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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

Clean energy advocates speak up about We Energies stalled coal burning power plant closure

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Susan Bence
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WUWM
Sister Joanne Weyker was among those upset with We Energies to delay closure of its Oak Creek Power Plant.

Some people are unhappy about plans to extend the life of a coal-burning power plant south of Milwaukee off Lake Michigan.

In June, We Energies announced it would delay closing its Oak Creek Power Plant. It was slated to shut down by 2024, but the company pushed the timing to late 2025. We Energies says the delay is due to “Tight energy supply conditions in the Midwest power market and supply chain issues.”

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Susan Bence
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WUWM
The Clean Power Coalition wants We Energies to move more quickly to renewable energy sources.

With a banner stating We Energies are fossil fools as a backdrop, members of the Clean Power Coalition gathered in front of the utilities’ downtown headquarters Wednesday. Sister Janet Weyker was among them.

“What do I want We Energies to do? Better planning, speed up closing all [coal] burning plants, invest more in renewable energy, don’t substitute with oil or gas for coal. And don’t sock ratepayers with the cost of transition while your company rakes in record profits,” Weyker says. “We don’t have a lot of time to get this right.”

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Susan Bence
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WUWM
We Energies' spokesperson Brendan Conway.

We Energies spokesperson Brendan Conway looked on from the sidelines. He says the utility remains committed to increasing its renewable energy portfolio.

“We already have the state’s largest wind parks, now we’re building the state’s largest solar parks – those are already in place, the state’s first solar battery parks. Hundreds and hundreds of megawatts of new clean, renewable energy are coming on line in a few years, but some of it has been delayed and we’ve been open about because of global supply chain issues,” Conway says.

Keviea Guiden, energy burden organizer with Citizen Action, is concerned about the people she says will be hurt most by the delay in the power plant’s closure.

“It is families living closest to the Oak Creek Power Plant who will suffer from the pollution, as they struggle to figure out how to pay for rising energy costs because dirty energy is expensive,” Guiden says. “We want We Energies assistance programs aimed first at helping families struggling to pay their bill.”

We Energies Brendan Conway says the utility works with customers whenever they have issues with bills.

As for helping to mitigate climate change? “So, I think when we look at our role it’s making sure customers have the energy they need, when they need it and that it is affordable, reliable and clean,” Conway says.

The Coalition members gathered on a hot summer’s day outside We Energies headquarters weren’t feeling the commitment.

Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.