WEC Energy Group Inc

InfluenceMap Score
Performance Band
Organisation Score
Relationship Score
Milwaukee, United States
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Climate Lobbying Overview: WEC Energy Group appears to have limited engagement with climate change policy, lobbying with mixed positions primarily on the state-level in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The company seems to broadly support the electrification of the transportation sector, but has not taken a clear position on renewable energy policies such as renewable portfolio standards. WEC leadership has made several statements on preserving the role of fossil fuels, especially fossil gas, in the U.S. energy mix. The CEO for WEC subsidiaries Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas Charles Matthews serves on the board of the American Gas Association, which engages actively and negatively on climate policy.

Top-line Messaging on Climate Policy: WEC has minimal top-line messaging on climate policy. While the company uses IPCC pathways and the Paris Agreement in its 2021 Climate Report as benchmarks for its own operational plans and emissions reductions targets, it does not clearly advocate in favor of economy-wide emissions reductions or the Paris Agreement itself. WEC also does not appear to explicitly support the need for government regulation to respond to climate change, only acknowledging the risk of regulation to its business in the “Risks and Opportunities” section of its 2021 Climate Report.

Engagement with Climate-Related Regulations: WEC appears to have limited and mixed engagement with climate-related legislation and regulation. Speaking to E&E News in November 2021, the utility's executive chairman Gale Klappa stated that he expected the renewable energy tax credits in the Build Back Better Act to be successful, but did not offer a clear position on the legislation. The company’s engagement on distributed energy policy remains unclear: in its 2020 Corporate Responsibility Report, WEC states that it is monitoring specific bills on microgrids, net metering, and alternative energy systems, among others, without providing details on whether it supports or opposes them. As reported by the Wisconsin State Journal in 2021, WEC has been blocking third-party distributed solar deals in Wisconsin since 2018 in favor of its own rooftop solar program.

InfluenceMap found little recent evidence of WEC’s engagement with additional climate policy beyond the company’s March 2021 registration as a witness against the Illinois Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2021, which includes GHG emissions caps, renewable energy credits, and energy efficiency provisions. Previously, in 2018, WEC submitted comments to the EPA on the proposed Affordable Clean Energy rule that appear to advocate in favor of fossil gas, calling either for the rule to apply only to coal-fueled generating units or, alternatively, exemptions for coal-fueled units that were refueled to fossil gas prior to September 2018. In its 2020 Corporate Responsibility report, WEC lists several pieces of Minnesota state energy efficiency legislation that it is monitoring, including the Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act of 2020, without specifying its position.

Positioning on Energy Transition: WEC appears to take a mostly negative position on the energy transition. On the company’s February 2021 earnings call, Gale Klappa, the current Executive Chairman and former CEO of WEC, underscores the importance of continuing a diverse fuel mix, especially fossil gas, in colder climates. On that same call, he appears to support laws that prevent bans on fossil gas. On a 2019 earnings call, former CEO Kevin Fletcher similarly emphasized the importance of maintaining a fossil fuel energy portfolio, including coal and gas, in cold weather events such as the polar vortex. These statements appear at odds with WEC’s response to the most recent CDP Climate Change Information requests, in which the company states support for clean energy generation. Additionally, Klappa has suggested in a 2020 earnings call that the transportation sector should be the focus of decarbonization rather than the power sector.

In July 2021, S&P Global reported on WEC’s support for the passage of the Minnesota Natural gas Innovation Act, which establishes a voluntary incentive for utilities to incorporate resources including green hydrogen and “renewable natural gas” into their operations. In September 2021, Illinois Governor Pritzker signed into law the Illinois Clean Energy Jobs Act to authorize a carbon-free power sector by 2045, which WEC had opposed in the bill’s March 2021 Illinois Energy and Environment Committee hearing. In its 2020 Corporate Responsibility report, WEC lists its opposition to the 2020 and 2021 versions of the Minnesota Clean Energy First Act, which would require utilities to prioritize clean energy resources in meeting energy demands.

WEC demonstrates mixed support for the electrification of transportation. In 2019, the company submitted a response to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission docket on electric vehicle policy, appearing to support electric vehicle adoption policies as long as they did not harm the utility franchise. In its recent reports, including the 2020 Corporate Responsibility Report released in July 2021, WEC states support for federal bills that expand the electric transportation market. In its 2019 Corporate Responsibility report, the company lists several state policies in Wisconsin and Michigan related to clean transport with little detail on its positions.

Industry Association Governance: WEC provides a list of industry associations to which it pays membership dues without providing details on the climate positions of these associations or its engagement with them on climate policy. WEC has not published a review of its alignment with its industry associations on climate change. In its 2020 CDP response, WEC discloses its membership to the American Gas Association, where it serves on the board, and Edison Electric Institute, and states that its position on climate change is consistent with both groups with no further detail on how it is attempting to influence them. The American Gas Association maintains a broadly negative stance toward climate policy that includes protecting the role of fossil fuel infrastructure, including recent lobbying against the proposed methane fee in the Biden administration reconciliation bill, while the Edison Electric Institute demonstrates mixed positions.

Strength of Relationship

How to Read our Relationship Score Map

In this section, we depict graphically the relationships the corporation has with trade associations, federations, advocacy groups and other third parties who may be acting on their behalf to influence climate change policy. Each of the columns above represents one relationship the corporation appears to have with such a third party. In these columns, the top, dark section represents the strength of the relationship the corporation has with the influencer. For example if a corporation's senior executive also held a key role in the trade association, we would deem this to be a strong relationship and it would be on the far left of the chart above, with the weaker ones to the right. Click on these grey shaded upper sections for details of these relationships. The middle section contains a link to the organization score details of the influencer concerned, so you can see the details of its climate change policy influence. Click on the middle sections for for details of the trade associations. The lower section contains the organization score of that influencer, the lower the more negatively it is influencing climate policy.