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LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, CHILDREN OF ALL AGES

It was such a delight to see so many of you in person at our 2021 Annual Meeting of Members in Baraboo, WI! Held at the Baraboo Arts, Banquet, and Convention Center, a historic Circus World building located across the street from the Circus World Museums, this year’s attendees traveled in time from the history which surrounded them to the future which is being aggressively pursued by Wisconsin utilities.

WUI Executive Director, James Buchen, and Chairman of the Board, Roger Cole, opened the Annual meeting with a look back at this past year and a look forward to the work and issues in the coming year. The Treasurer’s report, presented by director Charles Clarke, confirmed that though the past year was a challenge as the pandemic pushed our outreach to membership through virtual meetings and mailed literature, financially we stayed within our budget and, in some areas, cut costs.

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SB490: CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATOR!

At the 2021 Annual Membership meeting members heard from Kristin Gilkes, Executive Director of the Customers First Coalition. Kristin spoke to the members about Senate Bill 490

Gilkes explained that the bill would authorize community solar programs that could be developed outside of the normal scheme of utility regulation. This would disadvantage the non-participating utility customers who would see their utility bills increase to subsidize those who participate in this unregulated program. She noted that “our neighbors in Minnesota are currently experiencing this preventable disparity.”

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REGULATORS APPROVE DODGE COUNTY SOLAR FARM

Wisconsin regulators have approved a Dodge County solar energy project over the objections of some area residents and two neighboring municipalities.
The Public Service Commission has voted unanimously to authorize construction of the 100-megawatt Springfield Solar Farm, a decision that highlights the growing tensions around land use as Wisconsin phases out fossil fuels. The state’s major utilities are pursuing plans to invest billions of dollars in clean energy generation. Since 2019, the PSC has approved 10 utility-scale solar projects with a cumulative footprint of more than 13,000 acres, which amounts to a little less than 0.1% of the state’s farmland.

XCEL ENERGY NAMES BOB FRENZEL NEW CEO

Xcel Energy has named Bob Frenzel President and CEO of the company. Ben Fowke, the current Chairman will remain at Xcel Energy as Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors. Tim O’Connor was also named Executive Vice-President and Chief Operations Officer.

“I am humbled and honored today to take over as CEO of Xcel Energy. It’s been a privilege to work alongside Ben for the last five years. I am grateful for his leadership, vision and careful stewardship of this great company. This is an exciting time to be in the energy industry, and I look forward to leading us into the future with a focus on our strategic priorities, including being an agile and innovative company and our commitment to elevating the customer experience,” according to Frenzel.

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COMPETITOR ALLOWED TO JOIN CASE IN SALE OF KEWAUNEE NUKE PLANT

A demolition contractor who says it could save Wisconsin utility customers hundreds of millions of dollars will be allowed to participate in a review of plans to sell one of the state’s two nuclear power plants.

Dominion Energy is seeking regulatory approval to sell the Kewaunee Power Station to EnergySolutions, a Utah company that specializes in nuclear waste disposal and decommissioning. The sale price has not been publicly disclosed, but according to applications filed with regulators, EnergySolutions would assume ownership of the plant and about $780 million set aside to cover the cost of decommissioning, estimated at nearly $724 million. But NorthStar Group Services of New York says it could do the job for no more than $550 million, returning any remaining money to ratepayers.

GRANT COUNTY SOLAR PROJECT OFFICIALLY TRANSITIONS TO ALLIANT ENERGY

Ownership of the 200-megawatt Grant County Solar Project, located in the Town of Potosi within Grant County, is officially transitioning from a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC to Alliant Energy. This milestone follows recent approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) on Alliant Energy’s filing for 675 megawatts of solar.

MGE ENERGY: NEWS

REDUCES FLAT CHARGES AS PART OF SETTLEMENT
Madison Gas and Electric has agreed to reduce the flat monthly fees charged to all electricity customers. Those customers will now pay slightly more for the electricity they actually use, according to an agreement filed in early September that sets rates for the next two years.

MGE agreed to trim the monthly residential customer service fee by $2 in each of the next two years, bringing it to $15 in 2023. That’s the lowest it’s been since 2014, when regulators approved an 82% increase.

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ALLIANT ENERGY NAMED A TOP UTILITY IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

For the third year in a row, Alliant Energy has been named on Site Selection magazine’s Top Utility in Economic Development list. The annual list recognizes the company for its contributions to community development and job creation.

In its September issue, Site Selection credits Alliant Energy’s economic development team, in collaboration with local, regional and state partners in Iowa and Wisconsin, for delivering more than $906 million in new capital investment and more than 2,200 new jobs in 2020. Alliant Energy is one of 20 companies nationally named to the list and the only one in Iowa. In all, there are 3,300 utility companies, including 900 electric cooperatives, in the United States.

XCEL PREPARES TO RAISE RATES

Xcel Energy is preparing to raise electricity and natural gas rates for its Wisconsin customers during the next two years. Increases planned in 2022 and 2023 are on the path to approval later this year so Xcel can pay for a variety of projects, including new solar power arrays and wind farms.

As a result of the proposed increases, the average residential customer will see monthly electric bills increase by $5.50 in 2022 and then another $4.25 in 2023, according to Xcel. Average household natural gas customers will see $4.65 more on their monthly bills in 2022 and then another $1.20 in 2023. If the state Public Service Commission approves the proposed rates, it will be the first increases Xcel customers have had in four years.

CARDINAL-HICKORY CREEK CONCERNS PROMPT UTILITIES TO SEEK NEW PERMIT

American Transmission Company and ITC Midwest have filed requests with the Public Service Commission to rescind the permit for the $492 million Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line and reopen the proceedings “to consider next steps.”
The companies had learned that former Commissioner Mike Huebsch had regular communications with an ATC employee, a former ITC contractor, and other individuals over several years while the permit application was before the PSC.
The permit for the line had already been facing legal challenges. The utilities say they don’t know if the messages were related to the project but want to maintain “transparency in the regulatory process.” “The individuals involved in this situation have maintained longstanding personal relationships with each other; however, we are aware this information raises concerns about one of the Commissioners who granted approval of the Cardinal-Hickory Creek Project,” ATC President and CEO Mike Rowe said in a prepared statement. “We understand the speculation this presents, which is also why we have made this unique request to the PSCW and are sharing this information with our employees, our stakeholders and Dane County Circuit Court.”

XCEL SCRAPPING PLAN TO BUILD NEW 800-MW GAS-FIRED PLANT

Xcel Energy is pivoting from its plan to build a new 800-MW natural gas-fired power plant at the site of its Sherco coal-fired facility in Becker, Minnesota. Instead, Xcel plans to build two smaller gas-fired “peaker” plants, one in Minnesota and one in North Dakota, as part of a new initiative for the utility’s power generation in the Midwest.

Xcel also proposed two repowered gas-fired plants — one in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and another in Wisconsin — that also would run only during periods of high demand for electricity. The utility, based in Minneapolis and with operations in eight states, outlined its proposal in a plan submitted to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on June 25.

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FEDERAL LICENSING BOARD CONSIDERS CHALLENGE TO WISCONSIN'S LAST NUCLEAR PLANT

A Wisconsin advocacy group has argued that the state’s last operational nuclear power plant shouldn't have their license extended given the environmental impact and safety concerns about the aging infrastructure.
Physicians for Social Responsibility Wisconsin; an antinuclear nonprofit group of health care professionals based in Madison, filed a petition in March challenging the application to renew Point Beach Nuclear Plant’s licenses for an additional 20 years. The Two Rivers power plant is owned by NextEra Energy and its current licenses expire in 2030 and 2033.

ALLIANT SEEKS RATE INCREASE

Alliant Energy has reached a deal with consumer and environmental advocates to raise gas and electricity rates next year as the utility begins phasing out its coal fleet. If approved by regulators, the new rates would add about $8.50 a month to the typical residential electricity bill and about $5 a month to the average gas bill. Electric rates would not change in 2023, though there could be an adjustment to gas costs.
Alliant says the rate hike is needed to cover the cost of investing nearly $1 billion in solar generation to replace two coal-fired plants, a plan the company projects will save up to $2 billion over the next four decades. While its 475,000 ratepayers will be asked to pay off the remaining $500 million balance on the Edgewater coal plant in Sheboygan, scheduled to close next year, debt restructuring will slightly lower the company's profit on that investment.

CONSTRUCTION UNDERWAY FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLE FAST CHARGER HUB IN DOWNTOWN MADISON

Madison Gas and Electric continues to advance sustainable transportation with construction of a new electric vehicle (EV) fast charging hub in the heart of the city’s Capitol East District. One of the first of its kind in Wisconsin, the charging hub located at East Washington Avenue and South Livingston Street is expected to begin serving EV drivers later this year.

XCEL ENERGY RECEIVES APPROVAL TO BUILD LARGEST SOLAR PROJECT IN WESTERN WISCONSIN

Xcel Energy’s clean energy transition has taken another significant step forward with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin’s approval of a 74-megawatt solar array in Pierce County, Wis. When completed, the Western Mustang project will be owned and operated by Xcel Energy and be the largest solar facility in western Wisconsin.

“We are pleased to invest in this locally sourced solar facility to provide more renewable energy to our customers,” said
Mark Stoering, president, Xcel Energy, Wisconsin and Michigan. “This project allows us to provide clean, zero-fuel cost energy to help us meet our carbon reduction goals cost effectively and, at the same time, provide economic
development benefits to the area.”

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MGE COMPLETES FITCHBURG SOLAR FARM

Madison Gas and Electric has completed work on Dane County’s largest solar farm to date, which will provide clean energy to local governments and businesses.
MGE President Jeff Keebler said the $31.7 million O’Brien Solar Field in Fitchburg demonstrates that the utility can work with customers to reduce carbon emissions in a cost effective way.
MGE has contracts with the state of Wisconsin, UW Madison, the city of Fitchburg and local businesses Placon Corp., Promega Corp., Tribe 9 Foods and the Willy Street Co-op to buy the project’s energy output.

POTOSI RESIDENTS APPEAL STATE'S APPROVAL OF 1,400-ACRE SOLAR FARM

Potosi residents opposed to the construction of a 1,400- acre solar farm in Grant County have filed a petition with Wisconsin’s utility regulatory agency, seeking a rehearing after the state signed off on the project in May. 

Opponents said the Public Service Commission “abdicated its powers and duties” by approving the 200-megawatt project without sufficiently investigating potential impacts, requiring environmental review and initiating fact-finding studies.
The groundbreaking on the $250 million Grant County Solar Energy Center is expected to occur this fall. The developer,
NextEra Energy Resources, said the 200-megawatt facility could enter service as early as 2022.

MGE'S SHARED SOLAR PROGRAM IS FULLY SUBSCRIBED

Madison Gas and Electric's community solar program, Shared Solar, is now fully subscribed. This optional program provides more than 2,000 residential and business electric customers with sustainable, carbon-free energy from two local areas.

The program, which began serving customers in 2017, expanded with the addition of a 5-megawatt solar array in Middleton. Shared Solar provides customers throughout MGE's electric service territory an easy and affordable way
to power their home or business with local solar. 

WPS PEREGRINE FALCONS SPREAD THEIR WINGS, LEAVE WESTON POWER PLANT NEST BOX

A pair of peregrine falcon chicks nesting at Wisconsin Public Service's (WPS) Weston Power Plant in Rothschild have officially earned their wings by taking their first flights and leaving their nest box.

Courage, a male falcon, took to the skies first earlier last month, with his sister, Siren, learning to soar a couple days later. Both falcons were named in honor of some of the many heroes and helpers of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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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.”