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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.

WEC ENERGY GROUP SEEKING APPROVAL FOR $360M INVESTMENT IN SOLAR, BATTERY PARK

WEC Energy Group is seeking approval from state regulators to spend $360 million to own and create the first large-scale solar and battery storage project in Wisconsin.

The Paris Solar-Battery Park in Kenosha County would feature 200 MW of solar power generation and another 110 MW of battery storage. The solar arrays would be enough to power 60,000 homes while the battery storage system would discharge power after the sun goes down.

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MICHELS CORPORATION AND ALLIANT WORK WELL TOGETHER

Michels Corporation is making a major commitment to local clean energy by becoming an anchor tenant in Alliant Energy’s Fond du Lac community solar project. The 1-megawatt solar garden announced in December and planned for the southwest side of the city has received a significant boost from Michels Corporation.
Michels, a diversified energy and infrastructure contractor, is committing to purchasing thirty percent of the project’s solar blocks and becoming an anchor tenant. Michels has supported the project from the initial stages and is leasing the solar site to Alliant Energy. With Michels’ subscription, the total amount of solar blocks bought now exceeds seventy-five percent, just three months after launching the community solar project.
“We have partnered with Michels on energy projects for more than fifty years, and this builds upon the productive and positive history between our companies,” said David de Leon, president of Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin energy company. “Alliant Energy is excited that Michels will be an anchor tenant in the Fond du Lac community solar facility, and applauds their support for local clean energy.”
Michels’ headquarters, located in Brownsville, Wisconsin, is about a dozen miles south of the site for the planned Fond du Lac community solar garden. The company also has more than forty other locations across the U.S. and Canada.

ALLIANT CUSTOMERS UTILIZE FOCUS ON ENERGY OPTIONS

A record number of Alliant Energy’s residential customers found low-cost or no-cost energy efficiency options through
the Focus on Energy program in 2020. Product discounts and the convenience of an online marketplace drove a
135 percent increase in participating customers who made their home more comfortable and efficient. Alliant Energy’s
energy efficiency programs make energy-saving upgrades more affordable and are part of the company’s purpose driven
strategy to serve customers and build stronger communities.

WEC ENERGY INVESTS $302M IN WIND FARM

We Energies’ parent company has agreed to invest $302 million to acquire ninety percent ownership in a wind farm to be built in Kansas to generate renewable energy for Facebook. The company says the facility will be called the Jayhawk Wind Farm and be built in Bourbon and Crawford counties in Kansas. Jayhawk Wind Farm will sell the energy it generates under long-term contract to Facebook. The Jayhawk site will consist of 70 GE wind turbines with a combined capacity of more than 190 megawatts. Invenergy LLC of Chicago will acquire the remaining ten percent ownership interest and will operate the facility. The project will be part of a $16 billion capital plan that WEC Energy announced in November 2020. The plan includes investing nearly $2 billion in solar, wind and battery storage and retiring older, less-efficient fossil-fueled generation by 2025.

WEC AND MGE HOPE TO BUY WALWORTH COUNTY SOLAR AND BATTERY PROJECT

Three of Wisconsin’s largest utilities plan to spend $446 million on a second large-scale solar farm with battery storage. WEC Energy Group and Madison Gas and Electric have filed a request with the Public Service Commission to buy a 250-megawatt Walworth County solar farm that would generate enough electricity for about 75,000 homes and include a 75-megawatt battery. The project has been developed by Invenergy, a Chicago-based energy company. It sits on about 2,000 acres stretching west from Delavan to the Rock County line. The Commission is expected to make a decision on the construction permit by summer. WEC subsidiaries, We Energy and Wisconsin Public Service Corp., would together own 90 percent and MGE ten percent.

WE ENERGIES PRESIDENT RETURNING TO AUSTRALIA

Tom Metcalfe, President of We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service, will leave Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group at the end of the year, the utility has reported. Metcalfe has told the company that he and his family have made the difficult decision to relocate to Australia for personal reasons.

In a message to employees, WEC Energy Group Executive Chairman Gale Klappa and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Fletcher said Metcalfe “will remain fully engaged in carrying out his responsibilities through the end of this year, and he will continue to support the company until his retirement in July, 2022.” WEC has indicated a new president would be
named later this year.

XCEL ENERGY BOARD INCREASES 2021 COMMON DIVIDEND BY 6.4 PERCENT

The Board of Directors of Xcel Energy has raised the quarterly dividend on the company’s common stock from 43 cents per share to 45.75 cents per share, which is equivalent to an annual rate of $1.83 per share. The dividends are payable April 20, 2021, to shareholders of record on March 15, 2021.
“We are increasing our dividend 6.4 percent, which is consistent with our objective of growing the dividend 5-7 percent annually. The dividend increase is evidence of our confidence in our long-term business plan and our commitment to provide shareholders an attractive total return,” according to Ben Fowke, Chairman and CEO of Xcel Energy.

WISCONSIN REGULATORS TO CHART 'ROADMAP' TO CARBON-FREE ELECTRICITY

The Public Service Commission has voted 2-1 to open an investigation called a “Roadmap to Zero Carbon” to explore the economic and environmental considerations related to the deployment of more clean energy technologies. According to the notice, the commission will study topics including:

  • Changes in utility-scale generation that reduce overall carbon emissions, including the retirement of existing fossil fuel plants.
  • Deployment of customer-level resources and programs that help customers control their energy use and lower their costs.
  • Deployment of new technologies, such as battery storage and micro grids.
  • The design and operation of the regional wholesale market and transmission grid.

The investigation will also consider plans by each of the state’s five largest utilities to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050, recommendations of the governor’s climate change task force and a new Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy, and strategies for creating jobs and lowering costs.

MGE PARTNERS WITH CITY OF MADISON AND SCHOOL DISTRICT ON SOLAR PROJECT

On December 30, 2020, Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) filed an application with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) for approval of an agreement to partner with the City of Madison and the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) on an 8-megawatt (MW) solar array in Madison. If approved, the electricity generated by this local source of clean energy will increase renewable energy use in City operations by nearly 20%. It is expected the solar array will begin generating electricity by the end of 2021. The cost of the project is estimated to be approximately $15.3 million.
“We have partnered with the City of Madison and the school district on a number of projects over the years. This new solar partnership, which provides another source of locally generated clean energy, is another step toward our shared energy goals,” said Jeff Keebler, MGE Chairman, President and CEO. “Another 8 megawatts of locally generated, cost-effective, carbon-free energy on our electric grid will help MGE achieve our goal of net-zero carbon electricity for all customers by 2050.”

“We are working hard to have 100% of our municipal operations on renewable energy by 2030,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. “Projects like these are critical to achieving that goal. We are happy for the partnership we’ve had with MGE and MMSD on this project and look forward to continuing that partnership in the future.” 

The solar array will consist of about 28,000 solar panels and will cover approximately 53 acres of land north of Dane County’s Rodefeld Landfill in southeast Madison. If approved, the project will be developed by NextEra Energy Resources Development, LLC.

To learn more about this new 8-megawatt MGE Solar Energy partnership with the City of Madison and the Madison School District; as well as, the 9-megawatt Dane Cty Regional Airport project. Click Here

WE ENERGIES AND HARLEY-DAVIDSON COMPLETE SOLAR ENERGY PROJECT

Menomonee Falls Harley-Davidson completed a record-breaking project with We Energies in November: the largest single rooftop solar panel system in Wisconsin.

Harley-Davidson’s project is part of WE Energies’ overall project to use solar energy to provide clean energy to all We Energies customers. The focus is to reduce emissions and to provide clean energy to all of its customers, said We Energies spokesperson Brendan Conway.

This project, part of We Energies’ “Solar Now” pilot program, put nearly 8,400 solar panels on the roof at Harley-Davidson’s Pilgrim road powertrain operations facility, said Conway. The panels can produce 2.25 megawatts — enough energy to power more than 400 homes.

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.

CONTINUING COVERAGE OF XCEL ENERGY’S NEW ELECTRIC VEHICLE VISION

Xcel Energy’s New Electric Vehicle Vision includes partnerships with companies aimed at replacing fleet vehicles with EVs; as well as, providing the charging infrastructure and customer programs to encourage individual ownership of EVs.

The transition to more electric cars, trucks and buses will also help keep bills low for all customers, including those who don’t drive an EV. The additional electricity sales generated by EVs more than pay for the system investment required to support them. So as more vehicles transition to electric, everyone will benefit from cleaner air and lower bills.

Xcel Energy is developing its EV plans and partnerships with a focus on equity, accessibility and fairness, allowing everyone to benefit from the growth of EVs. In addition to helping customers who own EVs charge up at home and on the go, its programs aim to give all customers access to clean, affordable, electric transportation. That includes working with transit agencies and car sharing organizations to increase access to the benefits of electric transportation, especially for those in underserved communities.

Xcel Energy will help lead the way in its own operations, with plans to electrify all sedans by 2023, electrify all light-duty vehicles by 2030 and have 30% of its medium- and heavy-duty vehicles electrified by 2030.

MGE RELEASES CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY AND SUSTAINABILITY REPORT

Madison Gas and Electric has published its annual Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report, detailing its sustainable energy goals and findings from the University of Wisconsin’s analysis of the company’s goal of net-zero carbon electricity by 2050. The report covers the company’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, its clean energy investments and its partnerships with customers and other stakeholders to advance sustainability and to serve the community.

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION OF WISCONSIN

DEBT FORGIVENESS PROGRAM FOR ALLIANT CUSTOMERS APPROVED
The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has voted to approve an Arrears Management Program (AMP) proposed by Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin subsidiary, Wisconsin Power and Light. The approval of WPL’s AMP marks the most recent offering from Wisconsin’s large, investor-owned utilities to support low-income customers.

According to WPL, the AMP offers financial assistance to customers who are likely to be hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible, low-income residential customers would be automatically enrolled to receive a 25 percent reduction in their arrears balance and additional reductions each month they keep current with their utility bills.

“We’ve seen the effects of COVID-19 disproportionally impact people of color as well as low income households,” said Rebecca Cameron Valcq, chairperson of the PSC. “Programs like these are not only the right thing to do, but our analysis shows that the benefits to the utility and all customers outweigh the costs.”

RULES UPDATED ON CUSTOMER-OWNED POWER SOURCES
The Public Service Commission has approved parameters for revising administrative codes governing “distributed generation facilities” such as rooftop solar panels, hydroelectric dams and biogas generators. Renewable energy advocates had complained that the seventeen-year-old rules were out of date.

WOOD COUNTY SOLAR FARM APPROVED
Wisconsin regulators have authorized construction of a 150-megawatt solar farm in Wood County that Alliant Energy is seeking to buy as part of a $900 million investment in clean energy. The Public Service Commission voted unanimously in early January to let Savion Energy build the plant on about 1,200 acres of mostly woodlands in the town of Saratoga, south of Wisconsin Rapids. The commission is separately considering Alliant’s application to purchase the project for about $194 million.

According to an environmental assessment, the land is owned by Golden Sands and Full Circle Farmland and is primarily used as a red pine plantation for timber production. The project received widespread public support but was opposed by a couple whose property is abutted on three sides by the project area. Under Wisconsin law, the project owner will pay $600,000 a year to the county and town.

Alliant has proposed to build or buy six solar farms that together would supply enough electricity to power about 175,000 homes and is expected to file applications this year for another 325 megawatts of solar generation.

REFINANCING OF WE DEBT ALLOWED
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.

ALLIANT WINS NATIONAL AWARD

Alliant Energy has been named one of the country’s most responsible companies in 2021 by Newsweek. The list covers 14 industries and includes the top 400 responsible companies in the U.S.
“We are pleased to be recognized as one of America’s Most Responsible Companies,” says John Larsen, Chairman, President, and CEO of Alliant Energy. “Guided by our purpose-driven strategy to serve customers and build stronger communities, we are generating cleaner energy while ensuring it’s affordable, safe and reliable. We act today for a better tomorrow.”

ALLIANT ENERGY PARTNERS WITH SHEBOYGAN ON SOLAR PROJECT

Alliant Energy and the city of Sheboygan have reached an agreement to install a 1 megawatt solar facility in the Sheboygan Business Center.

“We are excited to partner with the city of Sheboygan utilizing our Customer Hosted Renewables Program,” according to Ben Lipari, Director of Resource Development at Alliant Energy. “This project is a win-win, benefiting both the local Sheboygan economy and environment for many years to come. It represents our vision of providing a clean energy future for our customers and the communities we serve.”

By adding the customer hosted solar facility, the city of Sheboygan will gain steady revenue in the form of leased land payments for the next 25 years. Renewable energy is expected to attract new businesses to the area, especially companies looking to achieve their environmental, social, and corporate governance goals.

ALLIANT PROPOSES STEADY RATES

In May, Alliant Energy submitted a proposal to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) requesting to keep its rates steady into 2021. Recently, the PSCW approved the plan. It continues the company’s ongoing efforts to maintain rates that are among the lowest in Wisconsin. The approval of the plan provides customers with certainty – at a time when so many things are uncertain – during the ongoing pandemic. Alliant believes keeping rates steady is the sensible approach. The company also continues to support customers by providing flexibility in payment arrangements. With guidance from the PSCW, service disconnections were suspended until October 1.