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Monday, June 23, 2008

Alliant needs more compelling case for new coal plant

From an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Wisconsin Power & Light Co. took a significant step recently when it promised to offset the greenhouse gas emissions from a new coal plant it is proposing to build in southwestern Wisconsin. Company officials understand the importance of balancing energy sources to provide customers with reliable and affordable energy while reducing emissions that contribute to climate change.

The problem is that while Wisconsin needs power, it also needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not just offset increases in emissions. So while WP&L officials deserve credit for proposing their mitigation plan, they still need to make a more compelling case than they have so far for building a coal plant in Cassville.

State regulators need to carefully examine that case before they make their decision by the end of the year. And unless WP&L officials make a convincing case for the kind of coal plant they have proposed, the state shouldn't give its OK.

In a recent meeting with the Journal Sentinel Editorial Board, company officials said demand was growing at a rate of 2% to 3% per year. To meet that demand, the utility says it needs to build a 300-megawatt $1.1 billion base load plant that would generate enough power to supply 150,000 homes.

Based on those numbers, WP&L, a subsidiary of Alliant Energy Corp., makes a reasonable case. Neither conservation nor renewable sources now available are likely to fill that demand.

But an analysis by state environmental and energy regulators predicts demand to grow by 1.65%. That analysis also concluded that although Alliant "needs to procure more energy resources to keep rates affordable," this particular coal plant proposal was "not the least-cost option." The environmental group Clean Wisconsin and the ratepayer group Citizens' Utility Board oppose the plant and have urged the utility to spend more on energy efficiency and renewables. . . .

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