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Report grades WI utilities on clean-energy pledges

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Utilities across the country are making climate pledges - but they're not always backing them up.

That's according to a report that includes grades for a few Wisconsin companies.

The Sierra Club compared the actions a company takes to boost its renewable-energy use to its publicly stated goals.

The analysis of more than 70 utilities nationwide found most still are investing in fossil-fuel generation, despite continued pledges to move away from it. The Wisconsin companies that were included, Alliant and a pair of subsidiaries of WEC Energy, received "D" grades or lower.

The Sierra Club Wisconsin chapter's Senior Campaign Coordinator, Cassie Steiner, said it underscores Wisconsin's struggles in this area.

"In general Wisconsin really is lagging behind, even our neighboring Midwest states," said Steiner. "On this transition to clean energy, there's a lot of opportunity that we're missing out on."

Steiner said to be fair, Alliant just announced some clean-energy storage projects.

In an e-mailed statement, WEC Energy Group says it strongly disagrees with the report - noting it has aggressive clean-energy goals. The company says in addition to large-scale solar parks, it operates the largest fleet of wind farms in the state.

But Steiner countered that watchdogs have seen little momentum from the WEC Energy subsidiaries, pointing to continued efforts surrounding fossil-fuel infrastructure. She said the primary goal should be clean energy as costs for those sources come down.

"It is really a concern," said Steiner, "not just from a climate perspective but also for people who pay energy bills."

As for any other signs of progress, Steiner pointed to some of the efforts carried out by smaller electric cooperatives in Wisconsin.

On the national level, the report's authors say under current plans, only 25% of existing coal and gas energy will be replaced by clean sources.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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