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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Alliant faces resistance on coal plant proposal

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Alliant Energy Corp. has proposed to build an inefficient, more polluting kind of coal-fired power plant at a time when concerns are rising about emissions from such plants, a key opponent of the project said Wednesday.

Alliant has proposed a $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion coal plant in Cassville in southwestern Wisconsin to help it meet rising demand for power. The utility is seeking state approval for the project, which is the third new, coal-fired power plant proposed in the state this decade.

But Clean Wisconsin staff scientist Peter Taglia called on Alliant to follow the lead of other utilities, such as Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy Corp., that have committed not to build new coal plants because of their emissions of greenhouse gases and rising construction costs.

“Anyone right now would think GM (General Motors) would be crazy to build a new Suburban plant,” he said.

“Five years ago, GM was saying fuel prices are going to remain low and everything’s going to be fine. The difference here is that this is a 50-year plant,” he said. “We are entering an era of high fuel prices and climate issues that are unprecedented, and this is the exact worst time to be building something that’s fraught with so many environmental and economic uncertainties.”

Alliant has said it delayed proposing a coal plant in recent years as it worked aggressively to expand in areas such as energy efficiency, renewable power and natural gas-fired power plants.

The utility announced last month that it would step up its investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, increasing the funding for its efficiency program by 50%.

Alliant says it chose a less-efficient type of technology because that system is more conducive to burning switchgrass, corn stalks and other biomass. The plant will burn 20% biomass and 80% coal.

The utility also said last month that the cost of the project had risen to $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion from earlier projections of $850 million to $950 million.

“When you look at our resource plan as a whole, it’s a plan built around balance,” said Alliant spokesman Rob Crain. “And this plant certainly fits into that balanced plan.”

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