1 Utility Quick to Act on Reducing Carbon Emissions

Cedar Ridge Wind Farm                                      Source: Alliant Energy



Addressing the company's desire to diversify its energy portfolio, Alliant Energy Corp.'s  (NYSE: LNT  ) Wisconsin utility has issued a request for proposals in order to meet power demand which will be lost with the retirement of older plants in the coming years. According to John Larsen, President of Alliant Energy's Wisconsin utility, "We believe it is in the best interest of our customers to have flexibility in the power we generate or purchase. To achieve this, we expect natural gas and wind to become a larger part of our energy portfolio."

Already some wind in the sails
In 2013, each of Alliant Energy's two subsidiaries, Interstate Power and Light, or IPL, and Wisconsin Power and Light, or WPL, sourced 8% of their electric energy from wind assets (both purchased and owned). This pales in comparison to the amount of energy which they procured from coal. Both subsidiaries exceeded the 2012, national average of 37% -- IPL had 41%, and WPL had 56% of its power from coal. Alliant Energy owns 868 MW of wind capacity, spanning three different sites -- WPL's Cedar Ridge facility represents 68 MW, and Bent Tree represents 400 MW; IPL's Whispering Willow represents 400 MW of wind capacity. The Franklin County facility represents 99 MW of non-regulated wind capacity.

Although the renewable energy standards are a driving force for many utilities to adopt greater amounts of solar and wind power, this is not as pressing a concern for Alliant Energy. The announced projects in Wisconsin satisfy the 2015 standards, while the standards in Iowa have already been achieved. The announced projects in Minnesota are sufficient in achieving the 2025 standards.

The EPA's recently announced Clean Power Plan, an initiative to cut carbon emissions to 30% below 2005 levels, is surely another major factor in Alliant Energy's decision to diversify its energy portfolio. In addressing the EPA's announcement, the American Wind Energy Association, or AWEA, president, Tom Kiernan said, "As one of the biggest, fastest, and cheapest ways to reduce carbon pollution, wind energy can play a central role in state plans to achieve the reduction targets appropriately set by the EPA." 

For some, wind is a breeze
Alliant Energy's recent interest in wind power is nothing compared to what some other utilities have already accomplished in incorporating the renewable power source into their portfolios. According to the American Wind Energy Association, or AWEA, Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL  ) is the nation's No. 1 wind energy provider. The industry group has also recognized Xcel Energy as the "Utility of the Year" for 2013 -- the second time in five years that it has won the award. Currently possessing about 5,080 MW of wind power, Xcel is not complacent, resting on its laurels and ignoring further developing of its wind assets. Over the next several years, the utility has stated its intention to expand its wind power capacity by 40%, adding about 1,900 MW of wind power to its portfolio.

A Foolish conclusion
Alliant's announcement that it is planning to develop alternative energy sources is consistent with numerous other utilities, which are looking to achieve renewable portfolio standards, and which will be looking to adhere to the new EPA mandate. Despite the wind industry's frustration that the PTC and ITC have yet to be renewed -- two major incentives for wind energy development in the past -- there are other forces at play that are spurring development of wind power projects.

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