Wisconsin Utilities Turning From Coal To Renewable Energy

State Economy

The population of the state of Wisconsin is approximately 5.85 million people[1]. Wisconsin is the 21st largest state in population in the United States.

In 2020, Wisconsin’s economy was ranked 21st in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the dairy, agriculture, paper, manufacturing, and timber industries[3].

Environment Policies

In 1988, Wisconsin enacted a mandatory renewable energy standard, which requires each utility to increase renewable energy sales by at least 6% above their 2001-2003 average [4].

In August 2019, Governor Tony Evers established[5] the Wisconsin Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy which set the state on a path to reach 100% carbon free electricity by 2050.

In December 2020, Wisconsin utilities[6] used coal (40.1%), natural gas (31.8%), nuclear energy (17.8%), and renewable energy (10.3%) to generate electricity. Hydropower, wind, biomass, and solar are the primary sources of renewable energy in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s use of expensive coal contributes to state’s above average cost of electricity. In December 2020, the average cost of residential electricity in the state was 14.52¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 12.80¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in Wisconsin include:

  • 150 MW Solar Project – In October 2020, Wisconsin utility Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) commissioned the Two Creeks Solar Facility, which is located approximately 50 miles north of the city of Milwaukee.
  • 325 MW Solar + Energy Storage Project – In March 2021, the Wisconsin utility, WEC Energy Group announced plans to build a solar plus energy project at a location, approximately 45 miles southeast of the state capital, Madison.
  • 414 MW Solar Projects – In March 2021, Wisconsin utility, Alliant Energy announced plans to add six solar projects which will have a total capacity of 414 MW. All six state projects are scheduled to be commissioned by 2023.

Conclusions

 Wisconsin has no coal mines and no coal reserves[7]. The coal that is used to fuel Wisconsin’s power plants is imported by rail from Wyoming and Pennsylvania.

In 2010, 65% of Wisconsin’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. In 2020, 40% of the state’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. Why the dramatic decrease in the use of coal?

  1. Economics – The cost to generate power from wind, solar, and hydropower is significantly cheaper than coal. The cost to generate power from coal-fired plants is over twice the cost of wind or solar.
  2. Environment – Coal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was reported to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[8].
  3. Climate Change – Coal generates 30% to 40% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.

The move to renewable energy across America is being driven by concerns over economics, environment, and climate change.  Wisconsin has now begun moving toward renewable energy and away from coal.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

 

[1] Wisconsin Population 2021, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Biggest Industries in Wisconsin  – World Atlas

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, January 4, 2021

[5] Wisconsin Governor Orders 100% Carbon Free By 2050, Despite Lack Of Legislative Support, www.utilitydive.com

[6] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Wisconsin State Profile and Energy Estimates, www.eia.gov

[7] U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2018

[8] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, March 3, 2019

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