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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.

MAJOR CHANGES AT WE ENERGIES WITH OAK CREEK COAL PLANT SHUTDOWN

When We Energies retires its oldest coal-fired Oak Creek power plants, the company will eliminate 150 or more positions and save about $35 million per year while beginning to analyze natural gas as a possible future energy source for its remaining coal-fired Power the Future plants.

WEC ENERGY GROUP TO ACQUIRE NINETY PERCENT OF SAPPHIRE SKY WIND ENERGY CENTER

WEC Energy Group has announced that the company has agreed to acquire a ninety percent ownership interest in the Sapphire Sky Wind Energy Center. Located in McLean County, Illinois, the project is being developed by Invenergy — a leading global developer and operator of sustainable energy solutions. The Sapphire Sky site will consist of 64 wind turbines with a combined capacity of 250 megawatts. Commercial operation is expected by the end of 2022. Sapphire Sky will generate renewable energy that will be sold under a long-term power purchase agreement with a Fortune 100 global, high-tech company.

WEC Energy Group’s investment is expected to total $412 million for the 90% ownership interest. With this project, the company’s Infrastructure segment has planned investments in eight major wind farms totaling more than 1.5 gigawatts of capacity.

REGULATORS REJECT CLAIMS TRANSMISSION LINE REVIEW WAS TAINTED

State regulators deny they were tainted or biased in their decision to approve a controversial transmission line nearly two years ago. Members of the Public Service Commission have defended their review of the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line as the project’s owners are asking them to revoke that decision and file a new application. The  request follows the discovery of communications between officials linked to companies building the $492 million transmission line and former commissioner Mike Huebsch.

American Transmission Company, ITC Midwest and Dairyland Power Cooperative asked the PSC to file a new application. PSC Chair Rebecca Cameron Valcq spoke strongly against rescinding the order. She rejected claims from project opponents that she and Commissioner Ellen Nowak were tainted in their decision.

XCEL PLANS TO ROLL OUT 10,000 MW OF RENEWABLE ENERGY BY 2030

Xcel Energy is pushing ahead with plans to add 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy generation in Minnesota and Colorado, the utility said during an earnings call with investors. The company plans to continue to advance Xcel’s transition away from fossil-fuel fired plants to renewable sources of energy, having slashed carbon emissions by fifty-one percent in2020 compared to 2005 levels.

CONSTRUCTION SET TO START ON THE 440-ACRE SOLAR PROJECT IN ROCK COUNTY

Ownership of the 50-megawatt North Rock Solar Project, located in the Town of Fulton within Rock County, is officially transitioning from National Grid Renewables to Alliant Energy. This milestone follows recent approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin on Alliant Energy’s filing for 675 megawatts of solar.

EARNINGS: SECOND QUARTER

WEC ENERGY GROUP DECLARES QUARTERLY DIVIDEND
The Board of Directors of WEC Energy Group has declared a quarterly cash dividend of 67.75 cents per share on the company’s common stock. The dividend was payable September 1, 2021, to stockholders of record on August 13, 2021. This marks the 316th consecutive quarter, dating back to 1942, that the company will have paid a dividend to its stockholders.

WEC ENERGY GROUP REPORTS SECOND-QUARTER RESULTS
WEC Energy Group has reported net income of $276.0 million, or 87 cents per share, for the second quarter of 2021 – up from $241.6 million, or 76 cents per share, for the second quarter last year. For the first six months of 2021, the company recorded net income of $786.1 million, or $2.49 per share – up from $694.1 million, or $2.19 per share, in the corresponding period a year ago. Consolidated revenues totaled $4.4 billion for the first six months of 2021, up $710.3 million from revenues for the first half of 2020.
MGEE SECOND QUARTER EARNINGS
MGE Energy has reported second-quarter net income of $22.9 million. The company said it had profit of 63 cents per share. The public utility holding company posted revenue of $130.7 million in the period. MGE shares have increased thirteen percent since the beginning of the year. The stock has increased twenty-two percent in the last 12 months.
ALLIANT ENERGY ANNOUNCES SECOND QUARTER 2021 RESULTS
Alliant Energy Corporation has announced U.S. generally accepted accounting principles consolidated unaudited earnings per share (EPS) for the three months ended June 30 as follows:
“Our purpose-driven strategy has once again delivered solid financial and operating results,” said John Larsen, Alliant Energy Chair, President and CEO. “We recently hosted an ESG Investor Day, showcasing our Corporate Responsibility Report and highlighting our position as a leading utility in the renewable energy transition. We are pleased to share that solid results through the first half of the year have us currently tracking toward the upper half of our 2021 earnings guidance.”

MGE CELEBRATES COMPLETION OF ONE SOLAR PROJECT AND GROUNDBREAKING OF ANOTHER

On July 27, 2021, a crowd of stakeholders, energy professionals, university staff, faculty, and students gathered to celebrate O’Brien Solar Fields, which are currently the largest solar installation in Dane County. The 140-acre solar field includes 60,318 bifacial panels located along a straight stretch of Seminole Highway in Fitchburg.
While two  days later on the East side of Madison, Madison Gas and Electric representatives were joined by themayor of the City of Madison, representatives of NextEra Energy Resources and members of the Hermsdorf family to celebrate the groundbreaking for an 8-megawatt (MW) solar array in Madison known as the Hermsdorf Solar Fields. The Hermsdorf Solar Fields will provide locally generated solar energy to the City of Madison and the Madison Metropolitan School District under MGE’s innovative Renewable Energy Rider.

MEET THE WUI BOARD OF DIRECTOR NOMINEES

WILLIAM (BILL) FINKE received his Civil Engineering degree from the Univ. of Cincinnati in 1960 followed by his M.B.A. from Xavier University. After graduation, Bill served the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a First Lieutenant, Platoon Leader, and Supply Officer. After his military service, Bill returned to Marquette University Law School where he received his J.D.
For the next 45 years, Bill worked for the Wisconsin Energy Corporation (now WEC Energy Group, Inc.) where he retired as the Senior Corporate Counsel. Bill’s love of trains is evidenced in his early surveying and drafting work as an engineering co-op student during his undergrad years to his pro bono work in retirement for the East Troy Railroad Museum, Inc. d/b/a East Troy Electric Railroad. Bill is active in many community organizations, including the American Legion and Veterans.

THOMAS HANSON retired from Alliant Energy Corporation (AEC) as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2016 after a 36-year career with the company. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin with degrees in Accounting and Transportation & Public Utilities, Hansen served AEC his entire career. Working his way up from Accounting to Accounting Supervisor, he worked on tax, treasury, internal audits, and financial planning areas.
He was responsible for strategic planning, investor relations, IT, and insurance and risk management. Hansen served as chair of the Executive Review and Risk Committee, Executive IT Steering Committee, and Investment Committee. Since retiring, Hansen has been volunteering on the boards of multiple non-profits, traveling with his wife, spending time with their 6 grandchildren, and restoring prairie flowers/grasses at their property in Richland County.

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.