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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.”

WEC ENERGY GROUP SETS ENVIRONMENTAL GOALS

WEC Energy Group has unveiled a series of new and more aggressive environmental goals. The company says it is committing to a sixty percent reduction in carbon emissions at its electric plants by 2025, relative to 2005 levels, and an eighty percent reduction by 2030. That’s up from its previous goal of seventy percent by 2030, with the utility last year having pledged to become net carbon neutral by 2050.
The company says it plans to reach those targets in part through a $16 billion-plus capital investment plan. The plan calls for billions in investments in renewable energy projects.

XCEL TO LAUNCH INNOVATIVE NEW PROGRAM TO SUPPORT MICROGRIDS

Xcel Energy has received approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to begin offering the state’s first program to support microgrids and other resiliency projects for large business customers and governmental entities who require a higher than standard service reliability.
The Resiliency as a Service Program provides support through Xcel Energy ownership, installation, operation and maintenance of resiliency assets such as battery storage, renewable energy arrays and back-up generators at a customer’s location. The program allows customers to choose resiliency options that best meet their needs and work with Xcel Energy and its contractors to design, construct and maintain their system.
“We have had discussions with many different customers who, for various reasons, have significant resiliency needs, and in many cases, those needs are coupled with sustainability goals as well,” said Mark Stoering, president, Xcel Energy-Wisconsin.

WUI LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

By James Buchen, WUI Executive Director

The Wisconsin Legislature began it’s 2021- 22 session in January and is currently in the middle of deliberations on the State Budget. The Budget, as introduced by Governor Evers in February, contains a number of energy related provisions that may be adverse to utility shareholder interests. Fortunately, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has voted to remove these provisions and they are unlikely to be included in the final version of the Budget which is expected to pass sometime in late June. 

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MGE, ALLIANT SEEK ELECTRICITY RATE HIKES FOR 2022

Madison Gas and Electric and Alliant Energy have each filed applications asking regulators to approve electric and gas rate hikes for 2022. These would be the first increases in five years. MGE is requesting a 5.9 percent increase for its electricity revenue, which the company proposes to offset with excess collections that resulted from lower than expected fuel costs in 2020. If approved, that would add about $4.91 a month to the typical residential bill, according to MGE’s estimates.
The company is also seeking annual increases of about three percent and 1.7 percent for natural gas rates in 2022 and 2023,which the company says would cost residential consumers an additional $17.75 next year and $8.30 in 2023.
MGE says the rate increase is needed to begin paying off new investments in renewable energy resources, including the
company’s one-third share of the $400 million Badger Hollow solar farm under construction in Iowa County. Alliant Energy
notified regulators Wednesday that it has agreed with consumer and environmental advocates on elements of a rate case that include a 6.2 percent increase to electricity revenues and an 8.4 percent increase in gas revenue.

ANOTHER CARDINAL-HICKORY LAWSUIT

The proposed high-voltage power line between northern Iowa and southwestern Wisconsin faces yet another legal challenge.
Environmental groups have sued the Army Corps of Engineers in federal court over its permit allowing utilities to place towers in the Mississippi River for the $492 million project known as Cardinal-Hickory Creek. The National Wildlife Refuge Association, Driftless Area Land Conservancy and three other organizations say the agency violated federal environmental law by failing to take a “hard look” at the environmental consequences of the 101-mile line on public waters and lands, wildlife, recreation and property values.
“The Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project is vital to the future of our region’s renewable energy and clean energy economy,” the utilities said.

STATE RECEIVES OVER $21 MILLION TO HELP PAY OVERDUE UTILITY BILLS

Over $21 million in federal funding will be used to assist in paying overdue utility bills in Wisconsin. The money will be used to help over 36,000 Wisconsin utility customers pay their overdue utility bills. Money for the initiative comes from the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and is distributed through the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program.
Wisconsin Governor Evers said that it has been a tough year for people to make ends meet, but is hopeful that this will help Wisconsin residents with their utility bills. Companies are hopeful that additional federal funds will be made available in the future.

ALLIANT ENERGY SUBMITS “NOTICE OF INTENT TO SETTLE”

Alliant Energy has notified the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin of its intent to enter into a settlement agreement regarding electric and natural gas rates in Wisconsin for 2022 and 2023. Alliant Energy has a settlement in principle with several Wisconsin-based stakeholder organizations, including the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group (WIEG) and Sierra Club, which further manages customer costs and enables a thoughtful transition to clean energy.
During the two years covered by the settlement in principle, Alliant Energy anticipates placing nearly 1,100 megawatts of new solar generation into service in Wisconsin. The company’s utility-scale solar plans are currently under review by the PSCW. The settlement in principle further aligns rate increases in Wisconsin with customer cost savings, particularly related to retiring the Edgewater 5 coal facility. The agreement also reflects the company’s continued operation and maintenance cost management practices.

WE ENERGIES AND WISCONSIN PUBLIC SERVICE, IN PARTNERSHIP WITH MGE, ANNOUNCE STATE’S LARGEST RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECT

We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service, the largest utilities in WEC Energy Group, in partnership with Madison Gas and Electric (MGE), are proposing to purchase the Koshkonong Solar Energy Center, a planned 465-megawatt (MW) solar and battery storage project in south-central Wisconsin. If approved, the project would be the largest renewable energy project in the state.

The Koshkonong Solar Energy Center would feature 300 MW of solar generation and 165 MW of battery storage, which can store solar-generated power and provide customers with “sunshine after sunset.” The project is planned to be built in Dane County, southeast of Madison. The total investment is expected to be $649 million.

This is the third large-scale solar and battery project announced in 2021 by We Energies, WPS and MGE. Earlier this year, the companies announced plans for the 325-MW Darien Solar Energy Center and 310-MW Paris Solar-Battery Park.
“The Koshkonong project is another key component in our effort to build a sustainable future and ensure electric reliability in the region,” said Tom Metcalfe, president — We Energies and WPS. “We saw this winter in Texas and other states the dangerous results when people are without heat and power. Our focus on investing in affordable, reliable and clean energy means customers will have the energy they need when they need it.”

We Energies and WPS would own ninety percent of the project. Madison Gas and Electric would own the other ten percent, comprised of 30 MW of solar energy and 16.5 MW of battery storage, from the facility located in the Towns of Christiana and Deerfield in Dane County.

The project is being developed by Invenergy. If approved, construction is expected to begin in late 2022 with commercial operation in 2024.

ALLIANT ENERGY ANNOUNCES FIRST-QUARTER RESULTS

Alliant Energy has announced U.S. generally accepted accounting principles and non-GAAP consolidated unaudited earnings per share (EPS) for the three months ended March 31 as follows:
“We had a solid start to the year with more than twenty-five percent of our 2021 guidance midpoint coming in the first quarter, and we are reaffirming our 2021 guidance range of $2.50 to $2.64,” according to John Larsen, Alliant Energy Chair, President and CEO. “We are also excited to have achieved the first 675 megawatts of our nearly 1,100
megawatt proposed solar expansion in Wisconsin.”

ALLIANT ENERGY ANNOUNCES SIX MORE SOLAR PROJECTS

Alliant Energy has announced plans for six solar projects totaling 414 megawatts as part of its move to add 1,000 megawatts of solar power in Wisconsin by 2023. The six projects — projected to cost $515 million — would be in Dodge, Grant, Green, Rock and Waushara counties.

The projects, which will require approval by the Public Service Commission, are in addition to six solar projects totaling 675 megawatts that Alliant announced in May of 2020. Those projects are in Grant, Jefferson, Richland, Rock, Sheboygan and Wood counties.

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STATE REGULATORS APPROVE UTILITIES’ PLANS FOR MANAGING PAST-DUE BILLS

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has accepted utilities’ plans for managing the amount of money customers owe on unpaid utility bills as many people have fallen behind due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the PSC issued an order in March that barred utilities from disconnecting service due to nonpayment during the COVID-19 crisis. Regulators decided to end the year-long moratorium on utility shutoffs beginning April 15, 2021.

As of February, more than 93,000 residential customers met the threshold for disconnection due to unpaid bills along with roughly 4,800 business customers. By the end of last year, utilities had seen customers’ past-due balances grow to at least $309 million — an increase of fifty-eight percent from the year before.

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LEADERSHIP CHANGE AT ALLIANT SUBSIDIARY TRAVERO

Travero, the Iowa based logistics solutions subsidiary of Alliant Energy and parent company of CRANDIC Rail, has announced a transition in executive leadership. Kevin Burke has retired as President of Travero after 40 years with the company. Lisha Coffey has become the new the president after most recently serving as the company’s Chief Operating Officer.