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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.

XCEL ENERGY PROPOSES MICROGRIDS TO IMPROVE RELIABILITY

Xcel Energy wants to provide some users in Wisconsin with custom-built systems of generators and batteries known as microgrids to bolster resilience against violent storms and other disruptions.
The utility has asked regulators to approve a pilot program designed to serve large customers who need “higher than standard” service reliability at datacenters, hospitals and municipal services like first responder stations, communications centers and emergency shelters.
While the program is based on one tested at by its Colorado subsidiary, Xcel said it has heard from Wisconsin customers who would like the service. The cities of La Crosse and Eau Claire have signaled support for the program and say they hope to use microgrids at their wastewater treatment plants and other public facilities.

XCEL ENERGY TO REDEEM OUTSTANDING SENIOR NOTES

Xcel Energy has announced that it submitted a redemption notice to the trustee to redeem all of its outstanding 2.60% Senior Notes, Series due March 15, 2022 (Notes) on December 1, 2020, (Redemption Date). The redemption price is equal to the greater of the outstanding principal amount of the Notes and a make whole premium, which will be calculated three business days prior to the Redemption Date in accordance with the terms of the Notes and related indenture, plus accrued and unpaid interest to the Redemption Date. The aggregate principal amount of Notes currently outstanding is $300,000,000.

PSC APPROVES ELECTRIC RATE FREEZE, GAS INCREASE FOR MGE

Madison Gas and Electric customers will pay 4.1 percent more for natural gas next year but see no change in electricity rates. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has voted unanimously to approve a one-year rate structure negotiated between the utility, consumer advocates and UW-Madison. It is expected to cost the average residential customer about $27 next year. The $19 MGE charges residential customers each month, regardless of how much electricity they use, is the second-highest among Wisconsin utilities.

ALLIANT TO BUILD 400 MEGAWATTS OF SOLAR IN IOWA - RETIRE COAL PLANT

Alliant Energy has announced plans to stop burning coal at two Iowa generators as part of an ongoing transition to clean energy.
The company said that its Iowa subsidiary will retire a 275-megawatt Lansing coal plant south of La Crosse on the Mississippi River by the end of 2022 and convert its 212-megawatt plant in Burlington to burn natural gas next year. Alliant plans to add up to 400 megawatts of solar generation by 2023, which would make renewable energy account for nearly half of the company’s Iowa generation portfolio. The plan also calls for up to 100 megawatts of “distributed energy resources,” such as battery storage, community-owned solar and demand management programs by 2026.
Alliant CEO John Larsen said the plans will help the company meet its goal to reduce carbon emissions by one half in the coming decade and avoid more than $300 million in ratepayer costs over the next 35 years.
“We continue to lead the way toward a clean energy future for our customers,” Larsen said in a statement. “Investing in renewable energy, like wind and solar, benefits our customers, the communities we serve and the environment.”
Alliant said retiring the 43-year-old Lansing plant will allow it to avoid “significant investments” required to comply with changing environmental regulations.

ALLIANT ENERGY TO ELECTRIFY LIGHT-DUTY FLEET VEHICLES

Alliant Energy announces 100 percent of the company’s active light-duty fleet vehicles will be electric by 2030.
“Our customers and the communities we are privileged to serve benefit from our plan to electrify our fleet vehicles and our commitment to a cleaner energy future,” said JP Brummond, Vice President of Business Planning at Alliant Energy. “By transitioning to electric vehicles, we reduce the total cost of ownership of our fleet and reduce emissions. The savings are an element of our ongoing focus to maintain affordable rates for our customers while also contributing to a cleaner  environment for all to enjoy.”
Electric vehicles offer several advantages for customers and communities, including lower total cost of ownership through reduced fuel costs, less maintenance and fewer direct emissions. To achieve this goal, Alliant Energy will replace e nd-of-life light-duty vehicles, including up to half-ton pickups, sedans, SUVs, passenger vans and forklifts, with Battery Electric Vehicles and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles. More information on electric vehicles is available at alliantenergy.com/ev.

PSC APPROVES WISCONSIN BIENNIAL STRATEGIC ENERGY ASSESSMENT

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has finalized and approved the state’s 2026 Strategic Energy Assessment (SEA). Electric providers and transmission owners operating in Wisconsin are required to file specified historical and forecasted data on electric system operations, providing forecasted information from January 1, 2020, through December 21, 2026. A draft of the SEA was made available for comments and suggestions from the public and interested parties in June of 2020.
According to the Commission, “The SEA shows the continued reliability and adequacy of Wisconsin’s electric supply, as well as the progress made in emission reductions as the state continues its transition to zero-carbon fuels. This transition is due to sharply declining costs of clean energy as well as the state’s largest utilities’ carbon reduction goals.”

XCEL ENERGY TO REPOWER OLDER WIND FARMS

Xcel Energy has announced plans to repower older wind farms with new technology in the Upper Midwest. The company is asking for proposals to give legacy wind farms currently serving Xcel Energy customers with a new life from improved technology as part of its commitment to expand renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions. As the company works with state leaders and regulators to spur the economic recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, these projects will create hundreds of construction jobs and lower costs for customers while increasing the amount of carbon free renewable energy in the region. Repowered wind projects can typically generate at least ten percent more electricity annually with updated technology.

WEC ENERGY GROUP DECLARES QUARTERLY DIVIDEND

The Board of Directors of WEC Energy Group have declared a quarterly cash dividend of 63.25 cents per share on the company’s common stock. The dividend is payable December 1, 2020, to stockholders of record on November 13, 2020. This marks the 313th consecutive quarter, dating back to 1942, that the company will have paid a dividend to its stockholders.

XCEL ENERGY DONATES $100,000 FOR COVID-19 RELIEF

Xcel Energy has announced it will donate $100,000 to local organizations in western and northern Wisconsin to support those that are working with individuals who have been impacted by COVID-19. The donation is part of Xcel Energy and the Xcel Energy Foundation’s plan to continue to support its communities through ongoing and future philanthropy as nonprofits and other organizations work to address various needs related to the pandemic.
“At Xcel Energy we continue to look for ways to support our customers and communities during this very challenging time,” said Mark Stoering, President, Xcel Energy, Wisconsin and Michigan. “This includes ongoing financial support and through various activities like our annual Day of Service. We are committed to assisting in any way we can to keep our communities safe, healthy and viable places to live and work.”

ALLIANT ENERGY’S KOSSUTH WIND FARM OPERATIONAL

Alliant Energy’s Kossuth Wind Farm is now operational and generating renewable energy to benefit customers, communities and the environment. This news follows the previous announcement that the company achieved its milestone to add 1,000 megawatts (MW) of wind energy for Iowa customers. The 150-MW Kossuth Wind Farm is located in the north-central part of Iowa, an area with consistently strong wind resources. This project includes 56 turbines and is expected to provide enough energy to power 57,000 homes.

PSC APPROVES EXPANSION OF MGE 20-MEGAWATT FARM IN FITCHBURG

Madison Gas and Electric has received approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin for a 20-megawatt solar array to be built in Fitchburg, Wisconsin. Known as the O’Brien Solar Fields, the project will provide locally generated solar energy to local businesses, municipalities and public institutions under MGE’s innovative Renewable Energy Rider.
“Clean energy is important to MGE, to our project partners and to our community. The O’Brien Solar Fields will add 20 MW of locally generated, cost-effective carbon-free energy to our electric grid,” said MGE Chairman, President and CEO Jeff Keebler. “Partnerships like this one advance shared energy goals and help MGE achieve net-zero carbon electricity for all of our customers by 2050.”

ALLIANT PROPOSES STEADY RATES

In May, Alliant Energy submitted a proposal to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) requesting to keep its rates steady into 2021. Recently, the PSCW approved the plan. It continues the company’s ongoing efforts to maintain rates that are among the lowest in Wisconsin. The approval of the plan provides customers with certainty – at a time when so many things are uncertain – during the ongoing pandemic. Alliant believes keeping rates steady is the sensible approach. The company also continues to support customers by providing flexibility in payment arrangements. With guidance from the PSCW, service disconnections were suspended until October 1.

2020 WUI VIRTUAL ANNUAL MEETING OF MEMBERS

Thank you to everyone who virtually attended this year’s WUI Annual Meeting of Members. Your board of directors appreciates you taking time to join us. The board is also grateful to all members who participated in the proxy vote by either mailing-in or submitting your votes on-line. The COVID -19 pandemic of 2020 has pushed us into our homes and into an unknown, ever-changing virtual world. WUI is grateful for your support, voice, and participation.

Chairman of the Board, Roger Cole, led this year’s virtual Annual Business meeting. Roger announced the results from the proxy vote for the Annual Meeting: the acceptance of the 2019 Board minutes; Jeff West and Roger Cole were re-elected to the board of directors; and election of Connie Lawniczek and Gregory Bollom to the Board of Directors. Following Kenyon Kies’ treasurer’s report, Executive Director James Buchen presented the 2019-2020 legislative update.

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XCEL ENERGY LAUNCHES NEW EV CHARGING PROGRAM

Xcel Energy is launching a new electric vehicle program for business customers that would simplify and significantly lower the cost to install EV charging equipment. Under the EV program, business and community customers have the option to purchase charging equipment from Xcel Energy, or they can choose to obtain their own charging equipment independently.

“Electric vehicles are a great opportunity for our business customers to save money on transportation costs,” said Mark Stoering, President Xcel Energy-Wisconsin. “Moving forward on EV programs not only benefits the EV owners, but everyone by reducing carbon emissions and air pollution.”

The program aligns with Xcel Energy’s vision to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels in the electricity provided to customers and to supply 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050.

“We are happy to be one of the first organizations to use Xcel Energy’s new electric vehicle charging programs,” said Pat Daoust, Manager, Bay Area Rural Transit (BART). “This program will significantly reduce our up-front costs to install the EV charging necessary to power our new EV buses and provide us long-term savings on our fuel and maintenance costs.” The BART System has routes that operate in 11 communities within three counties around the Chequamegon Bay Region (Northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior). BART expects to have its new bus in service in early 2021.

Businesses and municipalities have different types of fleet needs — from daily work operations to retail delivery functions. By replacing fossil-fuel vehicles with plug-in electric hybrid or all-electric options customers will see these added benefits:

  • Charge for the equivalent of less than $1 per gallon of gas
  • Avoid unpredictable swings in fuel costs
  • Reduce maintenance costs
  • Reduce carbon emissions on the road
  • Improve public and employee health
  • Enhance sustainability, credibility and image
  • Qualify for programs to lower the costs of EVs and charging equipment

DEMOCRAT LAWMAKERS SEEK REVIEW OF CARDINAL-HICKORY CREEK POWER LINE

Several lawmakers are calling on federal officials to reexamine the impacts of a power line on the Mississippi River and surrounding national refuge. In separate letters, Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Ron Kind questioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plans to grant an easement through the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge for the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line.

The high-voltage line will use 14 towers ̶ up to 20 stories high ̶ to carry wires along a 260-foot-wide corridor through the refuge from the Turkey River bottoms in Iowa to the site of a former power plant north of Cassville. The project would involve about 39 acres of the 240,000-acre refuge. Baldwin said her primary concern is the harm to migratory birds and that the chosen route does not minimize the impacts.

MGE PROPOSES ELECTRICITY RATE FREEZE, 4% NATURAL GAS HIKE

The utility filed an application Friday, October 28, with the Public Service Commission for a one-year rate structure that has the approval of consumer and renewable-energy advocates as well as one of the utility’s largest customers, though the Sierra Club plans to contest it, saying the rate freeze will simply result in bigger hikes down the road.

If approved, the deal is expected to cost the average household about $27 a year more for gas. MGE is proposing to use 2019 fuel savings — which normally would be refunded to customers — and to put off collection of some expenses until 2022 to offset the need for an electric rate increase next year.