The end of an era: Alliant Energy announces retirement dates for Columbia Energy Center

The investor-owned utility is on the fastest path to eliminate coal from energy mix for Wisconsin customers; on track to achieve carbon goals.

MADISON, Wis. (February 2, 2021, 7:35 a.m. CST) – It’s the end of an era as Alliant Energy (NASDAQ: LNT) today announces plans to retire Columbia Energy Center – the last of their coal-fired facilities in Wisconsin. Located near Portage in Columbia County, the Columbia Energy Center has generated reliable, affordable power for Wisconsin customers for nearly half a century.

Columbia Generating Station

“The closure of Columbia is truly a historic moment as we stop burning coal in our Wisconsin Operations and fully turn our attention to generating cleaner energy using renewable resources, such as solar, battery storage and high efficiency gas,” said David de Leon, President of Alliant Energy's Wisconsin energy company. “While we are pleased to reach agreement with the co-owners on this retirement date for the facility, we will not be hasty in the final years of operation. We will take care of our employees and provide career assistance to those who are interested while tending to the community we so proudly serve.”

According to de Leon, this decision – to retire Columbia by the end of 2024 – will help keep costs down for customers. In fact, over the next decade, the company expects to avoid more than $250 million in expenses that would otherwise be required to keep Columbia efficient and operational. He added, “In other words, these savings will keep costs affordable for the long-term while we continue to safely and reliably deliver the energy our customers expect.”

The Columbia Energy Center, which went into operation in 1975, is capable of generating more than 1,100 megawatts of energy. Retiring the facility by the end of 2024 positions Alliant Energy to achieve its Clean Energy Vision, including a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 and eliminating all coal from their generation fleet by 2040.

Similar to the services the company is providing to employees at other coal-fired facilities they are retiring, Alliant Energy will hold one-on-one meetings, offer opportunities, tuition reimbursement and provide other resources geared toward the individual and unique needs of each employee.

In addition to caring for employees, Alliant Energy will work closely with community leaders to determine the best use of the site along with ways to continue supporting the economic health of the community. For Alliant Energy, it’s about staying true to their purpose-driven strategy: Supporting customers and building strong communities.

The retirement of Columbia is part of Alliant Energy’s Clean Energy Blueprint, a roadmap that outlines the company’s acceleration toward using more renewable energy. This plan is the result of an extensive and holistic resource planning process that Alliant Energy initiated, during which it sought and received feedback from stakeholders representing a variety of constituencies in Wisconsin’s energy sector. It also includes adding community solar, customer hosted solar and battery storage pilots along with at least 1,000 megawatts of new utility-scale solar in Wisconsin. The company views their Blueprint as an economic catalyst that is creating jobs and building stronger communities while also creating a healthier environment.

“By acting now to move away from coal to clean energy, Alliant Energy is putting words into action at a critical time,” said Elizabeth Katt Reinders, Deputy Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “Alliant Energy’s Blueprint shows how comprehensive resource planning can deliver hundreds of millions of dollars of avoided costs to customers. This process, which included robust stakeholder engagement and advanced modeling tools, led to the decision to retire Columbia by the end of 2024 and replace that power with clean energy. This demonstrates their commitment to keeping costs down for customers, contributing to the growing renewable energy job economy, and doing it in a way that is supportive of their employees and the communities they serve.”

Last May, Alliant Energy announced plans for 675 megawatts of solar energy generation; in the coming months, the company expects to announce details about the next phase of their solar plans.

“As we accelerate our transition toward a cleaner energy mix, we continue to be guided by our purpose-driven strategy and our Clean Energy Vision,” added de Leon. “This long-term vision is driven by our values to Do the right thing and Act for tomorrow. It’s a smart investment for our customers because it keeps rates affordable in the long run, creates new jobs and brings new economic development opportunities to the communities we serve.”

Alliant Energy co-owns the Columbia facility with Wisconsin Public Service Corporation, a subsidiary of WEC Energy Group, and Madison Gas and Electric Company. Collectively, the utility companies intend to retire Unit 1 by the end of 2023 and Unit 2 by the end of 2024.

Final timing and retirement dates for Units 1 and 2 are subject to additional state and regional regulatory reviews.

NOTE: On June 23, 2022, Alliant Energy updated the target retirement dates for the Edgewater Generating Station and Columbia Energy Center.