Based in Milwaukee WEC energy group plans to phase out coal as an energy source by 2035, a dramatic drop from 36% of electricity coming from coal in 2020.
To achieve this, the company is increasing its capital investment in renewable energy by $ 1.3 billion in its latest five-year investment plan. The 2022 to 2026 plan foresees that $ 5.4 billion will be spent on renewable energies, against $ 4.1 billion in the 2021 to 2025 version.
The latest plan also increases spending on network and fleet reliability from $ 500 million to $ 6.8 billion.
In total, the five-year plan increases capital spending by $ 1.6 billion, with the company’s production in Wisconsin representing more than the total increase.
WEC had already announced two planned coal-fired power plant withdrawals, including 1,100 megawatts of capacity at the Oak Creek power plant and 300 MW of additional capacity at a Columbia power plant.
With these announced plans, the company aimed for only 8% of electricity to come from coal by 2030. The new plans predict that coal will provide less than 5% of electricity by the end of 2030. In 2005 , about 73% of the company’s energy came from coal.
Achieving these goals will require a switch to natural gas from existing coal-fired power plants, such as the Elm Road Power Plant in Oak Creek.
Gale Klappa, executive chairman of WEC Energy Group, said the company is confident it can adjust its operations to a point where coal is only a backup fuel source in Oak Creek.
WEC has already radically remodeled its electricity source in recent years, closing one plant in Pleasant Prairie and converting others to natural gas. The company also announced a $ 1.37 billion investment in solar storage and battery projects in Wisconsin to replace factories it plans to retire.
BizTimes detailed the evolution of WEC power sources in a recent cover story.
One of the challenges of switching to solar power is the reliability of the system. When the ignition of a coal-fired power plant is left to the discretion of the company, the production of electricity from the sun is less controllable. WEC leaders said the capacity of solar lines matches peak demand on hot summer days, there are problems meeting demand as it increases in the morning or evening when people return home. .
This is where battery storage comes in, saving excess energy generated by solar energy and deploying it to the grid as needed.
WEC will need to invest in solar storage and additional batteries to meet its coal targets. Scott Lauber, chief operating officer of the company, said plans call for an additional 700 MW of solar power and 500 MW of battery storage which have yet to be announced. Klappa noted the possibility of deploying additional battery storage at existing power generation sites.
The plans do not foresee any additional wind generation.