoing public health emergency. The Public Service Commission has also ordered gas, electric and water utilities to make “reasonable attempts” to reconnect service to any occupied dwellings that have been disconnected.

Under 2000 customers had been disconnected for nonpayment before the announcement. The moratorium has been extended until the crisis has passed.

NEW, FASTER CAR CHARGERS IN BEAVER DAM HWY 151 CORRIDOR

New Level 3, superfast chargers in Beaver Dam can bring a fully depleted electric vehicle (EV) battery back to eighty percent strength in the time it takes to get a bite to eat according to Alliant Energy. The company has installed a new charging station at the Park Village Shopping Center at the busy interchange of Highways 33 and 151. The station can charge four cars at one time. It has two Level-3 and two Level-2 chargers. Keller Real Estate Group, owner of the Park Village Shopping Center, donated the property for the charging station.

SOLAR ENERGY

SOLAR FARM PLANNED NEAR MITCHELL AIRPORT
In late July, crews are expected to begin building an eight-acre solar farm with more than 7,000 panels near Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport that will be the largest of its kind in the city. It also could be followed by more major solar projects by the City of Milwaukee and partner WEC Energy Group Inc. The initial installation, when complete in fall, will cover about 8 acres of a former city landfill between East College Avenue and the 128th Air Refueling Wing base near Mitchell airport.

The city owns about 45 total acres of former landfill in that spot, and will have discussions over putting more solar cells there in the future, according to Erick Shambarger, director of Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Office. The initial installation will generate 2.25 megawatts of electricity, which is the maximum amount state regulators allowed for a single customer under the WEC Energy program that will finance the project.


WISCONSIN’S SECOND-LARGEST SOLAR FARM PLANNED IN KENOSHA COUNTY


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BATTERY BREAKTHROUGH MAY BOOST EV SALES

General Motors recently announced that they have developed new battery technology that will significantly increase the range of electric vehicles. Their new battery can provide up to 400 miles of range on a single charge and is cheaper to produce than batteries currently in use.

While improvements in battery technology have progressively increased the range of electric vehicles in recent years, the new GM battery will make the range of electric vehicles competitive with many gas-powered vehicles. Up till now the issue of range has been a major limiting factor for widespread consumer adoption of electric vehicles. Last year less than 250,000 electric vehicles were sold in the US according to Cox Automotive out of a total of more than 17 million cars and light trucks sold nationwide.

The new battery cells are in the form of soft, flat pouches which use a minimum of cobalt. Cobalt has been the most expensive ingredient in electric vehicle batteries, which is why such vehicles cost more than comparable gas-powered vehicles. Unlike the current generation of batteries used in electric vehicles, the GM batteries can be lined horizontally or vertically with the pouches laying on their sides. This allows for more flexibility in car design because the battery pack, which is made up of numerous individual cells, can take on a greater variety of shapes.

The battery announcement was part of a broader presentation on GMs aggressive plans for expanding electric vehicle production. They intend to invest more than $3 billion annually in electric vehicle research and development between 2020 and 2025. They said it is relatively easy to adapt existing facilities to manufacture electric cars noting that electric cars are simpler, with fewer moving parts than traditional automobiles. As a result, they believe that the company’s new generation of electric vehicles will be profitable from the outset and truly cost competitive with traditional gas powered vehicles.

XCEL ENERGY SETS SINGLE-YEAR RECORD CUTTING CARBON

Xcel Energy has hit a significant milestone in its quest to deliver one-hundred percent carbon-free electricity to customers by 2050. The company recorded its largest single-year drop in emissions in 2019, cutting carbon by 5.6 million tons, a more than ten percent reduction in one year. Since 2005, the company has reduced carbon emissions by forty-four percent as it leads the nation’s clean energy transition.

“We’re making tremendous progress on our clean energy journey. Our 2019 carbon results demonstrate our ability to transition to low-carbon energy resources while keeping service reliable and customer bills low,” said Ben Fowke, Chairman, President and CEO of Xcel Energy.

Several factors contributed to these results. The company increased wind generation on its system, with wind energy making up more than 20 percent of its energy supply last year. The increase is due to the completion of three significant wind projects in 2018 and 2019, including Rush Creek in Colorado, and Hale and Bonita in Texas. Other factors include flexible coal plant operations, strong performance from the company’s nuclear fleet and low natural gas prices, which allowed Xcel Energy to continue reducing coal generation.

Xcel Energy’s 2019 carbon reductions are well ahead of its industry, which is ahead of any other part of the economy. The electric industry is on pace to reduce carbon emissions about 30 percent in 2019 from 2005 levels, according to preliminary results from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“Just as we’re committed to reducing carbon emissions from the electricity we provide, we’re also working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our natural gas business, and we’re taking several ambitious steps to do so,” according to Fowke.

Xcel Energy has joined ONE Future, which is a consortium of natural gas companies working together to voluntarily reduce methane emissions below one percent by 2025, a level that studies show minimizes impact on the environment.
Xcel Energy has pledged to keep its own methane emissions to less than two percent in its natural gas operations. The company will report its methane emissions annually to ONE Future, which has reporting standards that go beyond what regulations currently require.

Xcel Energy has also invested more than $1 billion to improve its natural gas pipelines and tighten its system. The company also participates in EPA’s voluntary Natural Gas STAR and its Methane Challenge program.

XCEL ENERGY RECOGNIZED NATIONALLY FOR CLIMATE LEADERSHIP

Xcel Energy has received a national 2020 Climate Leadership Award from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and The Climate Registry, in partnership with America’s Pledge. The company was recognized with an Organizational Leadership award for its industry-leading carbon reduction efforts and its support for communities and customers in achieving their clean energy and climate goals.

“We are honored to receive this award for our commitment to addressing the risk of climate change through innovative policies and programs,” according to Ben Fowke, Chairman, President and CEO of Xcel Energy. “It’s an exciting time in the energy industry, and we are proving that by working together, we can achieve great things both for our customers and the environment.”

The award honors Xcel Energy for multiple industry-leading clean energy initiatives that are helping the company to achieve ambitious carbon reduction goals. Xcel Energy is making the nation’s largest multi-state wind investment that will increase its wind capacity 70 percent by 2022 under its Steel for Fuel strategy. It also is implementing or has proposed transformative clean energy plans that will retire half of its coal capacity between 2006 and 2027.

GOV. EVERS APPOINTS HUEBNER TO THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

Gov. Tony Evers has appointed Tyler Huebner to the Public Service Commission filling a vacancy created by the resignation of Mike Huebsch effective February 3, 2020. This appointment was effective March 17, and Huebner will serve out the rest of Huebsch’s term that expires March 1, 2021.

“Tyler has spent his entire academic and professional career focused on energy and efficiency,” said Gov. Evers. “He is a passionate leader, whose experience will serve the Commission and the people of Wisconsin well. I look forward to seeing his good work to ensure safe, reliable, and affordable utility services for folks across our state.”

“I believe my leadership approach and firsthand experience will greatly benefit the Commission because I understand the importance of balancing the needs of utilities and customers, while accelerating Wisconsin’s transition into the 21st century,” said Huebner. “It is an honor to be appointed to the Commission and to continue my career of public service in this new role.”

Huebner has served as the Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin since 2013 promoting the use and improving accessibility of renewable energy in Wisconsin. Prior to his time with RENEW, Huebner worked as an advanced program and policy analyst for the Wisconsin Division of Energy Services at the Wisconsin Department of Administration and as an energy technology program specialist at the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Renewable Energy Division. He earned a Master’s degree in Atmosphere and Energy from the Stanford University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2007 and a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering from the University of Iowa. Huebner lives in Madison with his wife, Heather Driscoll, and their two children.

THEY’RE BACK!

Peregrine Falcons Return to Nest Boxes at WE Energies Power Plants 

Looking for something to do to connect with nature while going through this period of social distancing?

Peregrine falcons are back at We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) power plants. Learn about an endangered species live via webcam. Tune into the high definition cameras 24/7 and watch as the raptors find love, lay eggs and raise their young. Find the webcam online at http://weenergies.blogspot.com/.

ALLIANT ENERGY STUDY USES ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TO FIND PHANTOM POWER

According to a study by Alliant Energy, you are using power even when you think it’s not on. These “always on” devices include things like wireless internet routers, which need electricity to maintain a constant connection, or televisions, which take a long time to power up and need some juice in order to respond when you push the remote control. But there are dozens of other culprits — including computers, printers, rarely used DVD players and anything with a DC power converter — sucking up power around the clock.
A 2015 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimated nearly a quarter of all household electricity use in the United States is consumed by appliances and other equipment in standby mode. Over the course of a year, that can add up to more than $300 worth of electricity for the average Wisconsin household and the equivalent output of 50 large power plants.

MGE PARTNERING WITH DANE COUNTY TO BUILD SOLAR ARRAY

Madison Gas and Electric has filed an application with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin for approval of an agreement to partner with Dane County on a 9-megawatt solar array near the Dane County Regional Airport. The solar array will generate enough carbon-free electricity to provide Dane County with about 40 percent of the energy used by all County-owned facilities.

XCEL ENERGY PROPOSES NEW ELECTRIC VEHICLE PROGRAM

Xcel Energy filed a request with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to provide customers a comprehensive electric vehicle program that would simplify and significantly lower the cost for residential, commercial and fleet customers who would like to install EV charging equipment.

“Our commitment to clean energy is reflected in our strong support for electric vehicles,” said Mark Stoering, president, Xcel Energy-Wisconsin. “Electric vehicles are great for the environment, and as they become more affordable, we’re going to see more of them on the road. Making it easier for customers to own an electric vehicle while helping them save money simply makes sense.”

If approved, customers can use EV charging technology provided by Xcel Energy to help them save money by charging their vehicle during the low-cost overnight hours. With electricity prices cheaper than gasoline, electric vehicles cost less to fuel than combustion engine vehicles. Participating customers can save the most money when charging their vehicles exclusively during off-peak hours from midnight-8 a.m., at prices equating to less than $0.70 per gallon of gasoline.

Under the residential program, customers can choose to have Xcel Energy install a new, 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 this new equipment monthly on their bill or up-front.

Xcel Energy is also looking to support commercial customers by expanding the infrastructure services required when installing charging stations for electric vehicles. If the Commission approves the request, Xcel Energy anticipates making the program available in mid-2020.

WEC BUYS WIND PROJECT

WEC Energy Group has agreed to buy an 80 percent ownership stake in a 250-megawatt wind farm in McLean County, Illinois for $345 million. The Blooming Grove Wind Farm is expected to begin operations by the end of 2020 and has long-term offtake agreements with affiliates of two multinational companies. “This is the latest in a series of investments that fit exceptionally well with our strategy of deploying capital in renewable energy assets that will serve strong, vibrant companies for years to come,” said Gale Klappa, Executive Chairman of WEC Energy Group. Prior to this deal, the company has spent more than $640 million for similar stakes in wind farms in Nebraska, Illinois and South Dakota over the last two years.

XCEL PLANS TO IDLE PLANTS

In a filing submitted to Minnesota regulators, Xcel proposes to shut down its Allen S. King and Sherco unit 2 generators during the spring and fall and run them only when profitable.
The move could save between $8.5 million and $28 million a year on fuel costs alone, according to Xcel, which expects to save another $2 million a year in operations and maintenance costs and avoid more than $27 million in capital investments in the King plant before its retirement in 2028. As a result, Xcel expects to eliminate between 2.7 million and 6 million tons per year of planned carbon dioxide emissions.

UTILITY REGULATORS APPROVE GAS PLANT IN SUPERIOR

Wisconsin regulators authorized construction of a $700 million natural gas generator in Superior in spite of concerns over the project’s environmental impact.
The Public Service Commission has voted 2-1 to approve a permit for Dairyland Power Cooperative of La Crosse to build the 625-megawatt Nemadji Trail Energy Center, which is to be jointly owned by Duluth-based Minnesota Power.

The utilities have argued the plant is needed to allow them to move away from coal-fired generation and that it will support the addition of intermittent sources like wind and solar.

WIND TURBINE DESIGN AIMS TO IMPROVE EFFICIENCY

A new turbine design from UW-Green Bay’s engineering department aims to improve the efficiency of wind power generation. The system’s inventor, Md Maruf Hossain, has applied for a patent on the design, and WiSys is seeking commercial partners in the wind power generation industry to help develop the new technology. WiSys handles licensing for UW System universities other than UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee.
According to an information sheet, most wind power generation comes from horizontal axis wind turbines. But WiSys says vertical axis systems have several advantages including lighter weight and improved function during “turbulent, small and inconsistent wind situations.”

XCEL USES ITS CERTIFIED SITES PROGRAM

The Stout Technology and Business Park and the Menomonie Industrial Park both have shovel-ready
sites certified through Xcel Energy’s Certified Sites program.

There are about 130 elements required to become an Xcel Energy certified site, ranging from asking
price to environmental studies and a letter of support, said Brian Elwood, general manager, customer
and community service for Xcel Energy in Wisconsin and Michigan.
“By promoting economic development, Xcel Energy helps bring jobs and capital investment to the
communities and regions we serve,” Elwood said. “The certified sites program provides an opportunity
for the company to efficiently highlight and market communities’ key assets to businesses looking to
relocate or to expand operations. Time is of the essence when trying to attract or retain potential clients.
Having certified sites cuts some of the red tape, providing speed to market for the potential clients and
reducing their risk.”

Xcel Energy started the certified sites program in 2017. Nationally, the company has 37 certified sites,
five ready sites and 27 ready buildings in its eight-state service territory, Elwood said. In Wisconsin, the
company has six certified sites, including the two in Menomonie.

EARNINGS: February 2020

WEC ENERGY GROUP RAISES QUARTERLY DIVIDEND
WEC Energy has declared a quarterly cash dividend of 63.25 cents per share on the company’s common stock, an increase of 7 percent over the current quarterly dividend of 59 cents a share. This raises the annual dividend rate to $2.53 a share.

The higher dividend is payable March 1, 2020, to stockholders of record on February 14, 2020. This marks the 310th consecutive quarter — dating back to 1942 — that the company will have paid a dividend to its stockholders.


XCEL BOARD DECLARES DIVIDEND ON COMMON STOCK
The Board of Directors of Xcel Energy has declared a quarterly dividend on its common stock of 40.5 cents per share. The dividends were payable January 20, 2020, to shareholders of record on December 26, 2019.
Xcel Energy is a major U.S. electricity and natural gas company, with operations in 8 Western and Midwestern states. Xcel Energy provides a comprehensive portfolio of energy-related products and services to 3.6 million electricity customers and 2.0 million natural gas customers through its regulated operating companies.

PEOPLE: February 2020

LANE ELECTED TO WEC ENERGY GROUP BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Tom Lane, Vice Chairman of Energy Capital Partners, has been elected to the board of directors of WEC Energy Group (NYSE:WEC), effective January 1. The addition of Lane reflects the board’s commitment to succession planning as several directors approach retirement age.

Lane was a partner at Energy Capital Partners from its inception in 2005 through the end of 2016. Prior to joining the private equity firm, Lane, 62, worked in the Investment Banking Division of Goldman Sachs. As a managing director, he provided senior-level coverage for electric and gas utilities, independent power producers and midstream energy companies throughout the country. Lane is a graduate of Wheaton College. He received an MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago.


MICHAEL D. GARCIA APPOINTED TO ALLIANT ENERGY BOARD OF DIRECTORS
The Alliant Energy Board of Directors has appointed Michael D. Garcia as a new director effective January 1, 2020. Mr. Garcia, 55, is President of Domtar Corporation’s (NYSE: UFS; TSX: UFS) Pulp and Paper division, responsible for the strategy and oversight of its pulp, paper and biomaterials businesses. Domtar is North America’s largest producer of uncoated free sheet (white papers) and one of the largest softwood market pulp producers in the world.
“We’re pleased to welcome Michael to our board of directors,” said John O. Larsen, Alliant Energy Chairman, President and CEO. “As a military veteran with diverse global executive management experience, he will bring fresh insights and a unique perspective that will help us continue to power what’s next for our customers, communities and shareowners.”
Mr. Garcia joined Domtar in 2014 after spending more than four years with Evraz PLC. He was Chief Executive Officer for Evraz Highveld Steel and Vanadium from 2011 to 2014 and Senior Vice President, Manufacturing & Supply Chain, from 2010 to 2011.
Mr. Garcia is a Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Charlotte Branch, and an at-large board member of the United Service Organization (USO) of North Carolina. He is a graduate of The U.S. Military Academy at West Point and holds an MBA from Harvard University.

WE ENERGIES, WISCONSIN GAS TO SEEK BUILD TWO NATURAL GAS STORAGE FACILITIES

We Energies and Wisconsin Gas are seeking approval to build two plants to store liquefied natural gas that could be used to meet spikes in demand on cold winter days. The two plants, projected to cost a total of $370 million, would store natural gas at temperatures of 260 degrees below zero. The plants are needed to meet the projected demand for natural gas during winter months, the two utilities said in their filing with the Public Service Commission.
“This will help smooth out the peak that we are projecting long-term,” said Brendan Conway, a We Energies spokesman.
Liquefied natural gas has about 1/600th of the volume of natural gas burned in a home. Each plant would have the capacity to store 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas. WEC Energy Group already has two liquefied natural gas storage plants.
We Energies and Wisconsin Gas, both part of WEC Energy Group, rely on interstate pipelines and firm contracts to provide natural gas in southeastern Wisconsin. Building the liquefied natural gas plants to meet peak demand would be less costly than contracting with interstate pipelines to add additional capacity, the utilities said in their PSC filing.
We Energies and Wisconsin Gas would have to contract for the additional pipeline capacity year-round to deliver natural gas needed only a few days a year. With the plants, the utilities also would be able to buy and store natural gas when prices are lower than in the winter months.
The two plants are projected to save customers more than $200 million over 30 years, the utilities said. They would be built near Ixonia and in Bluff Creek, just southeast of Whitewater. The utilities would begin construction next year if approved by the Public Service Commission. We Energies also is seeking approval to build a pipeline in southeastern Wisconsin to meet projected growth in Racine and Kenosha counties. The pipeline is projected to cost $175 million to $183 million depending on its route.

RACINE PROPOSES SOLAR FARM

The City of Racine is proposing to lease out 2.64 acres of land at Olsen Prairie Park, 3444 S. Memorial Drive, to We Energies for a 600 kilowatt solar farm. The initiative is through We Energies’ Solar Now pilot program. According to the terms of the proposed agreement, We Energies would own all the solar capacity and in return the city would receive about $2,000 per month for an estimated $26,151 per year.

The agreement also states that We Energies would be responsible for the design, permitting, construction and upkeep of the system. The lifetime of the lease is 30 years.