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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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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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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.

GALE KLAPPA AGREES TO STAY AT WEC ENERGY GROUP INTO 2024

Gale Klappa has agreed to stay on as executive chairman of Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group until May 2024.

XCEL ENERGY PLANS LARGEST SOLAR PROJECT IN WESTERN WISCONSIN

Xcel Energy’s clean energy transition has taken another significant step forward with a recent agreement with Western Mustang Solar, LLC to construct a 74-megawatt solar array to be located on privately owned land in Pierce County, Wisconsin. When completed, it will be owned and operated by Xcel Energy and be the largest solar facility in western Wisconsin.
Xcel Energy currently has more than 760 megawatts of large-scale, universal solar capacity on its system and was the first major utility in the nation to announce a vision to deliver carbon-free electricity to all customers by 2050.
Ranger Power LLC, a utility-scale solar development company, is developing the project on behalf of Western Mustang Solar, LLC. Pierce County approved local permits in August that will be needed to build the project on nearly 1,100 acres of land in the town of Gilman in the northeastern part of the county. Once built, the project is expected to generate nearly $300,000 a year in shared revenue payments for Pierce County and the town of Gilman.

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.

XCEL ENERGY THIRD QUARTER 2020 EARNINGS REPORT

Xcel Energy has achieved strong third quarter results despite the ongoing pandemic and has launched important new initiatives to support customers, employees and communities through these challenging times. As a result, it is narrowing its 2020 earnings guidance to $2.75 to $2.81 per share. In addition, it is initiating 2021 earnings guidance of $2.90 to $3.00 per share. Over the next five years, the company plans to invest $22.6 billion in base capital. It also has proposed to invest an incremental $1.4 billion related to requests from Minnesota to help address the economic impacts of COVID-19. The proposal, which includes grid investment, solar facilities and modernizing aging wind farms, would create 5,000 jobs and expand the company’s renewable portfolio, all while keeping customer bills low. It also outlines a 10-year vision to power 1.5 million electric vehicles, saving customers $1 billion on fueling costs and cutting carbon emissions by nearly 5 million tons annually by 2030.

XCEL ENERGY DECLARES DIVIDEND ON COMMON STOCK

The Board of Directors of Xcel Energy has declared a quarterly dividend on its common stock of 43 cents per share. The dividends are payable January 20, 2021, to shareholders of record on December 23, 2020.

WEC ENERGY GROUP TO INCREASE DIVIDEND BY 7.1 PERCENT

The Board of Directors of WEC Energy Group has announced it will increase the company’s common stock to 67.75 cents per share in the first quarter of 2021. This would represent an increase of 4.5 cents per share. The dividend, which would be equivalent to an annual rate of $2.71 per share, would be payable March 1, 2021, to stockholders of record on February14, 2021.

XCEL ENERGY ENDS USE OF COAL AT BAY FRONT BIOMASS POWER PLANT

For the first time in more than a century, Xcel Energy will no longer use coal as a backup fuel at its Bay Front biomass power plant in Ashland, Wisconsin. The last shovel of coal was burned in the plant’s boilers on December 1st.
Since 1979, Bay Front has burned more than 6 million tons of biomass, including sustainably harvested local waste wood. Over the years, Xcel Energy has made several technological improvements at Bay Front including an $18 million project in 2015 that improved the air quality and boiler control systems, making it one of the cleanest biomass power plants in the nation. This advanced modernization project also reduced the need to use coal as a backup fuel at the plant. Moving forward, the company will use natural gas to serve as a back-up fuel to biomass if needed.
“In 2006, the plant operated on about 64 percent biomass and used about 48,600 tons of coal,” according to Bay Front Plant Manager Dave Fulweber. “This year, we will operate on 98 percent biomass and use about 4,200 tons of coal. Beginning next year, we will no longer use coal and work closely with our local wood vendors and add more agriculture partners to operate on nearly 100 percent biomass.”

GARCIA-THOMAS ELECTED TO WEC ENERGY GROUP BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Cristy Garcia-Thomas, Chief External Affairs Officer for Advocate Aurora Health Inc., was elected to the board of directors of WEC Energy Group effective January 1st.
“We’re delighted that Cristy has agreed to serve as a director,” said Gale Klappa, executive chairman. “Her leadership in the highly regulated health care field, and her experience in customer care, external affairs, and diversity and inclusion will add another dimension of strength to an engaged and effective board of directors.”
Garcia-Thomas joined Aurora Health Care, the largest employer in the Milwaukee region, in 2011 and was previously president of its Foundation. She has more than 25 years of experience in leadership roles including president and CEO of the United Performing Arts Fund and publisher and vice president of the Specialty Media Division of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Garcia-Thomas is a graduate of Kansas State University. She also is a graduate of executive programs at Northwestern University and Harvard Business School.

XCEL ENERGY LAUNCHES NEW EV HOME CHARGING PROGRAM

Xcel Energy is launching a new electric vehicle program for residential customers that would simplify and significantly lower the cost to install EV chargers at their homes. The program aligns with Xcel Energy’s vision to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2030 from 2005 levels in the electricity provided to customers and to supply 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050.

Under the program, known as EV Accelerate At Home, eligible customers can choose to have Xcel Energy install a 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 the equipment and charging service monthly on their bill or up-front. Participating customers can save the most money when charging their vehicles exclusively during off-peak hours from midnight-8 a.m.

PSC ALLOWS REFINANCING OF WE DEBT

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.