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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.

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.

ALLIANT ENERGY TO CLOSE ITS LAST WISCONSIN COAL PLANT

Alliant Energy has announced it will shutter its last remaining coal plant in Wisconsin by the end of 2024. The closure moves Alliant closer toward the company’s goal of eliminating coal from its power mix by 2040 and cutting carbon emissions by fifty percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. The move is expected to save ratepayers more than $250 million that would be spent to keep the plant running, according to David de Leon, President of Alliant’s utility in Wisconsin.

Alliant released a $900 million plan in May to add 675 megawatts of solar across six counties as part of a goal to add 1,000 megawatts of solar power by the end of 2023 which would power about 260,000 homes. Wisconsin Power and Light, Alliant’s utility in Wisconsin, anticipated its Clean Energy Blueprint would save customers between $2 billion and $6.5 billion over the next 35 years. Alliant co-owns the coal plant with Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) and Madison Gas and Electric

XCEL ENERGY ONE OF FIRST U.S. PROVIDERS TO REACH 10,000-MEGAWATTS OF WIND POWER

At the end of 2020, Xcel Energy became 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 milestone is powered by the company’s 10 new wind projects in the Upper Midwest, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico.

As new projects continue to come online in 2021, the company estimates more than thirty-one percent of its nameplate energy capacity will come from wind by the end of the year. Additionally, Xcel Energy owns and operates much of the new wind, increasing its owned projects from 850 megawatts, to 4,469 megawatts by the end of the year.

COMMUNITIES RECEIVED $8.7 MILLION FROM ALLIANT ENERGY

To support customers and communities in Iowa and Wisconsin, Alliant Energy, its Foundation and employees achieved a collective impact of $8.7 million and over 64,000 volunteer hours in 2020.

WISCONSIN PSC TO STUDY ROOFTOP SOLAR POTENTIAL

The Public Service Commission has voted to spend up to $181,000 in ratepayer funds to study the potential for customer-owned generation, paying special attention to low-income households. The results could inform the commission’s policy decisions in the coming years, particularly on how to allocate resources within Focus on Energy, the statewide energy savings program.

“This type of study is going to be essential to figure out what the balance is between renewables and efficiency,” said Commissioner Tyler Huebner, who noted the potential for energy savings is diminishing as LED bulbs become the standard. “If we don’t have this study, we’re going to be guessing in the dark.”

Wisconsin typically studies the potential for energy efficiency gains every four years, but it hasn’t looked at solar energy since 2009 when rooftop solar was little more than a novelty. As of 2019, there were 6,646 customer-owned systems with a combined capacity of roughly 100 megawatts.

REPAIRING DAMAGE TO WE ENERGIES HEADQUARTERS HITS $60 MILLION

The costs of repairing WEC Energy Group’s downtown Milwaukee headquarters, from what the company said was a superheated steam release when the company’s underground steam-power tunnels flooded in May 2020, have risen to an estimated $60 million. Wisconsin Electric customers will be required to pay a portion of the costs not covered by insurance, but the company has absorbed some of the costs. The company’s initial estimate in June 2020 was about $10 million, but by August 2020, Wisconsin Electric estimated restoration work would cost up to $37 million in a letter to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.

WEC ENERGY: 4TH QUARTER EARNINGS REPORTED

WEC Energy Group has reported fourth-quarter net income of $239.3 million. The company said it had a profit of 76 cents per share. The results surpassed Wall Street expectations. The electricity and natural gas provider posted revenue of $1.93 billion in the period. For the year, the company reported a profit of $1.2 billion, or $3.79 per share. Revenue was reported as $7.24 billion. WEC Energy expects full-year earnings to be $3.99 to $4.03 per share.

XCEL ENERGY REPORTS 2020 YEAR END EARNINGS

Xcel Energy has reported 2020 GAAP and ongoing earnings of $1.47 billion, or $2.79 per share, compared with $1.37 billion, or $2.64 per share in the same period in 2019.

“Xcel Energy had a strong year despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19,” said Ben Fowke, chairman and CEO. “We achieved major milestones while keeping our employees and customers safe and are well positioned for the coming year and beyond.”

“I’m proud of the support we provided our communities, committing nearly $20 million to short and long-term corporate giving. Our $750 million plan to repower several wind farms in Minnesota was approved, which is expected to result in substantial customer savings and jobs creation. In Colorado, we received approval for an electric vehicle plan and are excited about the related opportunities. We also announced the early retirement of the Hayden and Craig coal plants and plans to convert our Harrington facility to natural gas. These achievements move us closer to achieving our goals of an 80 percent carbon reduction by 2030 and delivering 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050.”

ALLIANT ENERGY COMPLETING TOWN OF BELOIT SOLAR POWER PROJECT

Initial construction on a new Alliant Energy solar energy field is wrapping up. The company says the new West Riverside Energy Center is operating smoothly and serving hundreds of thousands of customers. Bob Newell, Senior Manager of Strategic Projects, said the 4-megawatt solar energy field in the Town of Beloit is expected to be fully operational by March. Newell said the auxiliary power produced by the solar panels will boost the main natural gas-fired plant’s overall productivity.

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ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS SUE WISCONSIN REGULATORS OVER MGE RATES

Environmental and solar activists Sierra Club and Vote Solar are suing Wisconsin regulators over approval of an electric rate freeze for Madison Gas and Electric customers that they say discriminates against low-income customers and discourages investment in energy efficiency and rooftop solar. The Dane County Circuit Court has been asked to review the Public Service Commission’s approval of a one-year rate structure negotiated between the utility, consumer advocates and UW-Madison.

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UW-PLATTEVILLE TO BUILD LARGEST STATE-OWNED SOLAR PROJECT

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville has received state approval to construct a 2.4 megawatt solar array in Memorial Park. This will be the largest solar array owned by a Wisconsin state agency and will make the university the sixth-highest on-site producer of renewable energy among higher education institutions in the nation, setting UW-Platteville apart as a leader in its commitment to renewable energy.

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FORMER ATC FOUNDER AND CEO DIES

UW University System Regent José Delgado has died. Delgado was creator of the American Transmission Company and served as its initial President and CEO.

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