News Briefs


WECA Board Elected at District Meetings

WECA members voted to fill five board positions at district meetings held recently at co-op locations across the state.

Those elected include Vernon Electric General Manager and CEO Craig Buros, Eau Claire Energy CEO Monica Obrycki, Chippewa Valley Electric Board Director Steve Johnson, Clark Electric Board Director Allen Jacinsky, and Washington Island Electric Manager Robert Cornell.

The board will be seated at the WECA Annual Meeting in November.

Shower Named CEO of Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative

The Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative (CWEC) Board of Directors announced it has selected Lila Shower to serve as the co-op’s new president and CEO. Shower has 29 years of experience with CWEC, most recently serving as vice president of accounting and finance and co-interim CEO.

In announcing the selection, the board said Shower has a strong financial background and overall knowledge of the co-op’s system. She will be responsible for the overall performance of the co-op, including leadership and management, functions of planning, organizing, directing, coordinating, and running the activities of the co-op in accordance with policies, long-range plans, and business objectives delegated by the board.

According to a release from the board, “We are confident that Lila can guide CWEC into the future. We can think of no one better than Lila to lead CWEC.”

Shower takes the position previously held by Mike Wade, who left to take the job as president and CEO of Wild Rice Electric Cooperative in Mahnomen, Minnesota. She officially began in her new role in July.

PSC Announces Broadband Grant Program

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) announced the Broadband Infrastructure Program application period will begin August 14. The program funds projects that will provide high-quality internet to locations that lack access to adequate, affordable service. The Capital Projects Fund (CPF) is designed to address barriers to internet access that were exacerbated by the pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Treasury awarded Wisconsin $42 million through the CPF to administer the Broadband Infrastructure Program. Those eligible to apply for funding under the competitive grant program include internet service providers, telecommunications utilities, cooperatives, local governments, and for-profit and non-profit organizations.

Wildfire Smoke Haze Impacts Grid, Solar Production

Much of the Midwestern and Eastern United States, including Wisconsin, was blanketed in smoke haze for much of June, caused by Canada’s most destructive wildfire season on record. As a result of the fires, poor air conditions created health hazards, particularly for the elderly and people with respiratory problems.

The haze also hampered solar production by blocking the sun’s rays. According to Bloomberg, Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states saw solar production decline between 25 to 60% during the worst days. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), solar accounts for 3.4% of the electricity generated in the U.S., but less than 2% in Wisconsin.

WECA Enters into Regional Aid Agreement

WECA has helped to develop a Midwest mutual aid agreement to ensure cooperation and collaboration with other states in case of a large-scale disaster or other energy emergency. WECA President and CEO Steve Freese traveled to North Dakota to finalize the plan that has been in development for more than a year.

“Like ROPE, and our UP3 agreement with state partners, this is one more tool we have that will allow us to expedite our response and work together if the need arises, because collaboration among
co-ops does not stop at the state border,” said Freese.

Wisconsin joins North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota as the founding members of the regional mutual aid group.

Dairyland Power Awarded Nearly $15 Million Broadband Grant

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has awarded Dairyland Power Cooperative $14.89 million for a Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Grant funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The generation and transmission co-op will use the funds to retrofit 240 miles of its transmission network with optical ground wire during its Tri-State Fiber Deployment Project.

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) wrote a letter of support for Dairyland’s application, saying the grant will help “lower costs and offer high-speed [broadband]  options for citizens.”

Grothman Pushes Back on Power Plant Carbon Capture Proposal

Wisconsin Congressman Glenn Grothman (R-Milwaukee) is among a group of legislators pushing back on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its proposal to crack down on fossil fuel power plant emissions. The 22 GOP lawmakers sent a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan voicing concerns about the proposal, which requires coal and most natural gas plants to adopt carbon capture technology or shut down.

In the letter, the lawmakers claim the agency failed to properly consider the cost impacts and technological feasibility of the rule. The lawmakers asked Regan to extend the public feedback period and requested internal communications about the rulemaking process.