A thumbs down from state regulators, to a Wisconsin utility. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has rejected the application by Alliant Energy to build a new coal fired generating plant at Cassville. The proposed Nelson Dewey Three plant is "more expensive and emits more CO2 than any more reasonable options," said PSC chair Eric Callisto. "Per staff, it is the most expensive conventional coal plant of its size, on a dollar per kilowatt basis, ever proposed in the United States. It is more twice the cost of recent plants built in this state, on a per kilowatt basis."
"According to the computer model utilized by the commission for decades, Nelson Dewey is not the optimal solution for meeting WP&L's electricity needs. Modeling suggests that WP&L's best option is to build a combined cycle (natural gas) plant," said commissioner Lauren Azar. "I voted for the (coal fired) Weston project when I first got here," said commissioner Mark Meyer. "I do think that coal is going to be an important part of our mix in the future . . . I just think that this is the wrong project at the wrong time."
Alliant had proposed burning biomass at the plant, a plan Azar called "smoke and mirrors." Callisto said at its heart, the proposal was "a coal plant, and a relatively inefficient one," adding that economic benefits to Cassville and Southwestern Wisconsin would not outweigh risks, especially in light of future federal regulation of carbon emissions.
Commissioner Azar gave kudos to the people of Cassville. "In today's world it is unusual for a community to welcome a coal plant with open arms, but that is exactly what the people of Cassville have done in this case," said Azar. "But the people of Cassville have to understand that this case is not just about them." Commissioners said the plant's $1.2 billion price tag was not a good deal for utility ratepayers, while the plant would emit two-to-three million tons of CO2 annually.