Wisconsin-headquartered utilities Alliant Energy Corp. and WEC Energy Group Inc. separately announced in late July plans to achieve net carbon neutral electricity generation by 2050, joining a growing list of U.S. utilities aiming for net zero emissions.
Alliant and WEC Energy announced their net-zero plans alongside accelerated interim emissions reduction targets. From the original goal of slashing carbon emissions by 40% against 2005 levels by 2030, Alliant is now aiming for a 50% carbon emissions reduction and WEC Energy is targeting a 70% reduction over the same period.
WEC Energy serves about 1.6 million electric customers through regulated utilities Wisconsin Electric Power Co., known as We Energies; Wisconsin Public Service Corp.; and Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corp. in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Alliant Energy serves 960,000 electric customers in Iowa and Wisconsin through two regulated utilities, Interstate Power & Light Co. and Wisconsin Power and Light Co.
According to S&P Global Market Intelligence data, the bulk of both companies' owned generation assets is comprised by natural gas- and coal-fired resources. In their respective corporate responsibility reports, the utilities acknowledged the role of coal-fired plant retirements and investments in renewable generation in their climate goal progress thus far and in their net-zero strategies going forward.
Of WEC Energy's nearly 8,700 MW of owned generation capacity, gas-fired plants made up 46.9% and coal-powered facilities took up 37.0%, while renewables accounted for 13.1%. Alliant has almost 7,800 MW in owned operating capacity, of which 49.0% is powered by gas, 28.5% is fueled by coal and 21.4% is supplied by renewables.
The capacity totals exclude resources contracted under power purchase agreements and investments into unregulated resources, though such investments, like those WEC Energy has made into wind resources in the Midwest, will count toward the company's net-zero goals.
WEC Energy has the larger amount of owned coal-fired capacity between the two, totaling 3,207 MW, consisting of full ownership of the 1,103-MW South Oak Creek power station as well as the 331-MW unit 3 at the Weston plant. It also owns majority interests in the Elm Road Generating Station (Oak Creek) and unit 4 of the Weston plant, plus a 28.1% interest in the 1,161-MW Columbia Energy Center.
WEC's owned coal-fired facilities had a combined net generation of 21.2 million MWh in 2019 at capacity factors ranging from 39.39% to 68.22%. Aggregate carbon dioxide emissions for the year were at 23.9 million tons. Operating statistics presented are unit-level information, not apportioned to ownership share.
Alliant Energy owns 2,211 MW of coal-fired generation capacity, consisting of full ownership of the Edgewater, Lansing, Burlington ST and Prairie Creek plants, as well as partial stakes in five other plants, including its 52.5% interest in the Columbia Energy Center.
Alliant's coal-fired power plants had an aggregate net generation of 18.7 million MWh in 2019 at capacity factors ranging from 11.21% to 65.43%. Carbon dioxide emissions totaled 21.8 million tons.
While WEC Energy credits the retirement of the 359-MW Presque Isle coal plant in Michigan in March 2019 for early achievement of its interim carbon reduction goals, it notes in its latest corporate responsibility report that additional coal-fired capacity retirements have yet to be determined.
Meanwhile, Alliant Energy aims to eliminate all coal-fired generation capacity from its fleet by 2040, though it has not set specific retirement dates for most individual facilities. Earlier this year, it did announce plans to retire the 418-MW Edgewater plant, in Sheboygan County, Wis., by the end of 2022.
Arch Resources Inc. was the largest supplier of coal delivered to the Wisconsin-headquartered utilities' coal-fired plants in 2019, followed by Peabody Energy Corp. Arch Resources' Black Thunder mine in Campbell County, Wyo., supplied 51.7% of the 12.1 million tons of coal purchased by WEC Energy in 2019, and together with the Coal Creek mine accounted for 37.2% of the 12.6 million tons of coal delivered to Alliant's fleet.
Peabody Energy's North Antelope Rochelle mine provided 21.4% of the total coal sent to WEC Energy in 2019, and alongside the Caballo mine, both in Campbell County, Wyo., made up 24.2% of coal delivered to Alliant's plants.