Alliant Energy and the WE Energy Group announced today they are pushing back plans to close three coal power plants for at least two years.
Those plants are the Edgewater Generating Station in Sheboygan, and the Columbia Energy Center plant in Portage, both operated by Alliant Energy, and the South Oak Creek plant Oak Creek, operated by WE Energy.
David de Leon is the president of Alliant’s Wisconsin utility. He says that the delay will still allow them to close both of their plants by June 2026.
“We at Alliant Energy are adjusting the timing of our (coal) energy retirement because we want to bolster the reliability as we transition to cleaner energy. This adjusted timing will allow us some flexibility beyond 2022 to manage our regional capacity and supply chain challenges as we move forward with solar and other resources to diversify our energy mix,” de Leon says.
The Columbia Energy plant was originally scheduled to close at the end of 2024, while the Edgewater plant was scheduled to close by the end of this year.
WE Energy says that they are delaying their plans for closure for the same reasons: supply chain and regional capacity issues of power in Wisconsin. Brendan Conway, with WE Energy, says that this will not put a major strain on their own transition to clean energy.
“We are focused affordable, clean, and reliable energy for our customers so we need to make sure that yes, we are transitioning away from fossil fuels, but if there is nothing there to replace it and it is not going to be ready, it wouldn’t be prudent and it wouldn’t have the reliability our customers need. That’s what these delays are, and it’s important to note that these are just delays. We still expect to reach our aggressive environmental goals, including reducing our carbon emissions by 2030,” Conway says.
We Energy still plans to close the South Oak Creek plant in 2024, one year later than originally scheduled.
Both groups have already committed to eliminating the use of coal in Wisconsin. Alliant Energy has been working to open six new solar farms in Wisconsin, including the Yahara Solar Farm, which held its groundbreaking ceremony yesterday in Cottage Grove. We Energies already has 10 solar and wind farms across the state, with the Badger Hollow Solar Park expected to become the 11th next year.
The announcement comes after power grid operators warned earlier this month of potential energy shortage in Wisconsin in the summer of 2023.
The Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO, is a non-profit organization monitoring energy usage in the upper Midwest. They say that, unless changes are made soon, Wisconsin will not have the energy capacity to meet demand by next summer.
But not everyone is on board with the delay. RENEW Wisconsin is a nonprofit organization that promotes renewable energy across the state. They say that the power shortage is just more proof that renewable energy is needed now more than ever.
Michael Vickerman is the Policy Director with RENEW. He says that we should look at solar power from a smaller scale to help reduce delays.
“The utilities are predisposed to pursue large scale projects, and that is fine, we need them. We also need the smaller projects, the rooftop projects, solar-powered transportation, so hopefully we can do better about not putting all of our solar eggs in the utilities basket,” Vickerman says.
Vickerman also says he thinks Wisconsin’s energy supply will not be in much danger next year.
“We’ve had a couple of hot days in the past two weeks, and the system handled that additional load that was triggered by the hotter than normal temperatures without a hitch. I would take those warnings as being, you know there may be pockets in the Midwest that might be capacity short, but Wisconsin is not one of them,” Vickerman says.