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SOLAR PROJECT AT DANE COUNTY REGIONAL AIRPORT RECEIVES REGULATORY APPROVAL

Madison Gas and Electric has received approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin for an agreement to partner with Dane County on a 9-megawatt (MW) solar array near the Dane County Regional Airport. The solar array will generate enough carbon-free electricity to provide Dane County with about 40% of the energy used by all County-owned facilities, according to the County.

“Clean energy is important to MGE, to Dane County, and to many who live and work here. We support the County’s clean energy goals and are excited to partner on this project to add more locally generated renewable energy,” according to MGE Chairman, President and CEO Jeff Keebler. “Partnerships like this will help MGE achieve net-zero carbon electricity for all of our customers by 2050.”

ALLIANT PROJECTS REDUCTION IN SALES, NOT PROFITS

Alliant Energy says the COVID-19 pandemic will likely cause a 5 percent decline in sales, but should not affect shareholder profits this year. Alliant has announced first-quarter profits of 70 cents per share, up from 53 cents in the same period last year.

The gains were attributed to growing ratepayer-backed investments by its Wisconsin and Iowa utilities, offset by lower sales attributed to mild weather. Alliant said quarterly earnings were not significantly affected by COVID-19.

KLAPPA, FLETCHER CITE MILESTONES AT ANNUAL MEETING

At WEC Energy Group’s virtual annual meeting of stockholders Executive Chairman Gale Klappa and President and CEO Kevin Fletcher highlighted the work of more than 7,000 employees across the region, who are providing essential energy service during the COVID-19 health crisis. They also emphasized that 2019 was “another year of solid results,” pointing to achievements in financial performance, network reliability and infrastructure upgrades.

Highlights:

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Xcel Energy Inc. Board Declares Dividend on Common Stock

The Board of Directors of Xcel Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: XEL) declared a quarterly dividend on its common stock of 43 cents per share. The dividends are payable July 20, 2020, to shareholders of record on June 15, 2020.

PUBLIC UTILITY COMPANY ANNUAL MEETINGS

Due to COVID 19 and stay at home orders, the Public Utility companies will be hosting their stockholder Annual meetings virtually. Below is the list of companies, their meeting date, and how to attend. 

WEC Energy Group
WEC Energy Group (NYSE: WEC) will hold a virtual-only 2020 Annual Meeting on Wednesday, May 6, at 1:30 p.m. Central/2:30 p.m. Eastern time.  Sign Up

MGE Energy 2020 Annual Meeting Update 
This is an important update regarding our Annual Meeting on May 19, 2020, at 11 a.m. CST.
Since the printing of your proxy materials, we have modified the format of our Annual Meeting from an in-person meeting to a virtual meeting. Sign Up Online




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A NOTE FROM YOUR WUI BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Dear Wisconsin Utility Investor Members,

During this time of uncertainty and social distancing, please know of our caring concern for your health and well-being. We will continue to bring you the utility news you need in order to make educated decisions regarding your investor-owned utility stock. 

Looking ahead, we are also considering whether in-person meetings are prudent in 2020. Please check our website and see future newsletters for updates regarding our September Annual Meeting and the Regional Meetings in October. If you care to share your opinion on the possibility of virtual rather than in-person meetings, please email us at [email protected].

PSC APPROVES UTILITY COVID-19 COST RECOVERY

Wisconsin investor-owned utilities will be able to recover some expenses incurred as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus health crisis. However, the relief will be at a lower rate of return than companies had requested. The Public Service Commission has voted to allow investor-owned utilities to track and defer expenses and lost revenues related to maintaining service under health emergency orders which prevent them from shutting off service or collecting late fees. The PSC split on the rate of interest on that money, with the majority favoring short-term borrowing costs which range from 2.7 percent to 3.4 percent depending on the company.

XCEL ENERGY AND ITS FOUNDATION TO DONATE $1.5 MILLION FOR COVID-19 RELIEF

Xcel Energy has announced that as part of its plans to dedicate more than $20 million to new corporate giving, including COVID-19 relief, Xcel Energy and the Xcel Energy Foundation will donate the first $1.5 million in the eight states it serves before the sale of the Mankato Energy Center closes later this summer. The company previously announced last that the net proceeds from that sale, expected to be more than $20 million, will go to short and long term corporate giving, including COVID-19 relief.

As part of the donation, the Xcel Energy Foundation is matching employee donations up to $1,000 at a rate of two dollars for every dollar donated, tripling the amount of the gift, up to $300,000. Within a week, employees donated $112,000 dollars. With the Foundation match of more than $223,000, that’s a donation of nearly $335,000. 
One million dollars of the money donated by Xcel Energy and its foundation is designated for existing nonprofit partners along with organizations that address food insecurity and those that provide disaster relief, including local chapters of The United Way and regional food banks. Xcel Energy serves communities in Minnesota, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Michigan.

WE ENERGIES AND WISCONSIN PUBLIC SERVICE FOUNDATIONS COMMIT $1 MILLION TO COVID-19 RELIEF EFFORTS

We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service have announced they are contributing $1 million through their charitable foundations to help communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The foundations will provide grants to nonprofit organizations supporting front-line efforts — primarily hospitals, first responders and food pantries.

“At a time like this, our commitment to the safety and welfare of our employees and the communities we serve has never been more critical,” said Kevin Fletcher, president and CEO — WEC Energy Group. “Our foundations have supported organizations serving our communities for decades. It is in that tradition that we are driven to support these vital services as they face unprecedented challenges.”

To increase the impact of the relief effort, the foundations are earmarking $300,000 of the $1 million to match, dollar for dollar, the personal donations made by employees to organizations fighting the effects of the pandemic.

ALLIANT ENERGY DONATES $2 MILLION TO HOMETOWN CARE ENERGY FUND

Alliant Energy is making a $2 million donation to its Hometown Care Energy Fund. The fund assists customers that need financial help to pay their bill. Alliant Energy knows that many customers may face financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic. This contribution shows the company’s ongoing commitment to serve customers in Iowa and Wisconsin and help those in need. The fund is supported annually with funds from Alliant Energy shareowners as well as voluntary contributions from employees, retirees and customers.

PEOPLES GAS AND NORTH SHORE GAS CONTRIBUTE MORE THAN $1 MILLION TO CHICAGO SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS

Chicago sited Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas, parts of WEC Energy Group, will contribute more than $1 million in funding, as well as personal protective equipment, to help 42 community organizations across the region provide vital services in response to the COVID-19 emergency.

WEC ENERGY GROUP DECLARES QUARTERLY DIVIDEND

The Board of Directors of WEC Energy Group has declared a quarterly cash dividend of 63.25 cents per share on the company’s common stock. The dividend is payable June 1, 2020, to stockholders of record on May 14, 2020. This marks the 311th consecutive quarter — dating back to 1942 — that the company will have paid a dividend to its stockholders.

XCEL ENERGY NAMES NEW CHIEF NUCLEAR OFFICER

Pete Gardner has been named Xcel Energy’s Chief Nuclear Officer. He succeeds Tim O’Connor who has held the role since 2013 and was promoted to Chief Generating Officer of Xcel Energy, effective March 31.

UTILITIES ORDERED TO MAINTAIN SERVICE DURING HEALTH EMERGENCY

Wisconsin regulators have ordered the state’s utilities not to disconnect residential service during the ongoing public health emergency. The Public Service Commission has also ordered gas, electric and water utilities to make “reasonable attempts” to reconnect service to any occupied dwellings that have been disconnected.

Under 2000 customers had been disconnected for nonpayment before the announcement. The moratorium has been extended until the crisis has passed.

NEW, FASTER CAR CHARGERS IN BEAVER DAM HWY 151 CORRIDOR

New Level 3, superfast chargers in Beaver Dam can bring a fully depleted electric vehicle (EV) battery back to eighty percent strength in the time it takes to get a bite to eat according to Alliant Energy. The company has installed a new charging station at the Park Village Shopping Center at the busy interchange of Highways 33 and 151. The station can charge four cars at one time. It has two Level-3 and two Level-2 chargers. Keller Real Estate Group, owner of the Park Village Shopping Center, donated the property for the charging station.

SOLAR ENERGY

SOLAR FARM PLANNED NEAR MITCHELL AIRPORT
In late July, crews are expected to begin building an eight-acre solar farm with more than 7,000 panels near Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport that will be the largest of its kind in the city. It also could be followed by more major solar projects by the City of Milwaukee and partner WEC Energy Group Inc. The initial installation, when complete in fall, will cover about 8 acres of a former city landfill between East College Avenue and the 128th Air Refueling Wing base near Mitchell airport.

The city owns about 45 total acres of former landfill in that spot, and will have discussions over putting more solar cells there in the future, according to Erick Shambarger, director of Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Office. The initial installation will generate 2.25 megawatts of electricity, which is the maximum amount state regulators allowed for a single customer under the WEC Energy program that will finance the project.


WISCONSIN’S SECOND-LARGEST SOLAR FARM PLANNED IN KENOSHA COUNTY


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BATTERY BREAKTHROUGH MAY BOOST EV SALES

General Motors recently announced that they have developed new battery technology that will significantly increase the range of electric vehicles. Their new battery can provide up to 400 miles of range on a single charge and is cheaper to produce than batteries currently in use.

While improvements in battery technology have progressively increased the range of electric vehicles in recent years, the new GM battery will make the range of electric vehicles competitive with many gas-powered vehicles. Up till now the issue of range has been a major limiting factor for widespread consumer adoption of electric vehicles. Last year less than 250,000 electric vehicles were sold in the US according to Cox Automotive out of a total of more than 17 million cars and light trucks sold nationwide.

The new battery cells are in the form of soft, flat pouches which use a minimum of cobalt. Cobalt has been the most expensive ingredient in electric vehicle batteries, which is why such vehicles cost more than comparable gas-powered vehicles. Unlike the current generation of batteries used in electric vehicles, the GM batteries can be lined horizontally or vertically with the pouches laying on their sides. This allows for more flexibility in car design because the battery pack, which is made up of numerous individual cells, can take on a greater variety of shapes.

The battery announcement was part of a broader presentation on GMs aggressive plans for expanding electric vehicle production. They intend to invest more than $3 billion annually in electric vehicle research and development between 2020 and 2025. They said it is relatively easy to adapt existing facilities to manufacture electric cars noting that electric cars are simpler, with fewer moving parts than traditional automobiles. As a result, they believe that the company’s new generation of electric vehicles will be profitable from the outset and truly cost competitive with traditional gas powered vehicles.

XCEL ENERGY SETS SINGLE-YEAR RECORD CUTTING CARBON

Xcel Energy has hit a significant milestone in its quest to deliver one-hundred percent carbon-free electricity to customers by 2050. The company recorded its largest single-year drop in emissions in 2019, cutting carbon by 5.6 million tons, a more than ten percent reduction in one year. Since 2005, the company has reduced carbon emissions by forty-four percent as it leads the nation’s clean energy transition.

“We’re making tremendous progress on our clean energy journey. Our 2019 carbon results demonstrate our ability to transition to low-carbon energy resources while keeping service reliable and customer bills low,” said Ben Fowke, Chairman, President and CEO of Xcel Energy.

Several factors contributed to these results. The company increased wind generation on its system, with wind energy making up more than 20 percent of its energy supply last year. The increase is due to the completion of three significant wind projects in 2018 and 2019, including Rush Creek in Colorado, and Hale and Bonita in Texas. Other factors include flexible coal plant operations, strong performance from the company’s nuclear fleet and low natural gas prices, which allowed Xcel Energy to continue reducing coal generation.

Xcel Energy’s 2019 carbon reductions are well ahead of its industry, which is ahead of any other part of the economy. The electric industry is on pace to reduce carbon emissions about 30 percent in 2019 from 2005 levels, according to preliminary results from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“Just as we’re committed to reducing carbon emissions from the electricity we provide, we’re also working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our natural gas business, and we’re taking several ambitious steps to do so,” according to Fowke.

Xcel Energy has joined ONE Future, which is a consortium of natural gas companies working together to voluntarily reduce methane emissions below one percent by 2025, a level that studies show minimizes impact on the environment.
Xcel Energy has pledged to keep its own methane emissions to less than two percent in its natural gas operations. The company will report its methane emissions annually to ONE Future, which has reporting standards that go beyond what regulations currently require.

Xcel Energy has also invested more than $1 billion to improve its natural gas pipelines and tighten its system. The company also participates in EPA’s voluntary Natural Gas STAR and its Methane Challenge program.

XCEL ENERGY RECOGNIZED NATIONALLY FOR CLIMATE LEADERSHIP

Xcel Energy has received a national 2020 Climate Leadership Award from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and The Climate Registry, in partnership with America’s Pledge. The company was recognized with an Organizational Leadership award for its industry-leading carbon reduction efforts and its support for communities and customers in achieving their clean energy and climate goals.

“We are honored to receive this award for our commitment to addressing the risk of climate change through innovative policies and programs,” according to Ben Fowke, Chairman, President and CEO of Xcel Energy. “It’s an exciting time in the energy industry, and we are proving that by working together, we can achieve great things both for our customers and the environment.”

The award honors Xcel Energy for multiple industry-leading clean energy initiatives that are helping the company to achieve ambitious carbon reduction goals. Xcel Energy is making the nation’s largest multi-state wind investment that will increase its wind capacity 70 percent by 2022 under its Steel for Fuel strategy. It also is implementing or has proposed transformative clean energy plans that will retire half of its coal capacity between 2006 and 2027.

GOV. EVERS APPOINTS HUEBNER TO THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

Gov. Tony Evers has appointed Tyler Huebner to the Public Service Commission filling a vacancy created by the resignation of Mike Huebsch effective February 3, 2020. This appointment was effective March 17, and Huebner will serve out the rest of Huebsch’s term that expires March 1, 2021.

“Tyler has spent his entire academic and professional career focused on energy and efficiency,” said Gov. Evers. “He is a passionate leader, whose experience will serve the Commission and the people of Wisconsin well. I look forward to seeing his good work to ensure safe, reliable, and affordable utility services for folks across our state.”

“I believe my leadership approach and firsthand experience will greatly benefit the Commission because I understand the importance of balancing the needs of utilities and customers, while accelerating Wisconsin’s transition into the 21st century,” said Huebner. “It is an honor to be appointed to the Commission and to continue my career of public service in this new role.”

Huebner has served as the Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin since 2013 promoting the use and improving accessibility of renewable energy in Wisconsin. Prior to his time with RENEW, Huebner worked as an advanced program and policy analyst for the Wisconsin Division of Energy Services at the Wisconsin Department of Administration and as an energy technology program specialist at the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Renewable Energy Division. He earned a Master’s degree in Atmosphere and Energy from the Stanford University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2007 and a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering from the University of Iowa. Huebner lives in Madison with his wife, Heather Driscoll, and their two children.