WEC Energy Group has announced plans to close the remaining coal plants in Wisconsin three years earlier than previously planned.
Two Oak Creek units owned by We Energies will close by 2024 and 2025, Columbia Energy Center co-owned by WEC and Alliant Energy will close by 2026 and Weston Unit 3 co-owned by WEC and Dairyland Power Cooperative will close by 2031.
We Energies Director of Media Relations Brendan Conway told WTMJ that older plants will close entirely, and newer ones like the Oak Creek units will transition to natural gas production.
“As we’re closing coal plants, we’re able to replace them with two things: renewable energy — whether it’s wind, solar, some battery projects — or some modern efficient natural gas generation,” said Conway.
Conway said the Inflation Reduction Act’s Energy Infrastructure Program is allowing We Energies to expand its renewable energy projects and accelerate cost savings for customers, especially with solar energy developments.
“That’s allowing us to bring those products into service and give our customers that tax credit advantage back over 10 years,” said Conway. “It used to be that those would take place over 20 or 30 years.”
WEC’s climate pledge is to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050. Conway said that some advancements in renewable energy technology are still necessary to reach net zero.
“There’s some new technology that we’re early pilot-testing next year like long-term battery storage that can maybe go 10 hours. We’ve been testing hydrogen that can run and mix with our natural gas generation units.”
In WEC’s 2022 Climate Report, they estimate 39% of energy production to come from renewable sources, 32% from natural gas, 24% from nuclear and less than 5% from coal by 2030.
According to WEC’s latest Five-Year Capitol Plan, they expect to use coal only as a backup fuel by the end of 2030.