Alliant Energy to retire its last coal-fired facility

Alliant Energy Columbia Energy Center/

Alliant Energy will retire the Columbia Energy Center by the end of 2024 — the last of its coal-fired facilities in Wisconsin.

Alliant had closed its Cassville plant in 2015. Its Sheboygan facility is slated to retire at the end of 2022.

The retirement of the almost 50-year-old Columbia facility will bring Alliant closer to its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and eliminating all coal from its generation fleet by 2040. It will allow Alliant to focus on solar, battery storage and high-efficiency gas, said Alliant Energy Wisconsin President David De Leon.

A spokeswoman said once the 1,100 megawatt plant comes offline, 40 percent of Alliant’s energy will be produced through renewable resources. The other 60 percent will come from natural gas.

The utility company has 100 employees at Columbia Energy Center, a spokeswoman told Alliant Energy will offer resources such as tuition reimbursement geared toward the needs of each employee. Some employees also will be needed to stay on beyond 2024 to help decommission the plant.

“While we are pleased to reach agreement with the co-owners on this retirement date for the facility, we will not be hasty in the final years of operation,” de Leon said. “We will take care of our employees and provide career assistance to those who are interested while tending to the community we so proudly serve.”

Alliant Energy co-owns the Columbia facility with Wisconsin Public Service Corporation, a subsidiary of WEC Energy Group, and Madison Gas and Electric Company. The utility companies intend to retire one unit of the facility by the end of 2023 and the other by the end of 2024. Final retirement dates for the units are subject to additional state and regional regulatory reviews.

According to de Leon, this decision will help keep costs down for customers — saving customers more than $250 million over the next decade.

In May, Alliant Energy announced plans for 675 megawatts of solar energy generation. The company expects to announce details about the next phase of its solar plans in the coming months.

“It’s a smart investment for our customers because it keeps rates affordable in the long run, creates new jobs and brings new economic development opportunities to the communities we serve,” de Leon said.

In 2019, for the first time in more than three decades, coal-fired power plants provided less than half of Wisconsin’s electricity net generation. Gov. Tony Evers set a goal last August for the state to produce carbon-free electricity by 2050.

According to the Public Service Commission, three coal plants in Wisconsin do not have a retirement date: Dairyland Power Cooperative’s John P. Madgett Generating Station in Alma and Weston Power Plant near Wausau, and We Energies’ Elm Road Generating Station south of Milwaukee. 

-By Stephanie Hoff