A commentary by Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin:

For Immediate Release
April 7, 2010

For More Information Contact
Michael Vickerman

Costs of coal plants keep going up
In recent weeks, some groups have suggested that we maintain our current energy portfolio, continuing to rely heavily on coal-fired generation for a substantial amount of our electricity. These groups claim that gradually moving toward more reliance on local, in-state sources of energy will increase electricity costs. These claims have been thoroughly discredited by two economic studies concluding that electricity bills will decrease with the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

Further, these groups refuse to acknowledge the substantial, ongoing costs associated with coal plants. Since 1999, Wisconsin utilities have spent over $2 billion of customer money keeping old, inefficient coal plants running. For comparison purposes, this sum is nearly triple the utilities’ investment in windpower facilities during the same period. Customers have seen the real and substantial impact of these coal plant costs through rising electricity rates over the past several years. These costs are in addition to the more than $700 million (exclusive of transportation costs) we send out of state each year to pay for the coal to fuel these aging plants. Reliance on dirty, antiquated coal plants leaves Wisconsin in a vulnerable position, unable to predict or control energy costs.

Unlike coal, clean resources like biogas, wind and solar will produce energy throughout their productive lives without requiring costly pollution abatement measures. Going forward, the more renewable energy we add to Wisconsin’s energy resource mix, the less exposed we will be to these downstream liabilities. The avoidance of these regulatory risks is another compelling reason for passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act legislation in this session.

Coal Plant Retrofit Costs (1999-2009)
(in Millions of Dollars)