TOWN OF CARLTON - With energy producer Dominion announcing the shutdown of the Kewaunee Power Station nuclear plant in Carlton, how might the closure affect utility rates?
State utilities don't expect the plant's closing to have a big impact on your electric bills. But some consumer advocacy groups are concerned about what it means for the state's energy plans.
Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) and Madison-based Wisconsin Power and Light (WP&L) are the two state utilities which purchase power from the Kewaunee nuclear power plant.
WPS purchases 59 percent of the energy produced. WP&L buys the rest.
Both utilities have purchase power agreements with Dominion through 2013.
"We've been looking at the market, very aggressively over the past two or three years. We have obviously a portfolio in mind," said Charlie Severance with Wisconsin Public Service. "We have plans to be able to accommodate the loss of that contract in December 2013."
Charlie Severance is general manager of wholesale electric and renewable energy for Wisconsin Public Service.
He says more reliance will be put on its other options, like natural gas. Severance says this won't impact users' utility rates.
Both WPS and WP&L say the power purchased from the Kewaunee station makes up about 13 percent of their electric energy sources in the state.
"There should be some continuity with the rates, going forward," said Bob Norcross,Public Service Commission administrator for the gas and energy division.
The Public Service Commission (PSC), the agency in charge of regulating Wisconsin's public utilities, says the closure shouldn't affect customers adversely.
"Certainly a lot depends on gas prices. Gas prices have dropped a great deal and that's one of the reasons why this plant, for Dominion, I think for the utilities that were purchasing power from them, did determine that it wasn't economical going forward," said Norcross.
And while the two utilities say customers shouldn't expect any changes in their rates, the Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin is concerned about what the closure means for the long term.
"There's no easy way for the public or the state's Public Service Commission to evaluate the impact that type of activity has on our future ability to get electricity," said CUB Executive Director Charlie Higley.
Higley says he wants to see a plan in place that would help the state meet future energy needs.
The PSC says it already does a strategic energy assessment every two years.
Wisconsin Power and Light says even if the Kewaunee plant were to stay open, it wasn't going to renew its contract with Dominion.
A WP&L spokesman says Dominion will continue to honor the current contract by using energy from other plants.
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