Building a bright, sustainable future that is affordable, reliable and clean
Reducing emissions is essential to building a bright, sustainable future. We have established ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals for our electric generating fleet and natural gas distribution system, aligned with or surpassing global emissions pathways aimed at limiting warming to 1.5°C.
For our electric generation fleet, we have set goals to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2050 and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 60% by the end of 2025 and 80% by the end of 2030, compared to 2005 levels. We also expect to eliminate coal as an energy source by the end of 2035. Across our natural gas business, we are targeting net-zero methane emissions from the distribution system by the end of 2030.
We continue to work with industry partners, environmental groups and state leaders to meet our goals and provide affordable, reliable and clean energy to our customers.
Our focus is to continue a balanced electric generation mix, while taking the following actions:
- Investing in cost-effective, zero-carbon, renewable generation
- Retiring older, less efficient fossil-fueled units
- Improving our natural gas distribution system
ESG progress plan
In November 2022, we updated our ESG progress plan. The $20.1 billion plan is the largest five-year capital plan in our company’s history. It includes more than $7.3 billion in new renewable investments in solar, wind and battery storage.
The ESG progress plan will help us cut emissions, maintain superior reliability, deliver significant savings for customers and grow our investment in the future of energy.
Ending coal-fueled generation by 2035
As we update our power generation fleet, our use of coal will continue to decline. By the end of 2030, we expect to use coal only as a backup fuel. We believe we will be in a position to eliminate coal as an energy source by 2035.
While the transition is more than a decade in the future, the effort will require significant planning and detailed execution to ensure the infrastructure and technology is in place to reliably meet Wisconsin’s energy needs. One way we plan to achieve this is to utilize available technology to run super-critical baseload units, including the new units at the Oak Creek Power Plant, on natural gas.
Part of our plan to exit coal by 2035 includes the retirement of 1,600 megawatts of older, less efficient fossil-fueled generation by 2026. That is on top of the 1,800 megawatts of coal-fueled generation we retired between 2018 and 2019.
Exploring new technology
In the fall of 2022 we successfully led a first-of-its-kind hydrogen power test. During two weeks of testing, hydrogen and natural gas were tested in blends up to 25%/75% by volume to power one of the generating units that serves customers of Upper Michigan Energy Resources, a WEC Energy Group subsidiary.
The testing was performed on an 18-megawatt unit that uses a technology known as RICE — reciprocating internal combustion engines. The RICE unit was continually monitored during the test to measure performance, output and emissions data.
Project partner EPRI will share a complete analysis of the test in early 2023 to further inform the energy industry on ways to successfully use hydrogen for power generation to support reducing carbon emissions.
Reducing methane emissions
We continue to reduce methane emissions by improving our natural gas distribution system. Our initial 2030 goal called for a 30% reduction in methane emissions from a 2011 baseline. Given advancements with renewable natural gas and the advantages that come with serving America’s Dairyland, we set a new target across our natural gas distribution operations to achieve net-zero methane emissions by the end of 2030.
In 2022, our Wisconsin utilities began implementing an innovative renewable natural gas pilot program to help us meet our methane emissions goal. We have partnered with Wisconsin dairy farms to supply high quality renewable natural gas to our distribution systems. The renewable natural gas supplied each year will directly replace conventional fossil-based natural gas that would have entered our pipes.
Track record of environmental responsibility
We began reducing carbon emissions from coal-fueled generation through the conversion of the We Energies Port Washington Power Plant (now Port Washington Generating Station) and Valley Power Plant to natural gas in 2005-08 and 2014-15, respectively.
Combined, We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service have retired more than 1,800 MW of coal-fueled generation since the beginning of 2018:
- 200-MW WPS Pulliam Power Plant in Green Bay, Wisconsin
- 100-MW WPS share of Edgewater 4 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin
- 1,190-MW We Energies Pleasant Prairie Power Plant in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin
- 350-MW We Energies Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette, Michigan
Modern natural gas units
Our efficient, modern natural gas generation units provide critical power to the Midwest energy grid. These plants are “on demand,” meaning they can run anytime. As we build more renewable energy power plants, these facilities will ensure that the lights stay on when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing.
In 2023, our Wisconsin utilities, We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service, completed the latest of these innovative power generation facilities at our Weston Power Plant in central Wisconsin. This new project features 128 megawatts of natural gas-fueled generation using reciprocating internal combustion engine (RICE) technology.
Our subsidiary in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Upper Michigan Energy Resources, added 183 megawatts of RICE generation in March 2019. These units have continued to produce affordable, reliable and low-carbon energy to meet the needs of thousands of area homes and businesses.