WEC Energy Group announced plans this morning to reach “net-zero” carbon emissions by 2050 and reduce its carbon footprint 70 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

WEC Energy Group, which owns We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service, released its Corporate Responsibility Report this morning outlining plans to retire coal fueled units, build advanced technology natural gas units and invest in cost-effective, zero-carbon renewable generation in order to be carbon neutral by 2050.

WEC announced in 2019 that it exceeded 40 percent by 2030, giving reason for its updated goal of 70 percent by 2030.

This is in line with Gov. Tony Evers’ goal from a year ago for Wisconsin to produce carbon-free electricity by 2050. WEC Energy is a part of the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change; company spokesman Brendan Conway said it plans to have something on the guv’s desk by October.

Involvement alone in climate change policy does not drive WEC’s mission to go carbon-neutral.

“We are committed to moving to a cleaner energy future…  reducing and in some cases closing costly coal plants that are not only more expensive for customers but have the emissions,” Conway said. “We’re doing it because it’s the environmentally friendly thing to do; we’re also doing it because in the case of solar, the price has gone down significantly where five years it wouldn’t have made sense, it would have cost customers money.”

As of today, about 26 percent of the electricity used by We Energies and WPS customers comes from carbon-free sources.

Combined, We Energies and WPS retired more than 1,800 megawatts of coal-fueled generation since 2018 from shares of four coal plants in Wisconsin and Michigan. WEC also reduced its carbon emissions from coal-fueled generation through the conversion of two power plants to natural gas completed in 2008 and 2015. 

Since 2014, WEC reduced coal capacity by 40 percent. It has no immediate announcements to shut its three remaining coal generation plants: Oak Creek Power Plant, Elm Road Generating Station and Weston Power Plant.

WEC announced earlier this week that it has invested $235 million for 85 percent ownership of Tatanka Ridge Wind Farm, under construction in Deuel County, S.D. Commercial operation is expected to begin by early 2021. The wind farm will consist of 56 wind turbines with a combined capacity of 155 megawatts.

“It shows you where our commitment is; when we have money that we could use literally for anything — it’s nonregulated — but we’re using it to buy wind farms,” Conway said.  

The company has several active projects to expand its renewable energy resources including five wind farms expected to bring 497 megawatts into the grid and two hydroelectric systems that will bring in another 171 megawatts. WEC already owns 30 hydroelectric operations.

We Energies and WPS combined are also developing projects including the Badger Hollow Solar Farm phases one and two, Two Creeks Solar Project and two pilot programs. Together it’s estimated that it will bring 485 megawatts into the grid. 

WEC also owns one biomass plant, where plant waste, for example wood waste, is burned to produce steam that runs a turbine to make electricity.

“As we pursue these important environmental objectives and head to a cleaner energy future, it’s important that we maintain safe and reliable service to customers — that is our main responsibility,” Conway said. “As we make this announcement, we also recognize that reducing emissions is essential to building a bright and sustainable future.” 

See the report: https://www.wecenergygroup.com/csr/ 

See the release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2020/wec-energy-group-aims-for-carbon-neutral-electric-generation-by-2050/

-By Stephanie Hoff

WisBusiness.com

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