News Briefs


Evers Takes Action on Several Bills

Governor Tony Evers signed legislation that paves the way for Wisconsin to build out electric vehicle infrastructure. Wisconsin Acts 121 and 122 enable the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to administer more than $78 million in federal funds to build EV charging stations along the state’s major highways. Federal funds cover 80% of the cost. The goal of the federal program is to ensure a fast-charging bank is available at least every 50 miles on most major highways.

Evers also signed legislation allowing co-op utility trucks to use green lights in addition to amber lights to alert drivers to proceed with caution, a bill related to community aid payments when a power plant is decommissioned, and a bill that offers 50% grants for employers to help pay for CDL training. Evers also signed a bill to help offset costs for community partners to implement the Imagination Library program. Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services is one of dozens of partners offering Dolly Parton’s program, which delivers books to children under five to promote reading skills.

Evers vetoed a bill that would have created a special license plate for electric vehicles so emergency responders can take precautions. The state has already created and begun sending special license plate stickers to identify EVs.

Dairyland Power Demolishes Genoa #3

Marking the end of an era, Dairyland Power Cooperative demolished the smokestack and main building of its Genoa #3 coal plant, which generated electricity for more than 50 years. About 100 people gathered atop a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in Vernon County to witness the implosion. The decommissioning is part of Dairyland’s transition to lower its carbon footprint.

Once cleaned up, the site, which has river, rail, and highway access, will be used for economic development, which could be anything from a manufacturing facility to a clean energy pilot project. According to Dairyland, the decommissioning project was done on time and within budget.

This is the sixth of Dairyland’s eight coal plants to be shut down, and according to the co-op, there are no plans to decommission the final two, as they play an important role in the co-op’s ability to provide safe, reliable, and affordable wholesale power to its co-op members.

MRO Issues First-Ever Extreme Risk Warning

For the first time, the Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO) has identified “uncertain energy availability” as an “extreme priority.” The 2024 Regional Risk Assessment identifies the highest reliability and security risks to the region that includes Wisconsin. Seven other risks fell into the high-priority category. This is the first time MRO has issued an “extreme priority” risk.

OEC Slammed by Winter Storm Cora

Winter Storm Cora hit much of the state on April 2, doing significant damage in the Oconto Electric Cooperative service area. Heavy, wet snow and ice, combined with high winds, snapped at least 70 power poles and caused downed lines, and power outages for more than 9,000 members.

“This smoked our whole system,” said OEC Line Superintendent Jack Pardy.

Thirty electric cooperative crew members from Adams-Columbia, Barron, Central Wisconsin, Clark, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jump River, Price, and St. Croix assisted Oconto with restoration, which was a multi-day effort.

Oconto Electric Selects New CEO

The Oconto Electric Cooperative Board of Directors selected Ryan Miller to serve as the co-op’s next chief executive officer. Miller assumed his role on April 10, following the retirement of Byron Nolde.

Miller previously served as the chief operating officer of Florida’s Southland Utility Services.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Information Systems, a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA), and a certificate in utility management from Willamette University.

Biden Administration Revises Power Plant, Transformer Rules

The Biden Administration has revised rules critical to electric utility operations. The power plant rule will require all coal and some natural gas plants to use developing technology to reduce emissions or face closure. The transformer rule requires stricter efficiency standards.

The proposed power plant rule requires all coal and most natural gas plants to use carbon capture technology or green hydrogen to reduce carbon emissions drastically. The EPA is reportedly dropping the hydrogen option from the original rule.

The EPA is also expected to increase the number of natural gas plants impacted by the rule and extend the deadline for compliance by two years.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) made significant changes to its rule that would have required most distribution transformers, which are almost all made with grain-oriented electrical steel (GOES), to use amorphous steel cores instead, for a marginal gain in efficiency.

As revised, the rule requires 25% of transformers use amorphous steel cores. Opponents say the change eases some concerns that the move would exacerbate the transformer supply shortage.