MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee-based WEC Energy says it plans to stop using coal as an energy source and transition its recently built coal-fired plant units in Oak Creek to natural gas by 2035.
WEC Energy senior executive vice president and CEO Scott Lauber said as much to analysts this week, according to our partners at the Milwaukee Business Journal. We Energies is a subsidiary of WEC.
The BizJournal described the transition as a "major shift" for the company. It contrasts WEC executive chairman Gale Klappa's longtime support for coal at their Oak Creek facility. And on Tuesday Klappa told analysts that the newer Oak Creek coal units will remain a "key" part of their operation for "many years to come."
“Fortunately, we can plan for the future of the new units at Oak Creek with fuel flexibility in mind," Klappa said.
Lauber told analysts that a preliminary estimate for transitioning the Oak Creek facility from coal to natural gas is about $180 million.
The first of two 615-megawatt coal units in Oak Creek began operating in 2010, and the second began operating in 2011. The units cost about $2 billion, part of WEC’s $7 billion “Power the Future” energy initiative, according to the BizJournal.
Klappa said the company has tested natural gas at the site, and plans to make changes to allow a fuel blend of up to 30 percent on natural gas. That will allow the site to transition completely from coal.
“We see a very bright and long future for the newer units at Oak Creek,” Klappa told analysts.