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"We Energies' Reluctance: Compromising Grid Resilience and Affordability at the Expense of a Sustain

As the Environmental Justice and Infrastructure Initiative, we must express our deep concern over the recent developments surrounding We Energies’ coal plant retirements. We've learned that We Energies has not ruled out further delays in retiring their coal plants, a decision that could have significant implications for underrepresented communities and the environment.

The utility's plans to shut down two units at the South Oak Creek coal plant by May 2024, and two more by late 2025, are now hanging in the balance. Furthermore, We Energies' commitment to ending coal-fueled generation by 2035 is also uncertain. These potential delays have surfaced amidst discussions of new capacity requirements and plans for Microsoft’s energy-intensive data center in Mount Pleasant.

It is critical to remember that data centers consume significant amounts of energy, accounting for around 2% of all U.S. electricity use. Such developments significantly impact our energy infrastructure, requiring additional investments and potentially affecting timelines for transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Moreover, new seasonal capacity requirements for electricity production could also delay the retirement of coal plants. With increasing reliance on solar energy, which is less productive during winter months, ensuring a reliable grid has become more challenging. This challenge may prompt utilities to maintain their coal-fired power plants for longer than initially planned.

These developments underscore the non-binding nature of climate goals set by utilities. Wisconsin currently lacks specific policy mechanisms to regulate utilities' five-year plans, making it difficult to enforce commitments to renewable energy transition and emissions reduction.

The potential delay in coal plant retirements has far-reaching consequences. It hampers our state's response to climate change, exacerbates health impacts on communities living near coal plants, and perpetuates environmental inequities.

We believe it is essential for utilities like We Energies to engage with underrepresented communities and consider affordability when planning their energy transition. We urge We Energies to uphold its commitment to retire its coal plants as scheduled, and we call on policy-makers to implement stringent regulations that ensure utilities adhere to their climate commitments.

It's time to prioritize people and the planet over profits. The transition to a clean energy future cannot wait. Let's move forward together, ensuring an equitable, affordable, and sustainable energy landscape for all.

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