WisBusiness.com: Alliant’s Harvey Sticking with Coal Despite Global Warming Talk

By WisBusiness.com staff

MADISON — The head of Alliant Energy in Madison, going to the state Public Service Commission now to build a new coal-fired electric plant in Cassville, said the nation’s most abundant fuel remains key despite increased calls for more regulation of global warming emissions.

“I don’t know what else to do,” Bill Harvey told a luncheon group Monday. “We really don’t have an alternative ..other than to build coal plants.”

Harvey said his Iowa-Wisconsin utility is committed to making coal “as clean as we can” and joined another top utility executive in calling for a joint Wisconsin effort to make coal gas-ification an affordable reality.

He also said Alliant would put its muscle and checkbook behind more renewable energy sources, such as wind, but added that in the short term those would only “dent” the energy requirements.

And he said while he thinks nuclear power is ready for a resurgence, it “remains to be seen if it’s right from an investor perspective.” Added Harvey, whose utility is selling off its interest in an aging nuke plant: “It’s too rich for our blood.”

Harvey made the comments at the initial WisBusiness.com-Madison Magazine business lunch at the Madison Club. The next luncheon is scheduled for Wednesday, May 16, and the guest speaker is Dave Wittwer, president and CEO of TDS Telecom. Other speakers in the series will be announced soon.

In other comments, Harvey said:

— State regulation of emissions said to lead to global warming should be put on hold until there’s federal regulation to avoid a patchwork quilt of confusing state-by-state rules. He said more regulation is OK as long as it’s clear and consistent across state lines.

— Chided Madison for failing to recruit more traditional, factory jobs. He wondered where the “Madison industrial park” is located.

— Estimated that the build-out of new energy sources over time would cost roughly 4 percent a year to electric customers. In recent years, rate increases have been more than 7 percent annually.

— Said building the 300-megawatt Cassville plant and adding roughly 80 megawatts of power from a proposed Fon du Lac County wind farm would give the utility more rate stability because it would not need to buy volatile natural gas.

— Acknowledge that new coal-fired power plants are “about as popular as leprosy” because they release carbon – a major factor in global warming – into the atmosphere.

— Called the Wisconsin economy strong, but said the Madison region will continue to grow faster than the rest of the state, in part because of the university and the burgeoning biotech industry that has sprung up in the area.