Bucking Trend, Wisconsin Utilities Burned More Coal in 2017

Coal-fired generation, which accounted for 55 percent of all electricity produced in Wisconsin, was up about 7.5 percent from the previous year, according to numbers released last week by the federal Energy Information Administration. Coal use declined 2.2 percent in Illinois and 1.8 percent in Minnesota, while it was up about 1 percent in Iowa. Nationwide it was down about 2.7 percent.

While the data are from 2017, the report comes as utilities across the country are retiring coal-fired units at a record pace and replacing them with increasingly cheap natural gas, as well as wind and solar, generation.

Since 2015, Wisconsin utilities have retired some 2,300 megawatts of coal-fired capacity, including WE Energies’ Pleasant Prairie plant in Kenosha and Alliant Energy plants in Sheboygan and Cassville.

Meanwhile, Alliant Energy is adding 725 megawatts of capacity to its Riverside natural gas plant in Beloit, and Dairyland Power Cooperative has plans to build a 625-megawatt gas plant in Superior. Each project is estimated to cost about $700 million.