Utility admits to “uncertainties with the biomass market”

MADISON —  After publicly stating its Marshalltown, Iowa coal plant could burn 10 percent biomass, staff for Alliant Energy now question the feasibility of burning the renewable fuel in the recently approved plant according to testimony submitted in front of the Iowa Utilities Board earlier this month. This development raises questions about the company’s commitment to burn 20 percent biomass in its proposed Cassville, Wisconsin coal plant.

“The similarities between Alliant’s promotion of the Marshalltown proposal and its Cassville proposal are striking,” said Peter Taglia, staff scientist at Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization. “Just like its commitment to burn 10 percent biomass in the Marshalltown plant, Alliant representatives have repeatedly stated that the Cassville plant could burn 20 percent biomass should it get approved by the Public Service Commission.”

Although Alliant publicly committed to burning 10 percent biomass in the Marshalltown plant, Alliant Energy project manager Jeffery Beer admits in sworn testimony submitted this month that “while [Alliant Energy] did indicate that the plant is capable of burning 10% biomass, this was a design criterion, such that the plant, for short periods, could burn that amount, not that a 10% continuous burn plan was desirable from a commercial point of view.”

“Many independent experts as well as Public Service Commission staff doubt the feasibility of burning 20 percent biomass in Alliant’s proposed Cassville coal plant,” said Taglia. “Alliant’s recent backpedaling in Iowa underscores the uncertainty of Alliant’s Cassville plan.”

In his testimony, Mr. Beer later admits that “uncertainties with the biomass market, its costs and affects on commercial operation still exist…”

“Alliant didn’t do its homework before promising the public that it would burn biomass in the Marshalltown coal plant,” Taglia said. “It’s now clear that we cannot trust their commitment to burn 20 percent biomass in Cassville.”