Environmental

Clean energy

Since announcing our Energy 2030 framework in November 2015 and through year-end 2022, we have announced projects that we expect will increase our owned renewable capacity by more than nine times when completed. We continue to evaluate potential new wind and solar sites beyond what is currently planned as we grow our use of renewable resources to help achieve net-zero carbon electricity by 2050. In 2022, renewable energy accounted for about 22% of MGE’s overall energy mix. MGE expects to achieve our goal under our Energy 2030 framework of 25% renewable energy by 2025 ahead of schedule.

Our clean energy projects
Map of MGE wind and solar projects
  • Expanding our highly successful community solar program, Shared Solar, with a 6-megawatt (MW) solar array at the Middleton Municipal Airport in Middleton. The array came online in 2020.
  • Purchasing 50 MW of solar capacity from the 150-MW Two Creeks Solar project, which came online in fall 2020. Two Creeks Solar was the first large-scale solar project to be built in Wisconsin.
  • Partnering with Dane County to build a 10-MW solar installation at the Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, which came online in late 2020 to serve Dane County operations.
  • Bringing online in spring 2021 the 22-MW O’Brien Solar Fields in Fitchburg, Wis. The array serves local companies, the City of Fitchburg, the State of Wisconsin Department of Administration and UW-Madison through our innovative Renewable Energy Rider program.
  • Purchasing 100 MW of solar capacity from the Badger Hollow Solar Farm in Iowa County, Wis. Badger Hollow Phase I came online in late 2021; another 50 MW from Phase II is expected online in late 2023 or early 2024.
  • Partnering with the City of Madison and the Madison Metropolitan School District to build the 8-MW Hermsdorf Solar Fields in Madison, which came online in spring 2022.
  • Purchasing 9.16 MW of wind capacity from the 92-MW Red Barn Wind Farm in southwest Wisconsin, which came online in 2023.
  • Constructing the 6-MW Tyto Solar Project in Fitchburg, Wis., which is expected online in 2023.
  • Purchasing 20 MW of solar energy and 11 MW of battery storage from the 200-MW Paris Solar-Battery Park in southeast Wisconsin. The array is expected online in 2024.
  • Purchasing 25 MW of solar energy from the 250-MW Darien Solar Energy Center in southeast Wisconsin. The solar array is expected online by the end of 2024.
  • Purchasing 30 MW of solar energy from the 300-MW Koshkonong Solar Energy Center in Dane County. The solar array is expected online in 2026.
SAratoga wind farm at sunset

Elimination of coal-fired generation

MGE has no controlling interest in coal-fired resources. In 2011, MGE discontinued the use of coal at the only generating facility in which we have sole ownership, our Blount Generating Station.

Transition from coal infographic
In 2018, MGE accelerated the depreciation of certain assets, including our combustion turbines, Blount Generating Station and Columbia Energy Center Unit 1. (In 2022, MGE received State regulatory approval to accelerate the depreciation of Unit 2 at Columbia to align with Unit 1 in 2029).

As part of MGE’s ongoing transition away from coal, in early 2021, MGE and the co-owners of the Columbia Energy Center announced the planned early retirement of the plant. Both units at Columbia are expected to be retired by mid-2026, more than 10 years ahead of schedule. By 2027, with the planned retirements of both units at Columbia, MGE will have eliminated approximately two-thirds of the company’s current coal-fired generation capacity.

In fall 2021, MGE and the co-owners of the Elm Road Generating Station announced the plant’s planned transition from coal to natural gas. By the end of 2030, MGE expects coal to be used only as a backup fuel at the Elm Road Generating Station, and by the end of 2032, MGE plans to have eliminated coal-fired generation from its portfolio.

Long-duration energy storage
MGE is partnering in an effort to develop energy storage at the Columbia Energy Center site. The innovative project would be the first of its kind in the United States. In fall 2023, MGE and the co-owners of the site were selected for a federal grant of up to $30 million from the Department of Energy to support the construction of a long-duration energy storage system.

Known as the Columbia Energy Storage Project, it would use a closed-loop process either to create electricity or to store energy by transferring an element between its natural fluid or gas states. Through this process, the Columbia Energy Storage Project would deliver electricity to the grid when it is needed or take electricity and store its energy when the grid has excess electricity. The 20-MW project would be capable of providing more than 10 hours of energy storage.

MGE and Columbia’s majority owners expect to submit an application to State regulators in the first half of 2024 to build the project.
wildflower at O'Brien Solar Fields

Resource planning and carbon regulation
When making generation decisions, MGE engages in extensive resource planning analysis and modeling, which consider many factors, including forecasted energy use projections; long-term impacts on customers, investors and the environment; potential future environmental regulations; assumptions related to the anticipated costs of fuel; and many other factors related to energy production. Our economic analysis explicitly includes possible projected carbon emissions limits to help ensure our decisions are financially sound—regardless of whether or how carbon is regulated in the future.

In addition, large new generating facilities are reviewed by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to ensure the projects are in the public interest. For larger projects, different generating scenarios are modeled in our regulatory application to demonstrate the need and to justify the cost. All proposals and decisions by the State regulatory body are part of the public record.

Our generating facilities:

  • Badger Hollow I Solar Farm, Iowa County (Phase II is expected online in late 2023 or early 2024)
  • Blount Generating Station, Madison
  • Columbia Energy Center, Portage (expected retirement by midyear 2026)
  • Combustion turbines, Madison and Marinette
  • Dane County Airport Solar, Madison
  • Elm Road Generating Station, Oak Creek (expected to transition to natural gas by end of 2030)
  • Forward Energy Center Wind Farm, Dodge and Fond du Lac counties
  • Hermsdorf Solar Fields, Madison
  • Morey Field Solar, Middleton
  • O’Brien Solar Fields, Fitchburg
  • Red Barn Wind Farm, Grant County
  • Rosiere Wind Farm, Kewaunee County
  • Saratoga Wind Farm, Howard County, Iowa
  • Shared Solar at the Middleton Operations Center, Middleton
  • Solar photovoltaic units, Dane County
  • Top of Iowa Wind Farm, Worth County, Iowa
  • Two Creeks Solar, Manitowoc County
  • West Campus Cogeneration Facility, Madison
  • West Riverside Energy Center, Beloit

We also purchase power through contracts and from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator market.

Emissions reductions
We have made strides to reduce emissions by installing emission-reduction equipment and improving equipment efficiencies in our current generation fleet. As we work toward our ambitious goal of net-zero carbon electricity by 2050, we continue to make significant investments in local and regional cost-effective renewable generation.

Ensuring that new and changing technology serves all customers equitably is one of our key objectives under our Energy 2030 framework. We are working to build a smarter, cleaner community grid that serves to benefit all customers.

Greenhouse gas and other emissions

2
1
0
CO2
39%
NOx
75%
SO2
98%
PM
92%
Hg
95%

Decrease 

since 2005 (in mass)


Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are calculated from generating units owned by MGE, power purchase agreements and power purchased by MGE on the regional Midcontinent Independent System Operator market. The market purchase emission rate is based on a seven-state regional average CO2 emission profile from all power produced in Wisconsin and the surrounding Midwest states.

Nitrogen oxide (NOx), particulate matter (PM), mercury (Hg) and sulfur dioxide (
SO2) emission rates are calculated from MGE-owned generation assets, including MGE’s share of jointly owned units.   


Edison Electric Institute-American Gas Association ESG/sustainability reporting templates
To advance further transparency and disclosure in company operations and governance, MGE participates in the Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI) and American Gas Association’s (AGA) environmental, social and governance (ESG)/sustainability-related reporting templates. The quantitative template includes data related to MGE’s energy portfolio (generation and capacity), emissions, capital expenditures, and human and natural resources. The qualitative template includes information related to our company’s management and oversight of and strategies for our transition toward deep decarbonization and greater sustainability. These templates are voluntary and industry-specific. Find them in our ESG Data Center.

Tyto Solar
Tyto Solar in Fitchburg, Wis.
Construction began in 2023 on the 6-MW Tyto Solar Project in Fitchburg, Wis. This project is being built as a distributed energy resource that will connect to our distribution grid and serve MGE customers with locally generated, cost-effective and carbon-free electricity. It is expected to begin serving customers by the end of 2023.

Shared Solar
MGE’s community solar program, Shared Solar, gives residential and small business customers the option to power their household or business with locally generated solar energy for up to half of their annual energy use. It’s an affordable option for customers who want to support local solar.

Shared Solar logo
The voluntary program began in early 2017 with a 500-kilowatt array on the roof of the City of Middleton’s Municipal Operations Center. In 2020, the 6-MW Morey Field Solar project at the Middleton Municipal Airport came online. 

Renewable Energy Rider
Our Renewable Energy Rider (RER) gives MGE and larger business customers who seek customized renewable energy solutions the opportunity to partner to grow locally generated renewable energy. The innovative program is designed to meet the needs and goals of companies that support or have signed on to the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, a collaboration facilitated by the World Resources Institute and the World Wildlife Fund.

MGE has built more than 40 MW of solar capacity under RER agreements since earning regulatory approval in 2017 to begin offering this clean energy option.
solar panel array

Green Power Tomorrow
MGE’s long-standing Green Power Tomorrow (GPT) program offers customers a flexible, affordable option for supporting green energy. At a penny more per kilowatt-hour (kWh), GPT is a convenient and effective way for customers to support renewable energy and offset their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Today, more than 10,000 customers participate in this long-standing MGE program.

Customer-owned solar
We also work with customers who want to install solar to help power their homes or businesses. These customers connect to our community grid and sell their excess electricity to MGE. As of year-end 2022, we have partnered with more than 2,150 customers to connect their solar installations to our grid.

Natural gas as a bridge fuel
While we are replacing much of the coal-fired generation to be retired from the Columbia Energy Center with investments in renewable generation, in early 2023, MGE purchased 25 MW from the state-of-the-art West Riverside Energy Center. In fall 2023, the company requested approval from State regulators to purchase an additional 25 MW. That request is pending before State regulators. The highly efficient West Riverside facility has lower emission rates compared to coal-fired generation and other older natural gas plants. We expect the carbon emissions resulting from a 50-MW share of the West Riverside Energy Center to be less than 10% of the carbon emissions resulting from our share of the output of the Columbia Energy Center.

greenhouse gas emissions infographic
Net-zero methane emissions goal
Building on our existing sustainability and clean energy goals, MGE has set a goal to achieve net-zero methane emissions from our natural gas distribution system by 2035.

The company completed an in-depth analysis and inventory of all our GHG emissions associated with our electric generation and distribution, purchase and distribution of natural gas, and other sources. Methane, which is a primary component of natural gas, is more than 25 times as potent as CO2. It can be emitted during the production, transmission and distribution of natural gas.

Our strategies for achieving net-zero methane emissions include:

  • Enhanced leak detection and repair: We will explore strategies, practices and/or commercially available technologies that help us to meet or to exceed current federal and state regulatory requirements surrounding leak-detection and repair methods.
  • Implementation of cost-effective technologies and processes: Improved monitoring of our system and estimated emissions will inform priorities for reduction opportunities. Consistent with those priorities, we will implement cost-effective technologies to improve the detection, measurement, mitigation and/or reduction of emissions from the operation and maintenance of our natural gas distribution system.
  • Renewable natural gas (RNG) to offset residual emissions: We will explore the use of RNG in our natural gas system to offset any remaining emissions we cannot directly control. New technologies, such as carbon capture, green hydrogen (zero-carbon hydrogen) and potentially other alternative fuels, continue to emerge and to evolve.
  • Proactive steps taken: We already have replaced all piping made of cast iron, bare or unprotected steel, and other material considered to be leak-prone in our natural gas distribution system. In addition, our leak inspection and repair schedules exceed federal requirements. Our ongoing efforts to improve our system and our partnerships to prevent damages help to advance safety and reduce emissions.

More than half of our GHG emissions come from sources already included in our net-zero carbon electricity goal. Emissions from our fossil-fueled electric generation facilities and purchased power agreements already are included in our net-zero carbon electricity goal.

MGE is working to reduce overall emissions from our natural gas distribution system cost-effectively as quickly as possible. Our framework for emissions reduction from our natural gas distribution system is available at mgeenergy.com.

Partnerships and collaborations
MGE has ongoing collaborations with a number of communities, including the cities of Fitchburg, Madison and Middleton. These partnerships serve to advance shared goals around renewable energy, EVs, and energy efficiency and conservation.

MGE also is a longtime partner of Sustain Dane, a local organization that has offered innovative programs for local residents and businesses for more than 20 years. During this time, Sustain Dane has been recognized as a leader in helping local organizations set and achieve sustainability goals. MGE and the City of Madison have partnered with Sustain Dane to host Accelerate Sustainability Workshops, which help local professionals learn more about sustainability best practices through local case studies.

MGE also has served as a member of the Dane County Council on Climate Change. The council included local government, businesses, utilities and environmental organizations. MGE’s partnership with local stakeholders through the council offered another opportunity to work toward common goals, including deep decarbonization.
 

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