EAU CLAIRE — The march to more sustainable energy sources is well underway, but that doesn’t mean the power shift comes without challenges.
That was among the key messages regional energy providers shared with Chippewa Valley business and government leaders Friday as part of the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs & Issues discussion series.
John Carr, vice president of strategic growth for Dairyland Power Cooperative, pointed to a recent report from a Midwest energy grid operator as an example of the side effects that can arise from an increasing reliance on renewable energy sources.
The Mid-Continent Independent System Operator transmission organization for the first time warned power companies in Wisconsin of the possibility of rolling blackouts this summer as a result of more energy coming from intermittent sources such as wind and solar.
“I want to be clear there’s an increased chance,” Carr said. “There’s no certainty that that will occur.”
On a typical day, he said, fossil fuels still provide 50% to 75% of the power distributed by MISO, an independent, not-for-profit organization that delivers electric power across 15 U.S. states and the Canadian province of Manitoba.
The warning is a reminder of why Dairyland’s primary mission is to provide sustainable energy without sacrificing reliability and safety, Carr said.
“Reliability is front and center,” he said. “As we think about these large changes that are going on not just regionally but across the country, we need to be methodical as we move forward.”
Officials from both Dairyland, which has 600,000 customers in four states, and Xcel Energy, which has about 3.7 million customers in eight states, shared their clean energy goals with the group.
Karl Hoesly, a regional vice president for Xcel, said the energy the company delivered to customers in 2021 was 50% cleaner than in 2005, putting it on track to achieve its interim goal of reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2030.
Dairyland is targeting a 50% reduction from the 2005 benchmark by 2030, Carr said.
Xcel has set a goal of providing 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050, a transition officials expect to be pushed along by continued investments in wind, solar and natural gas.
In moving toward that target, Hoesly said, Xcel aims to retire its last coal-powered plants in the Upper Midwest by 2030 and continue hydroelectric and nuclear power generation.
Xcel also plans to power 1.5 million electric vehicles by the end of the decade, up from the current level of 65,000 in the company’s service area, Hoesly said.
Riding shotgun with the the increase in EVs likely will be incentive programs to encourage customers to charge their vehicles overnight when power demand is lower, added both Eau Claire Energy Cooperative CEO Monica Obrycki and Tyrel Zich, manager of pricing and planning for Xcel.
Dairyland in February announced an agreement with NuScale Power to explore the company’s small-scale nuclear reactor technology.
“We believe that you have to explore nuclear technology if you’re interested in a carbon-free future and continued reliability,” Carr said.
Ned Noel, senior planner with the city of Eau Claire, noted that the city announced in March 2018 a goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2050, becoming the second Wisconsin city behind Madison to do so.
Early steps en route to that target he mentioned include pursuing clean power sources for the planned County Materials Complex, geothermal for the renovated L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library and solar for Fairfax Pool and other municipal facilities. The city also has added several electric vehicles to its fleet and installed a number of public EV chargers around town.
Source : Leader-Telegram