Columbia Energy Center

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Columbia Energy Center is an operating power station of at least 1112-megawatts (MW) in Portage, Columbia, Wisconsin, United States.


Table 1: Project-level location details

Plant name Location Coordinates (WGS 84)
Columbia Energy Center Portage, Columbia, Wisconsin, United States 43.4860, -89.4208 (exact)

The map below shows the exact location of the power station.

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Unit-level coordinates (WGS 84):

  • Unit 1: 43.486, -89.4207944
  • Unit 2: 43.486, -89.4207944

Project Details

Table 2: Unit-level details

Unit name Status Fuel(s) Capacity (MW) Technology Start year Retired year
Unit 1 operating subbituminous 556 MW subcritical - -
Unit 2 operating subbituminous 556 MW subcritical - -

Table 3: Unit-level ownership and operator details

Unit name Owner Parent
Unit 1 Wisconsin Power and Light Co [53.50%]; Wisconsin Public Service Corp [27.50%]; Madison Gas & Electric Co [19.00%] Alliant Energy Corp [53.50%]; WEC Energy Group Inc [27.50%]; MGE Energy Inc [19.00%]
Unit 2 Wisconsin Power and Light Co [53.50%]; Wisconsin Public Service Corp [27.50%]; Madison Gas & Electric Co [19.00%] Alliant Energy Corp [53.50%]; WEC Energy Group Inc [27.50%]; MGE Energy Inc [19.00%]

Project-level coal details

  • Coal source: Belle ayr mine (black jewel llc), cordero rojo mine (cloud peak), black thunder mine (arch coal), north antelope rochelle mine (peabody coal), antelope coal mine (arch coal)

Proposed retirement

In July 2020, Wisconsin Power & Light Company parent company Alliant Energy set an “aspiration” to reach net-zero carbon by 2050 and eliminate all coal power plants from its fleet by 2040.[1]

In February 2021, Unit 1 was scheduled for retirement in 2023 and unit 2 was scheduled for retirement by the end of 2024. Both retirements were subject to additional state and regional regulatory reviews.[2]

In June 2022, Alliant Energy announced delays to coal plant retirements, which were caused by expected generation shortfalls. Edgewater Generating Station would not be retired until 2025, and Columbia Energy Center would not be retired until 2026.[3]

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 7,912,253 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 22,396 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 5,146 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 460 lb.

Permit Issues and Sierra Club Lawsuit

In March of 2008 Alliant Energy based in Madison, Wisconsin received a notice of intent to sue from the Sierra Club. The notice claimed that the company did not file applications for air permit renewal on a timely basis and in doing so violated the Clean Air Act. In 2009, as a result of pressure from the Sierra Club and others, the federal government revoked its permit to the Columbia Energy Center. The result could mean that Alliant will be forced to install pollution reduction equipment or it could mean shutting down the facility for good.[4]

On April 22, 2013, WP&L settled air pollution violations with the EPA by agreeing to spend $1.2 billion to clean up coal-fired power plants and shut down older plants. The company agreed to stop burning coal at the Nelson Dewey Generating Station in Cassville and two of the three boilers at the Edgewater Generating Station in Sheboygan, retiring 590 megawatts of coal. The company will also add pollution controls to the Edgewater Generating Station and the Columbia Energy Center in Portage, co-owned by Madison Gas & Electric.[5]

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Columbia Energy Center

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[6] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[7]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from the Columbia Energy Center

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 61 $450,000,000
Heart attacks 97 $11,000,000
Asthma attacks 1,000 $53,000
Hospital admissions 45 $1,000,000
Chronic bronchitis 37 $17,000,000
Asthma ER visits 62 $23,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

Coal Ash Waste and Water Contamination

In August 2010 a study released by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice reported that Wisconsin, along with 34 states, had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash that was not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report, in an attempt to pressure the EPA to regulate coal ash, noted that most states do not monitor drinking water contamination levels near waste disposal sites.[8] The report mentioned Wisconsin's Columbia Energy Center and Oak Creek Power Plant as two sites that have groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.[9]

Coal Waste Sites

Articles and Resources


Additional data

To access additional data, including an interactive map of coal-fired power stations, a downloadable dataset, and summary data, please visit the Global Coal Plant Tracker on the Global Energy Monitor website.