News Briefs


WECA Signs on to Utilities Public-Private Partnership

Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association Vice President of Operations, Environmental and Regulatory Services Tim Clay (pictured third from right) participated in the charter signing for the Electric Utilities Public-Private Partnership recently.

WECA has also helped develop a Midwest mutual aid plan 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 was in North Dakota last year to finalize the plan, which has been in development for more than a year.

The goal is to develop as many tools as possible to ensure that Wisconsin utilities are best positioned to respond to critical events, if necessary.

Another Challenge for Cardinal-Hickory Creek

Conservation groups have launched a new legal challenge against the 345 kV Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line. Dairyland Power Cooperative, American Transmission Company (ATC), and ITC Midwest are building the line, which runs from Middleton to Dubuque and is 98% complete.

The legal challenge relates to a land swap approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that will allow the line to cross the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge at a place that the agency determined has less environmental impact on the refuge.

This court challenge adds another delay and cost increase for the line, which was originally projected to be completed several years ago for $492 million. As of December 2023, the cost was $649 million. The Cardinal-Hickory Creek line will allow more than 160 clean energy projects the opportunity to connect to the grid.

Wisconsin Co-ops Attend PowerXchange

NRECA’s PowerXchange, the national organization’s biggest event of the year, took place last month in San Antonio, Texas. Electric cooperative leaders from across the nation were in attendance.

NRECA CEO Jim Matheson’s address shared concerns about how federal policy impacts reliability in the power sector.

“I just want to hit the pause button. Let’s preserve baseload power. Let’s understand the opportunities and the limitations of wind, solar, and storage. Let’s appreciate the value of gas plants, and nuclear power, and hydroelectric dams. Let’s build the transmission we’re going to need. It takes time to get this right,” he said.

Matheson said co-op leaders must continue to engage with policymakers and pitch a plan “grounded in reality.

Biden Pitches More Green Jobs Training

President Joe Biden delivered his State of the Union speech recently, making broad mention of climate successes.

“My policies have attracted $650 billion of private sector investments in clean energy and advanced manufacturing, creating tens of thousands of jobs here in America,” he said.

“I’m taking the most significant action on climate ever in the history of the world. I am cutting our carbon emissions in half by 2030,” he added.

Biden launched the American Climate Corps last year and promised to triple the number of people eligible to participate. This pledge would fund green jobs training and placement for 60,000 young people.

Warm Winter Weather Impacts Electric Co-ops

Wisconsin experienced some spring-like weather during the winter months, including the earliest tornadoes on record. The National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed two tornadoes hit the evening of Thursday, February 8. Much of the destruction, which totaled $2.4 million, happened in Rock Energy Cooperative territory.

The tornado affected 458 Rock Energy members in Wisconsin. The day before the tornadoes also registered record warm temperatures at 59 degrees.

EIA: Renewable Energy Output Down in 2023

Despite record expansion, the output from utility-scale renewable electricity generation actually fell in 2023 from 2022 levels, according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). The agency said mild weather in the Midwest meant less wind, and drought impacted hydropower output.

Wind generation, which is the largest source of renewable electricity, dropped 2.1% last year compared to 2022. Hydropower generation was down almost 6%, while solar output was up 14.4%. EIA data shows an overall decrease of 0.8 percent in output from utility-scale renewables compared to 2022, which was the highest on record.