Following Energy Trends, WI Regulators Urged to Reconsider Gas Plant
Monday, April 24, 2023
Wisconsin regulators are being asked to take another look at previously approved plans for a proposed natural gas plant.
An environmental group says changes in the energy sector and the evolving climate crisis are hard to ignore.
In 2020, the Public Service Commission granted a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the Nemadji Trail Energy Center in Superior, which is still navigating the permitting process.
Elizabeth Ward - Wisconsin chapter director for the Sierra Club - said in the time since utilities submitted the plan, the electricity sector has seen greater expansion of cleaner sources, such as battery storage technology.
She added that federal incentives are now a game changer, too.
"We know with the Inflation Reduction Act that there's a lot of money available to co-ops to build clean energy," said Ward, "so it's much better for the ratepayers to be building clean energy instead of the fossil plant."
She pointed to emerging research into natural-gas production and the link to methane emissions.
The commission says it's reviewing the Sierra Club's request.
Dairyland Power Cooperative, a utility involved in the project, says the plant would be a flexible resource amid grid constraints and questions about alternative sources being able to fully replace retiring coal plants right now.
More broadly, utilities have said natural gas facilities produce fewer emissions than coal plants and can serve as a bridge while they transition to carbon-free sources.
But Ward contended that the time for a bridge has passed.
"The U.N. has made it very clear that the decisions we make today will determine whether or not we're able to get a handle on climate change," said Ward. "But also, the technology is here and that is being proven as we build more and more wind and solar and batteries."
Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency said an earlier review of the project didn't capture the full scope of the climate impact.
Meanwhile, Dairyland Power says while it believes sources such as solar and battery storage have yet to become primary sources of energy, it is enthusiastic about exploring them.
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