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UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, DC 20549

FORM 10-K

(Mark One)
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020

OR
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the transition period from ________________ to ___________________
Commission
File Number
Registrant; State of Incorporation;
Address; and Telephone Number
IRS Employer
Identification No.
001-03016WISCONSIN PUBLIC SERVICE CORPORATION39-0715160
(A Wisconsin Corporation)
2830 South Ashland Avenue
P.O. Box 19001
Green Bay, WI 54307-9001
(800) 450-7260

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

None

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:

None

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.

Yes     No

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.

Yes     No

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.

Yes     No




Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).

Yes     No

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of "large accelerated filer," "accelerated filer," "smaller reporting company," and "emerging growth company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filerAccelerated filer
Non-accelerated filerSmaller reporting company
Emerging growth company

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of
the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C.
7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.    

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).

Yes     No

As of June 30, 2020 (and currently), all of the common stock of Wisconsin Public Service Corporation is held by Integrys Holding, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of WEC Energy Group, Inc.
State the aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the Registrant.
None.
Number of shares outstanding of each class of common stock, as of
January 31, 2021

Common Stock, $4 par value, 23,896,962 shares outstanding

The Registrant meets the conditions set forth in General Instructions I(1)(a) and (b) of Form 10-K and is therefore filing with the reduced disclosure format set forth in General Instruction I(2).



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WISCONSIN PUBLIC SERVICE CORPORATION
ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 10-K
For the Year Ended December 31, 2020
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GLOSSARY OF TERMS AND ABBREVIATIONS

The abbreviations and terms set forth below are used throughout this report and have the meanings assigned to them below:
Subsidiaries and Affiliates
ATCAmerican Transmission Company LLC
BluewaterBluewater Natural Gas Holding, LLC
IntegrysIntegrys Holding, Inc.
UMERCUpper Michigan Energy Resources Corporation
WBSWEC Business Services LLC
WEWisconsin Electric Power Company
WEC Energy GroupWEC Energy Group, Inc.
WGWisconsin Gas LLC
WRPCWisconsin River Power Company
Federal and State Regulatory Agencies
EPAUnited States Environmental Protection Agency
FERCFederal Energy Regulatory Commission
IRSUnited States Internal Revenue Service
PSCWPublic Service Commission of Wisconsin
SECSecurities and Exchange Commission
WDNRWisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Accounting Terms
AFUDCAllowance for Funds Used During Construction
AROAsset Retirement Obligation
ASCAccounting Standards Codification
ASUAccounting Standards Update
CWIPConstruction Work in Progress
FASBFinancial Accounting Standards Board
GAAPGenerally Accepted Accounting Principles
OPEBOther Postretirement Employee Benefits
Environmental Terms
ACEAffordable Clean Energy
Act 1412005 Wisconsin Act 141
BATWBottom Ash Transport Water
BSERBest System of Emission Reduction
CAAClean Air Act
CO2
Carbon Dioxide
CPPClean Power Plan
CSAPRCross-State Air Pollution Rule
ELGSteam Electric Effluent Limitation Guidelines
GHGGreenhouse Gas
NAAQSNational Ambient Air Quality Standards
NOVNotice of Violation
NOxNitrogen Oxide
NSPSNew Source Performance Standards
SO2
Sulfur Dioxide
Measurements
DthDekatherm
MWMegawatt
MWhMegawatt-hour
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Other Terms and Abbreviations
AIAAffiliated Interest Agreement
AMIAdvanced Metering Infrastructure
ARRAuction Revenue Right
Badger Hollow IBadger Hollow Solar Park I
CCWPCrane Creek Wind Park
CDCCenters for Disease Control and Prevention
CFRCode of Federal Regulations
Compensation CommitteeCompensation Committee of the Board of Directors of WEC Energy Group, Inc.
COVID-19Coronavirus Disease – 2019
D.C. Circuit Court of AppealsUnited States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Court
EGUElectric Utility Generating Unit
ESG Progress PlanWEC Energy Group's Capital Investment Plan for Efficiency, Sustainability, and Growth for 2021-2025
Exchange ActSecurities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended
FTRFinancial Transmission Right
GCRMGas Cost Recovery Mechanism
ITCInvestment Tax Credit
LIBORLondon Interbank Offered Rate
LMPLocational Marginal Price
MISOMidcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc.
MISO Energy MarketsMISO Energy and Operating Reserves Market
NYMEXNew York Mercantile Exchange
Omnibus Stock Incentive PlanWEC Energy Group Omnibus Stock Incentive Plan, Amended and Restated Effective as of January 1, 2016
PPAPurchase Power Agreement
PTCProduction Tax Credit
ROEReturn on Equity
RTORegional Transmission Organization
SMRPSystem Modernization and Reliability Project
SOXSection 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act
Tax LegislationTax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017
Two CreeksTwo Creeks Solar Park
WHOWorld Health Organization

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CAUTIONARY STATEMENT REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION

In this report, we make statements concerning our expectations, beliefs, plans, objectives, goals, strategies, and future events or performance. These statements are "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Exchange Act. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements may be identified by reference to a future period or periods or by the use of terms such as "anticipates," "believes," "could," "estimates," "expects," "forecasts," "goals," "guidance," "intends," "may," "objectives," "plans," "possible," "potential," "projects," "seeks," "should," "targets," "will," or variations of these terms.

Forward-looking statements include, among other things, statements concerning management's expectations and projections regarding earnings, completion of capital projects, sales and customer growth, rate actions and related filings with regulatory authorities, environmental and other regulations, including associated compliance costs, legal proceedings, effective tax rates, pension and OPEB plans, fuel costs, sources of electric energy supply, coal and natural gas deliveries, remediation costs, climate-related matters, liquidity and capital resources, and other matters.

Forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in the statements. These risks and uncertainties include those described in Item 1A. Risk Factors and those identified below:

Factors affecting utility operations such as catastrophic weather-related damage, environmental incidents, unplanned facility outages and repairs and maintenance, and electric transmission or natural gas pipeline system constraints;

Factors affecting the demand for electricity and natural gas, including political or regulatory developments, unusual weather, changes in economic conditions, customer growth and declines, commodity prices, energy conservation efforts, and continued adoption of distributed generation by customers;

The timing, resolution, and impact of rate cases and negotiations, including recovery of deferred and current costs and the ability to earn a reasonable return on investment, and other regulatory decisions impacting our regulated operations;

The impact of health pandemics, including the COVID-19 pandemic, on our business functions, financial condition, liquidity, and results of operations;

The impact of recent and future federal, state, and local legislative and/or regulatory changes, including changes in rate-setting policies or procedures, deregulation and restructuring of the electric and/or natural gas utility industries, transmission or distribution system operation, the approval process for new construction, reliability standards, pipeline integrity and safety standards, allocation of energy assistance, energy efficiency mandates, and tax laws, including the Tax Legislation as well as those that affect our ability to use PTCs and ITCs;

Federal and state legislative and regulatory changes relating to the environment, including climate change and other environmental regulations impacting generation facilities and renewable energy standards, the enforcement of these laws and regulations, changes in the interpretation of regulations or permit conditions by regulatory agencies, and the recovery of associated remediation and compliance costs;

The ability to obtain and retain customers, including wholesale customers, due to increased competition in our electric and natural gas markets from retail choice and alternative electric suppliers, and continued industry consolidation;

The timely completion of capital projects within budgets and the ability to recover the related costs through rates;

Factors affecting the implementation of WEC Energy Group's CO2 emission and/or methane emission reduction goals, and opportunities and actions related to those goals, including related regulatory decisions, the cost of materials, supplies, and labor, technology advances, and the feasibility of competing generation projects;

The financial and operational feasibility of taking more aggressive action to further reduce GHG emissions in order to limit future global temperature increases;

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The risks associated with changing commodity prices, particularly natural gas and electricity, and the availability of sources of natural gas and other fossil fuels, purchased power, materials needed to operate environmental controls at our electric generating facilities, or water supply due to high demand, shortages, transportation problems, nonperformance by electric energy or natural gas suppliers under existing power purchase or natural gas supply contracts, or other developments;

Changes in credit ratings, interest rates, and our ability to access the capital markets, caused by volatility in the global credit markets, our capitalization structure, and market perceptions of the utility industry or us;

Changes in the method of determining LIBOR or the replacement of LIBOR with an alternative reference rate;

Costs and effects of litigation, administrative proceedings, investigations, settlements, claims, and inquiries;

The direct or indirect effect on our business resulting from terrorist attacks and cyber security intrusions, as well as the threat of such incidents, including the failure to maintain the security of personally identifiable information, the associated costs to protect our utility assets, technology systems, and personal information, and the costs to notify affected persons to mitigate their information security concerns and to comply with state notification laws;

The risk of financial loss, including increases in bad debt expense, associated with the inability of our customers, counterparties, and affiliates to meet their obligations;

Changes in the creditworthiness of the counterparties with whom we have contractual arrangements, including participants in the energy trading markets and fuel suppliers and transporters;

The investment performance of our employee benefit plan assets, as well as unanticipated changes in related actuarial assumptions, which could impact future funding requirements;

Factors affecting the employee workforce, including loss of key personnel, internal restructuring, work stoppages, and collective bargaining agreements and negotiations with union employees;

Advances in technology, and related legislation or regulation supporting the use of that technology, that result in competitive disadvantages and create the potential for impairment of existing assets;

The risk associated with the values of goodwill and other intangible assets and their possible impairment;

Potential business strategies to acquire and dispose of assets, which cannot be assured to be completed timely or within budgets;

The timing and outcome of any audits, disputes, and other proceedings related to taxes;

The ability to maintain effective internal controls in accordance with SOX, while both continuing to integrate and consolidate WEC Energy Group's enterprise systems with those of its other utilities;

The effect of accounting pronouncements issued periodically by standard-setting bodies; and

Other considerations disclosed elsewhere herein and in other reports we file with the SEC or in other publicly disseminated written documents.

Except as may be required by law, we expressly disclaim any obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.
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PART I

ITEM 1. BUSINESS

A. INTRODUCTION

In this report, when we refer to "us," "we," "our," or "ours," we are referring to Wisconsin Public Service Corporation. The term "utility" refers to our regulated activities, while the term "non-utility" refers to our activities that are not regulated. References to "Notes" are to the Notes to Financial Statements included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

We are an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of WEC Energy Group and were incorporated in the state of Wisconsin in 1883. We serve customers in northeastern and central Wisconsin. We conduct our business primarily through our utility reportable segment.

For more information about our utility operations, including financial and geographic information, see Note 20, Segment Information, and Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Results of Operations. For information about our business strategy, see Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Corporate Developments.

Available Information

Our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and any amendments to those reports are made available on WEC Energy Group's website, www.wecenergygroup.com, free of charge, as soon as reasonably practicable after they are filed with or furnished to the SEC. The SEC maintains an Internet site that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC at www.sec.gov.

B. UTILITY SEGMENT

Electric Utility Operations

We generate and distribute electric energy to customers located in northeastern and central Wisconsin.

Operating Revenues

For information about our operating revenues disaggregated by customer class for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019, and 2018, see Note 4, Operating Revenues.

Electric Sales

Our electric energy deliveries included supply and distribution sales to retail, wholesale, and resale customers. In 2020, retail revenues accounted for 88.1% of total electric operating revenues, wholesale revenues accounted for 8.4% of total electric operating revenues, and resale revenues accounted for 1.7% of total electric operating revenues. See Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Results of Operations – Utility Segment Contribution to Net Income for information on MWh sales by customer class.

We are authorized to provide retail electric service in designated territories in the state of Wisconsin, as established by indeterminate permits and boundary agreements with other utilities.

We buy and sell wholesale electric power by participating in the MISO Energy Markets. The cost of our individual generation offered into the MISO Energy Markets compared to our competitors affects how often our generating units are dispatched and whether we buy or sell power, based on our customers' needs. We provide wholesale electric service to various customers, including electric cooperatives, municipal joint action agencies, other investor-owned utilities, municipal utilities, and energy marketers. For more information, see D. Regulation.

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The majority of our sales for resale are sold into an energy market operated by MISO at market rates based on availability of our generation and market demand. Retail fuel costs are reduced by the amount that revenue exceeds the costs of sales derived from these opportunity sales.

Electric Sales Forecast

Our service territory experienced lower weather-normalized retail electric sales in 2020, as compared with 2019, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We currently forecast retail electric sales volumes to grow between 0.5% and 1.0% over the next five years, compared with 2020, assuming normal weather. Electric peak demand is expected to grow between 0.5% and 1.0% over the next five years.

Customers
Year Ended December 31
(in thousands)202020192018
Electric customers – end of year
Residential398.3 394.9 392.2 
Small commercial and industrial54.7 54.4 54.1 
Large commercial and industrial0.2 0.2 0.2 
Total electric customers – end of year 453.2 449.5 446.5 

Electric Commercial and Industrial Retail Customers

We provide electric utility service to a diversified base of customers in industries such as utilities, paper, metals and other manufacturing, food products, health services, and governmental.

Electric Generation and Supply Mix

Our electric supply strategy is to provide our customers with energy from plants using a diverse fuel mix that is expected to balance a stable, reliable, and affordable supply of electricity with environmental stewardship. Through our participation in the MISO Energy Markets, we supply a significant amount of electricity to our customers from power plants that we own. We supplement our internally generated power supply with long-term PPAs and through spot purchases in the MISO Energy Markets. We also sell excess power supply into the MISO Energy Markets when it is economical, which reduces net fuel costs by offsetting costs of purchased power. All options, including owned generation resources and purchased power opportunities, are continually evaluated on a real-time basis to select and dispatch the lowest-cost resources available to meet system load requirements.

The table below indicates our sources of electric energy supply as a percentage of sales for the three years ended December 31, as well as estimates for 2021:
Estimate (3)
Actual
2021202020192018
Company-owned generation units:
Coal37.3 %34.5 %36.5 %43.1 %
Natural gas combined cycle31.7 %31.9 %30.4 %24.0 %
Natural gas/oil peaking units0.7 %1.4 %1.4 %3.6 %
Renewables (1)
7.7 %7.4 %5.4 %5.1 %
Total company-owned generation units77.4 %75.2 %73.7 %75.8 %
Power purchase contracts:
Renewables (1)
5.9 %4.9 %4.6 %4.8 %
Other (2)
6.1 %5.8 %5.8 %5.4 %
Total power purchase contracts12.0 %10.7 %10.4 %10.2 %
Purchased power from MISO10.6 %14.1 %15.9 %14.0 %
Total purchased power22.6 %24.8 %26.3 %24.2 %
Total electric utility supply100.0 %100.0 %100.0 %100.0 %

(1)    Includes hydroelectric, wind, and solar generation.

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(2)    Represents system energy and capacity purchases used to meet customer requirements and certain FERC regulations.

(3)    The values included in the estimate assume a natural gas price based on the December 2020 NYMEX.

Electric Generation Facilities

Our generation portfolio is a mix of energy resources having different operating characteristics and fuel sources designed to balance providing energy that is stable, reliable, and affordable with environmental stewardship. We own 2,424 MW of generation capacity, including owned and jointly owned facilities. Our facilities include coal-fired plants, natural gas-fired plants, and renewable generation. Certain of our natural gas fired generation units have the ability to burn oil if natural gas is not available due to delivery constraints. For more information about our facilities, see Item 2. Properties.

Creating a Sustainable Future

WEC Energy Group's ESG Progress Plan includes the retirement of older, fossil-fueled generation, to be replaced with the construction of zero-carbon-emitting renewable generation and clean natural gas-fired generation. When taken together, the retirements and new investments should better balance WEC Energy Group's supply with its demand, while maintaining reliable, affordable energy for our customers. The retirements will contribute to meeting WEC Energy Group's goals to reduce CO2 emissions from its electric generation.

In 2019, WEC Energy Group met and surpassed its original goal to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% below 2005 levels. In July 2020, WEC Energy Group announced new goals to reduce CO2 emissions from its electric generation by 70% below 2005 levels by 2030 and to be net carbon neutral by 2050. It also added a near-term goal in November 2020 to reduce CO2 emissions by 55% below 2005 levels by 2025.

We have already retired approximately 300 MW of coal-fired generation since the beginning of 2018, which included the 2018 retirement of the Pulliam power plant as well as the jointly-owned Edgewater Unit 4 generating units. See Note 6, Regulatory Assets and Liabilities for more information related to these power plant retirements. As part of the ESG Progress Plan, WEC Energy Group expects to retire approximately 1,800 MW of additional fossil-fueled generation by 2025. See Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Corporate Developments for more information on the ESG Progress Plan.

Renewable Generation

We meet a portion of our electric generation supply with various renewable energy resources, including wind, hydroelectric, and solar. This helps us maintain compliance with renewable energy legislation. These renewable energy resources also help us maintain diversity in our generation portfolio, which effectively serves as a price hedge against future fuel costs, and will help mitigate the risk of potential unknown costs associated with any future carbon restrictions for electric generators.

Wind

In February 2021, we, along with WE, filed an application with the PSCW for approval to accelerate up to approximately $69 million in capital investments in CCWP, to repower major components. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS issued guidance extending the period for work to be completed on facilities in order to be eligible for PTCs if certain requirements are met. If approved, we expect to receive an additional 10 years of PTCs, and CCWP would be allowed to continue providing a reliable, cost-effective, zero-fuel-cost, zero-emission capacity and energy resource for customers.

Solar

In February 2021, we, along with WE and an unaffiliated utility, filed an application with the PSCW for approval to acquire and construct the Paris Solar-Battery Park, a utility-scale solar-powered electric generating facility with a battery energy storage system. The project will be located in Kenosha County, Wisconsin and features 200 MW of solar generation and 110 MW of battery storage. The joint applicants propose that we would acquire a 15% ownership interest, WE would acquire a 75% ownership interest, and the unaffiliated utility would acquire the remaining 10% ownership interest. If approved, our share of the cost of this project is estimated to be approximately $65 million with construction expected to begin in 2022 and completed by the end of 2023.

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In April 2019, as part of WEC Energy Group's commitment to invest in zero-carbon generation, we, along with an unaffiliated utility, received approval from the PSCW to acquire ownership interests in two utility-scale solar projects in Wisconsin: Two Creeks, in service as of November 2020, and Badger Hollow I, construction in progress and targeted for completion in the second quarter of 2021. Badger Hollow I is located in Iowa County, Wisconsin, and Two Creeks is located in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. We own 100 MW of Two Creeks and will own 100 MW of Badger Hollow I for a total of 200 MW.

Electric System Reliability

The PSCW requires us to maintain a planning reserve margin above our projected annual peak demand forecast to help ensure reliability of electric service to our customers. These planning reserve requirements are consistent with the MISO calculated planning reserve margin. In 2008, the PSCW established a 14.5% reserve margin requirement for long-term planning (planning years two through ten). For short-term planning (planning year one), the PSCW requires Wisconsin utilities to follow the planning reserve margin established by MISO. MISO has an 18.0% installed capacity reserve margin requirement for the planning year from June 1, 2020, through May 31, 2021, and an 18.3% installed capacity reserve margin requirement for the planning year from June 1, 2021, through May 31, 2022. MISO's short-term reserve margin requirements experience year-to-year fluctuations, primarily due to changes in the generation resource mix and average forced outage rate of generation within the MISO footprint.

We believe that we have adequate capacity through company-owned generation units and power purchase contracts to meet the MISO calculated planning reserve margin during the current planning year. We also fully anticipate that we will have adequate capacity to meet the planning reserve margin requirements for the upcoming planning year.

Fuel and Purchased Power Costs

Our retail electric rates in Wisconsin are established by the PSCW and include base amounts for fuel and purchased power costs. The electric fuel rules set by the PSCW allow us to defer, for subsequent rate recovery or refund, under- or over-collections of actual fuel and purchased power costs beyond a 2% price variance from the costs included in the rates charged to customers. For more information about the fuel rules, see D. Regulation.

Our average fuel and purchased power costs per MWh by fuel type, including delivery costs, were as follows for the years ended December 31:
202020192018
Coal$23.10 $24.34 $26.19 
Natural gas combined cycle15.80 19.38 21.11 
Natural gas/oil peaking units32.33 46.61 34.82 
Purchased power34.09 34.71 35.13 

We purchase coal under long-term contracts, which helps with price stability. In the past, coal and associated transportation services were exposed to volatility in pricing due to changing domestic and world-wide demand for coal and diesel fuel. We have PSCW approval for a hedging program to moderate this volatility exposure. This program allows us to hedge, over a 36-month period, up to 75% of our potential risks related to rail transportation fuel surcharge exposure. The results of this hedging program, when used, are reflected in the average costs of purchased power.

We purchase natural gas for our plants on the spot market from natural gas marketers, utilities, and producers, and we arrange for transportation of the natural gas to our plants. We have firm and interruptible transportation, as well as balancing and storage agreements, intended to support our plants' variable usage. We also have PSCW approval for a hedging program to moderate volatility related to natural gas price risk. This program allows us to hedge, over a 36-month period, up to 75% of our estimated natural gas use for electric generation. The results of this hedging program are reflected in the average costs of natural gas.

Coal Supply

We diversify the coal supply for our jointly-owned electric generating facilities by purchasing coal from several mines in Wyoming and Pennsylvania, as well as from various other states. For 2021, approximately 67% of our total projected coal requirements of 2.6 million tons are contracted under fixed-price contracts. See Note 21, Commitments and Contingencies, for more information on amounts of coal purchases and coal deliveries under contract.

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The annual tonnage amounts contracted for 2021 and 2022 are set forth below. We have not entered into any coal contracts for years after 2022.
(in thousands)Annual Tonnage
20211,710 
2022600 

Coal Deliveries

All of our 2021 and 2022 coal requirements are expected to be shipped by unit trains that we own under existing transportation agreements. The unit trains transport the coal for electric generating facilities from mines in Wyoming and Pennsylvania. Additional small volume agreements may also be used to supplement the normal coal supply for our facilities.

Power Purchase Commitments

We enter into short and long-term power purchase commitments to meet a portion of our anticipated electric energy supply needs. Our power purchase commitments with unaffiliated parties are 100 MW per year for 2021 through 2025, which exclude planning capacity purchases. As part of WEC Energy Group's ESG Progress Plan, we retired some of our older, less efficient coal-fired generation in 2018 and 2019. To procure additional planning capacity, we purchased capacity from the MISO annual auction to ensure that we maintain our compliance with planning reserve requirements as established by the PSCW and MISO.

Seasonality

Our electric utility sales are impacted by seasonal factors and varying weather conditions. We sell more electricity during the summer months because of the residential cooling load. We continue to upgrade our electric distribution system, including substations, transformers, and lines, to meet the demand of our customers. In 2020, our generating plants performed as expected during the warmest periods of the summer, and all power purchase commitments under firm contract were received. During this period, we did not require public appeals for conservation, and we did not interrupt or curtail service to non-firm customers who participate in load management programs. We did have economic interruption events, however service to customers was not curtailed. Economic interruptions are declared during times in which the price of electricity in the regional market exceeds the cost of operating our peaking generation. During this time, interruptible customers can choose to continue using electricity at a price based on wholesale market prices or to reduce their load.

Competition

We face competition from various entities and other forms of energy sources available to customers, including self-generation by customers and alternative energy sources. We compete with other utilities for sales to municipalities and cooperatives as well as with other utilities and marketers for wholesale electric business.

For more information on competition in our service territory, see Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Factors Affecting Results, Liquidity, and Capital Resources – Competitive Markets.

Natural Gas Utility Operations

We are authorized to provide retail natural gas distribution service in designated territories in the state of Wisconsin, as established by indeterminate permits and boundary agreements with other utilities. Our natural gas utility provides service to customers located in northeastern Wisconsin.

We provide natural gas utility service to residential, commercial and industrial, and transportation customers. Major industries served include real estate, paper, restaurants, food products, and utilities. See Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Results of Operations – Utility Segment Contribution to Net Income for information on natural gas sales volumes by customer class.

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Operating Revenues

For information about our operating revenues disaggregated by customer class for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019, and 2018, see Note 4, Operating Revenues.

Natural Gas Sales Forecast

Our service territory experienced lower weather-normalized retail natural gas deliveries (excluding natural gas deliveries for electric generation) in 2020 as compared to 2019 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We currently forecast retail natural gas delivery volumes to grow at a rate between 1.0% and 1.3% over the next five years, compared to 2020, assuming normal weather.

Customers
Year Ended December 31
(in thousands)202020192018
Customers – end of year
Residential300.2 297.6 295.4 
Commercial and industrial34.5 34.3 34.3 
Transport0.9 0.9 0.7 
Total customers335.6 332.8 330.4 

Natural Gas Supply, Pipeline Capacity and Storage

We have been able to meet our contractual obligations with both our suppliers and our customers. For more information on our natural gas utility supply and transportation contracts, see Note 21, Commitments and Contingencies.

Pipeline Capacity and Storage

The interstate pipelines serving Wisconsin originate in major natural gas producing areas of North America: the Oklahoma and Texas basins, western Canada, and the Rocky Mountains. We have contracted for long-term firm capacity from a number of these sources. This strategy reflects management's belief that overall supply security is enhanced by geographic diversification of the supply portfolio.

Due to variations in natural gas usage in Wisconsin, we have also contracted for substantial underground storage capacity, primarily in Michigan. We have entered into a long-term service agreement for natural gas storage with a wholly owned subsidiary of Bluewater. Bluewater, a wholly owned subsidiary of WEC Energy Group, owns natural gas storage facilities in Michigan and provides approximately one-third of our current storage needs. We target storage inventory levels at approximately 40% of forecasted demand for November through March. Diversity of natural gas supply enables us to manage significant changes in demand and to optimize our overall natural gas supply and capacity costs. We generally inject natural gas into storage during the spring and summer months and withdraw it in the winter months.

We hold daily transportation and storage capacity entitlements with interstate pipeline companies as well as other service providers under varied-length long-term contracts.

Natural gas pipeline capacity and storage and natural gas supplies under contract can be resold in secondary markets. Peak or near-peak demand generally occurs only a few times each year. The secondary markets facilitate utilization of capacity and supply during times when the contracted capacity and supply are in excess of utility demand. The proceeds from these transactions are passed through to customers, subject to our approved GCRM. For information on our GCRM, see Note 1(d), Operating Revenues.

Combined with our storage capability, management believes that the volume of natural gas under contract is sufficient to meet our forecasted firm peak-day and seasonal demand. Our forecasted design peak-day throughput is 8.6 million therms for the 2020 through 2021 heating season. Our peak daily send-out during 2020 was 5.1 million therms on February 13, 2020.

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Natural Gas Supply

We have contracts with suppliers for natural gas acquired in the Chicago, Illinois market hub and in the producing areas discussed above. The pricing of the term contracts is based upon first of the month indices.

We expect to continue to make natural gas purchases in the spot market as price and other circumstances dictate. We have supply relationships with a number of sellers from whom we purchase natural gas in the spot market.

Hedging Natural Gas Supply Prices

We have PSCW approval to hedge up to 60% of planned winter demand and up to 15% of planned summer demand using a mix of NYMEX-based natural gas options and futures contracts. This approval allows us to pass 100% of the hedging costs (premiums, brokerage fees and losses) and proceeds (gains) to customers through our GCRM.

To the extent that opportunities develop and physical supply operating plans are supportive, we also have PSCW approval to utilize NYMEX-based natural gas derivatives to capture favorable forward-market price differentials. That approval provides for 100% of the related proceeds to accrue to our GCRM.

Seasonality

Since the majority of our customers use natural gas for heating, customer use is sensitive to weather and is generally higher during the winter months. Accordingly, we are subject to some variations in earnings and working capital throughout the year as a result of changes in weather.

Our working capital needs are met by cash generated from operations and debt (both long-term and short-term). The seasonality of natural gas revenues causes the timing of cash collections to be concentrated from January through June. A portion of our winter natural gas supply needs is typically purchased and stored from April through November. Also, planned capital spending on our natural gas distribution facilities is concentrated in April through November. Because of these timing differences, the cash flow from customers is typically supplemented with temporary increases in short-term borrowings (from external sources) during the late summer and fall. Short-term debt is typically reduced over the January through June period.

Competition

We face varying degrees of competition from other entities and other forms of energy available to consumers. Many large commercial and industrial customers have the ability to switch between natural gas and alternative fuels. In addition, all of our customers have the opportunity to choose a natural gas supplier other than us. We offer natural gas transportation services for customers that elect to purchase natural gas directly from a third-party supplier. We continue to earn distribution revenues from these transportation customers for their use of our distribution systems to transport natural gas to their facilities. As such, the loss of revenue associated with the cost of natural gas that our transportation customers purchase from third-party suppliers has little impact on our net income, as it is offset by an equal reduction to natural gas costs.

For more information on competition in our service territory, see Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Factors Affecting Results, Liquidity, and Capital Resources – Competitive Markets.

C. OTHER SEGMENT

Our other segment includes our non-utility activities as well as equity earnings from our investment in WRPC. We own 50% of the stock of WRPC. WRPC owns two hydroelectric plants, and we are entitled to 50% of the total capacity from its plants.

D. REGULATION

In addition to the specific regulations noted below, we are also subject to various other regulations, which primarily consist of regulations, where applicable, of the EPA, the WDNR, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

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Rates

Our retail electric and natural gas rates are regulated by the PSCW, and the FERC regulates our wholesale electric rates. Decisions by these regulators can significantly impact our liquidity, financial condition, and results of operations. The following table compares our utility operating revenues by regulatory jurisdiction for each of the three years ended December 31:
202020192018
(in millions)AmountPercentAmountPercentAmountPercent
Electric
Wisconsin$1,009.6 88.8 %$967.0 86.7 %$1,013.6 85.0 %
FERC – Wholesale (1)
127.4 11.2 %148.4 13.3 %178.5 15.0 %
Total1,137.0 100.0 %1,115.4 100.0 %1,192.1 100.0 %
Natural Gas – Wisconsin270.1 100.0 %296.5 100.0 %306.4 100.0 %
Total utility operating revenues$1,407.1 $1,411.9 $1,498.5 

(1)    On March 31, 2019, UMERC's new natural gas-fired generation in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan began commercial operation. Prior to its generating units achieving commercial operation, UMERC purchased a portion of its power from us. The revenues received from UMERC are included in the FERC – Wholesale line above. See Note 3, Related Parties, for additional information.

Retail Rates

The PSCW has general supervisory and regulatory powers over public utilities in its jurisdiction including, but not limited to, approval of retail utility rates and standards of service, security issuances, mergers, affiliate transactions, location and construction of electric generating units and natural gas facilities, and certain other additions and extensions to utility facilities.

Historically, retail rates approved by the PSCW have been designed to provide utilities the opportunity to generate revenues to recover all prudently-incurred costs, along with a return on investment sufficient to pay interest on debt and provide a reasonable ROE. Rates charged to customers vary according to customer class and rate jurisdiction. We are subject to an earnings sharing mechanism in which a portion of our earnings are required to be refunded to customers if we earn above our authorized ROE. See Note 23, Regulatory Environment, for more information on our earnings sharing mechanism. The table below reflects our approved ROE and capital structure during 2020.
Regulated Retail RatesRegulatory CommissionAuthorized ROEAverage Common Equity Component
Electric and natural gasPSCW10.0%52.5%

In addition to amounts collected from customers through approved base rates, we have certain recovery mechanisms in place that allow us to recover or refund prudently incurred costs that differ from those approved in base rates.

Embedded within our electric rates is an amount to recover fuel and purchased power costs. The Wisconsin retail fuel rules require us to defer, for subsequent rate recovery or refund, any under-collection or over-collection of fuel and purchased power costs that are outside of our symmetrical fuel cost tolerance, which the PSCW typically sets at plus or minus 2% of our approved fuel and purchased power cost plan. Our deferred fuel and purchased power costs are subject to an excess revenues test. If our ROE in a given year exceeds the ROE authorized by the PSCW, the recovery of under-collected fuel and purchased power costs would be reduced by the amount by which our return exceeds the authorized amount.

Our natural gas utility operates under a GCRM as approved by the PSCW. Generally, the GCRM allows for a dollar-for-dollar recovery of prudently incurred natural gas costs.

See Note 1(d), Operating Revenues, for more information on the significant mechanisms we had in place during 2020 that allowed us to recover or refund changes in prudently incurred costs from rate case-approved amounts.

We file periodic requests with the PSCW to request changes in retail rates. Our rate requests are based on forward looking test years, which reflect additions to infrastructure and changes in costs incurred or expected to be incurred. For information on our regulatory proceedings, see Note 23, Regulatory Environment. Orders from the PSCW can be viewed at https://psc.wi.gov/. The
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material and information contained on this website are not intended to be a part of, nor are they incorporated by reference into, this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

Wholesale Rates

The FERC regulates our wholesale sales of electric energy, capacity, and ancillary services. We have received market-based rate authority from the FERC. Market-based rate authority allows wholesale electric sales to be made in the MISO market and directly to third parties based on the negotiated market value of the transaction. We also make wholesale sales pursuant to cost-based formula rates. Cost-based formula rates provide for recovery of our costs and an approved rate of return. The predetermined formula is initially based on our expenses from the previous year, but is eventually trued up to reflect actual, current-year costs.

Electric Transmission, Capacity, and Energy Markets

In connection with its status as a FERC-approved RTO, MISO operates bid-based energy markets. MISO is responsible for monitoring and ensuring equal access to the electric transmission system in its footprint.

In MISO, base transmission costs are currently being paid by load-serving entities located in the service territories of each MISO transmission owner. The FERC has previously confirmed the use of the current transmission cost allocation methodology. Certain additional costs for new transmission projects are allocated throughout the MISO footprint.

As part of MISO, a market-based platform is used for valuing transmission congestion premised upon an LMP system. The LMP system includes the ability to hedge transmission congestion costs through ARRs and FTRs. ARRs are allocated to market participants by MISO, and FTRs are purchased through auctions. A new allocation and auction were completed for the period of June 1, 2020, through May 31, 2021. The resulting ARR allocation and the secured FTRs are expected to mitigate our transmission congestion risk for that period.

MISO has an annual zonal resource adequacy requirement to ensure there is sufficient generation capacity to serve the MISO market. To meet this requirement, capacity resources can be acquired through MISO's annual capacity auction, bilateral contracts for capacity, or provided from generating or demand response resources. All of our capacity requirements during the planning year from June 1, 2020, through May 31, 2021 were met.

Other Electric Regulations

We are subject to the Federal Power Act and the corresponding regulations developed by certain federal agencies. The Energy Policy Act amended the Federal Power Act in 2005 to, among other things, make electric utility industry consolidation more feasible, authorize the FERC to review proposed mergers and the acquisition of generation facilities, change the FERC regulatory scheme applicable to qualifying cogeneration facilities, and modify certain other aspects of energy regulations and federal tax policies applicable to us. Additionally, the Energy Policy Act created an Electric Reliability Organization to be overseen by the FERC, which established mandatory electric reliability standards and has the authority to levy monetary sanctions for failure to comply with these standards.

We are subject to Act 141 in Wisconsin which contains certain minimum requirements for renewable energy generation.

All of our hydroelectric facilities follow FERC guidelines and/or regulations.

Other Natural Gas Regulations

Almost all of the natural gas we distribute is transported to our distribution systems by interstate pipelines. The pipelines' transportation and storage services are regulated by the FERC under the Natural Gas Act and the Natural Gas Policy Act of 1978. In addition, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the PSCW are responsible for monitoring and enforcing requirements governing our natural gas safety compliance programs for our pipelines under United States Department of Transportation regulations. These regulations include 49 CFR Part 191 (Transportation of Natural and Other Gas by Pipeline; Annual Reports, Incident Reports, and Safety-Related Condition Reports), 49 CFR Part 192 (Transportation of Natural and Other Gas by Pipeline: Minimum Federal Safety Standards), and 49 CFR Part 195 (Transportation of Hazardous Liquids by Pipeline).

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We are required to provide natural gas service and grant credit (with applicable deposit requirements) to customers within our service territory. We are generally not allowed to discontinue natural gas service during winter moratorium months to residential heating customers who do not pay their bills. Federal and certain state governments have programs that provide for a limited amount of funding for assistance to our low-income customers.

Compliance Costs

The regulations and oversight described above significantly influence our operating environment, and may cause us to incur compliance and other related costs and may affect our ability to recover these costs from our utility customers. Any anticipated capital expenditures for compliance with government regulations for the next three years are included in the estimated capital expenditures described in Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Liquidity and Capital Resources – Capital Requirements.

E. ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE

Our operations, especially as they relate to our coal-fired generating facilities, are subject to extensive environmental regulation by state and federal environmental agencies governing air and water quality, hazardous and solid waste management, environmental remediation, and management of natural resources. Costs associated with complying with these requirements are significant. Additional future environmental regulations or revisions to existing laws, including for example, additional regulation related to GHG emissions, coal combustion products, air emissions, water use, or wastewater discharges and other climate change issues, could significantly increase these environmental compliance costs.

Anticipated expenditures for environmental compliance and certain remediation issues for the next three years are included in the estimated capital expenditures described in Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Liquidity and Capital Resources – Capital Requirements. For a discussion of certain environmental matters affecting us, including rules and regulations relating to air quality, water quality, land quality, and climate change, see Note 21, Commitments and Contingencies.

F. HUMAN CAPITAL

We believe our employees are among our most important resources, so investing in human capital is critical to our success. We strive to foster a diverse workforce and inclusive workplace; attract, retain and develop talented personnel; and keep our employees safe and healthy.

WEC Energy Group's Board of Directors retains collective responsibility for comprehensive risk oversight of WEC Energy Group and its subsidiaries, including critical areas that could impact our sustainability, such as human capital. Management regularly reports to WEC Energy Group's Board of Directors on human capital management topics, including corporate culture, diversity and inclusion, employee development, and safety and health. WEC Energy Group's Board of Directors delegates specified duties to its committees. In addition to its responsibilities relative to executive compensation, the Compensation Committee has oversight responsibility for reviewing organizational matters that could significantly impact us, including succession planning. The Compensation Committee reviews recruiting and development programs and priorities, receives updates on key talent, and assesses workforce diversity across WEC Energy Group and its subsidaries.

Workforce

As of December 31, 2020, we had 1,127 employees, including 814 that are represented under union agreements in Wisconsin. Our contract with Local 420 of International Union of Operating Engineers expires in April 2021. Negotiations are in progress, which we expect will conclude before the expiration of the current agreement. We believe we have very good overall relations with our workforce. In order to attract and retain talent, we provide competitive wages and benefits to our employees based on their performance, role, location, and market data.

Diversity and Inclusion

We are committed to fostering a diverse workforce and inclusive workplace. Our commitment is a core strategic competency and an integral part of our culture. As of December 31, 2020, females and minorities represented approximately 14% and 3% of our workforce, respectively. WEC Energy Group has a number of initiatives that promote diverse workforce contributions, educate
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employees about diversity and inclusion, and make its companies, including us, attractive employers for persons of diverse backgrounds. These initiatives include eight business resource groups (voluntary, employee-led groups organized around a particular shared background or interest), mentoring programs, and training for leaders on countering unconscious bias, building inclusive teams, and preventing workplace harassment. We also support external leadership and educational programs that support, train, and promote women and minorities in the communities we serve.

Safety and Health

WEC Energy Group's Executive Safety Committee directs our safety and health strategy, works to ensure consistency across groups, and reinforces our ongoing safety commitment that we refer to as “Target Zero.” Under our Target Zero commitment, we have an ultimate goal of zero incidents, accidents, and injuries. Our corporate safety program provides a forum for addressing employee concerns, training employees and contractors on current safety standards, and recognizing those who demonstrate a safety focus. We monitor and set goals for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-recordable and lost-time incidents, as well as leading indicators, which together raise awareness about employee safety and guide injury-prevention activities.

We also provide employees various benefits and resources designed to promote healthy living, both at work and at home. We encourage employees to receive preventive examinations and to proactively care for their health through free health screenings, wellness challenges, and other resources.

During 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we implemented safety protocols and new procedures to protect our employees and customers. See Factors Affecting Results, Liquidity, and Capital Resources – Coronavirus Disease – 2019, for additional information.

Development and Training

Employee training and development of both technical and leadership skills are integral aspects of our human capital strategy. We provide employees with a wide range of development opportunities, including online training, simulations, live classes, and mentoring to assist with their career advancement. These programs include safety and technical job skill training as well as soft-skill programs focused on relevant subjects, including communication and change management. Development of leadership skills remains a top priority and is specialized for all levels of employees. We have specific leadership programs for aspiring leaders and new supervisors, managers, and directors. This development of our employees is an integral part of our succession planning and provides continuity for our senior leadership.

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ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS

We are subject to a variety of risks, many of which are beyond our control, that may adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations. You should carefully consider the following risk factors, as well as the other information included in this report and other documents filed by us with the SEC from time to time, when making an investment decision.

Risks Related to Legislation and Regulation

Our business is significantly impacted by governmental regulation and oversight.

We are subject to significant state, local, and federal governmental regulations, including regulations by the PSCW and the FERC. These regulations significantly influence our operating environment, may affect our ability to recover costs from utility customers, and cause us to incur substantial compliance and other costs. Changes in regulations, interpretations of regulations, or the imposition of new regulations could also significantly impact us, including requiring us to change our business operations. Many aspects of our operations are regulated and impacted by government regulation, including, but not limited to: the rates we charge our retail electric and natural gas customers; our authorized rate of return; construction and operation of electric generating facilities and electric and natural gas distribution systems, including the ability to recover such costs; decommissioning generating facilities, the ability to recover the related costs, and continuing to recover the return on the net book value of these facilities; wholesale power service practices; electric reliability requirements and accounting; participation in the interstate natural gas pipeline capacity market; standards of service; issuance of securities; short-term debt obligations; transactions with affiliates; and billing practices. Failure to comply with any applicable rules or regulations may lead to customer refunds, penalties, and other payments, which could materially and adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.

The rates we are allowed to charge our customers for retail and wholesale services have the most significant impact on our financial condition, results of operations, and liquidity. Rate regulation provides us an opportunity to recover prudently incurred costs and earn a reasonable rate of return on invested capital. However, our ability to obtain rate adjustments in the future is dependent upon regulatory action, and there is no assurance that our regulators will consider all of our costs to have been prudently incurred. In addition, our rate proceedings may not always result in rates that fully recover our costs or provide for a reasonable ROE. We defer certain costs and revenues as regulatory assets and liabilities for future recovery from or refund to customers, as authorized by our regulators. Future recovery of regulatory assets is not assured, and is subject to review and approval by our regulators. If recovery of regulatory assets is not approved or is no longer deemed probable, these costs would be recognized in current period expense and could have a material adverse impact on our results of operations, cash flows, and financial condition.

We believe we have obtained the necessary permits, approvals, authorizations, certificates, and licenses for our existing operations, have complied in all material respects with all of their associated terms, and that our business is conducted in accordance with applicable laws. These permits, approvals, authorizations, certificates, and licenses may be revoked or modified by the agencies that granted them if facts develop that differ significantly from the facts assumed when they were issued. In addition, discharge permits and other approvals and licenses are often granted for a term that is less than the expected life of the associated facility. Licenses and permits may require periodic renewal, which may result in additional requirements being imposed by the granting agency. In addition, existing regulations may be revised or reinterpreted by federal, state, and local agencies, or these agencies may adopt new laws and regulations that apply to us. We cannot predict the impact on our business and operating results of any such actions by these agencies.

If we are unable to recover costs of complying with regulations or other associated costs in customer rates in a timely manner, or if we are unable to obtain, renew, or comply with these governmental permits, approvals, authorizations, certificates, or licenses, our results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.

We face significant costs to comply with existing and future environmental laws and regulations.

Our operations are subject to extensive and evolving federal, state, and local environmental laws, regulations, and permit requirements related to, among other things, air emissions (including, but not limited to: CO2, methane, mercury, SO2, and NOx), protection of natural resources, water quality, wastewater discharges, and management of hazardous, toxic, and solid wastes and substances. For example, the EPA adopted and implemented (or is in the process of implementing) regulations governing the emission of NOx, SO2, fine particulate matter, mercury, and other air pollutants under the CAA through the NAAQS, climate change regulations including the ACE rule, and other air quality regulations. The EPA also finalized regulations under the Clean Water Act that govern cooling water intake structures at our power plants and revised the effluent guidelines for steam electric generating
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plants. Several of these rules are being challenged, which creates additional uncertainty. For example, the D.C. Court of Appeals vacated the ACE rule in January 2021. In addition, existing environmental laws and regulations may be revised or new laws or regulations may be adopted at the federal, state, or local level. In particular, it is uncertain how the change in the United States presidential administration will impact the final resolution of several environmental standards or the adoption of new environmental laws and regulations.

We incur significant capital and operating resources to comply with these environmental laws, regulations, and requirements, including costs associated with the installation of pollution control equipment to further limit GHG emissions from our operations; operating restrictions on our facilities; and environmental monitoring, emissions fees, and permits at our facilities. The operation of emission control equipment and compliance with rules regulating our intake and discharge of water could also increase our operating costs and reduce the generating capacity of our power plants. These regulations may create substantial additional costs in the form of taxes or emission allowances and could affect the availability and/or cost of fossil fuels. Failure to comply with these laws, regulations, and requirements, even if caused by factors beyond our control, may result in the assessment of civil or criminal penalties and fines. We continue to assess the potential cost of complying, and to explore different alternatives in order to comply, with these and other environmental regulations.

As a result of these compliance costs and other factors, certain of our coal-fired electric generating facilities have become uneconomical to maintain and operate, which has resulted in these units being retired or converted to an alternative type of fuel. As part of WEC Energy Group's commitment to a cleaner energy future, we have already retired approximately 300 MW of coal-fired generation since the beginning of 2018. Under the ESG Progress Plan, WEC Energy Group expects to retire approximately 1,800 MW of additional fossil-fueled generation by 2025, to be replaced with the construction of zero-carbon emitting renewable generation and natural gas-fired generation.

We are also subject to significant liabilities related to the investigation and remediation of environmental impacts at certain of our current and former facilities and at third-party owned sites. We accrue liabilities and defer costs (recorded as regulatory assets) incurred in connection with our former manufactured gas plant sites. These costs include all costs incurred to date that we expect to recover, management's best estimates of future costs for investigation and remediation and related legal expenses, and are net of amounts recovered (or that may be recovered) from insurance or other third parties. Due to the potential for the imposition of stricter standards and greater regulation in the future, the possibility that other potentially responsible parties may not be willing or financially able to contribute to cleanup costs, a change in conditions or the discovery of additional contamination, our remediation costs could increase, and the timing of our capital and/or operating expenditures in the future may accelerate or could vary from the amounts currently accrued.

Litigation over environmental issues and claims of various types, including property damage, personal injury, common law nuisance, and citizen enforcement of environmental laws and regulations has become more frequent throughout the United States. In addition to claims relating to our current facilities, we may also be subject to potential liability in connection with the environmental condition of facilities that we previously owned and operated, regardless of whether the liabilities arose before, during, or after the time we owned or operated these facilities. If we fail to comply with environmental laws and regulations or cause (or caused) harm to the environment or persons, that failure or harm may result in the assessment of civil penalties and damages against us. The incurrence of a material environmental liability or a material judgment in any action for personal injury or property damage related to environmental matters could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.

In the event we are not able to recover all of our environmental expenditures and related costs from our customers in the future, our results of operations and financial condition could be adversely affected. Further, increased costs recovered through rates could contribute to reduced demand for electricity and natural gas, which could adversely affect our results of operations, cash flows, and financial condition.

Our operations, capital expenditures, and financial results may be affected by the impact of greenhouse gas legislation, regulation, and emission reduction goals.

There is continued scientific and political attention to issues concerning the existence and extent of climate change. Management expects this attention to continue, particularly with the change in the United States presidential administration. Although the previously issued ACE rule was vacated in January 2021 adding additional uncertainty, President Biden has indicated that climate change will become one of his primary initiatives, with significant actions expected by his administration during his term in office. As a result, we expect the EPA and states to adopt and implement additional regulations to restrict emissions of GHGs.

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Costs associated with such legislation, regulation, and emission reduction goals could be significant. GHG regulations that may be adopted in the future, at either the federal or state level, may cause our environmental compliance spending to differ materially from the amounts currently estimated. These regulations, as well as changes in the fuel markets and advances in technology, could make additional electric generating units uneconomic to maintain or operate, may impact how we operate our existing fossil-fueled power plants, and could affect unit retirement and replacement decisions in the future under the ESG Progress Plan. These regulations could also adversely affect our future results of operations, cash flows, and financial condition. There is no guarantee that we will be allowed to fully recover costs incurred to comply with these and other federal and state regulations or that cost recovery will not be delayed or otherwise conditioned.

In addition, our natural gas delivery systems may generate fugitive gas as a result of normal operations and as a result of excavation, construction, and repair. Fugitive gas typically vents to the atmosphere and consists primarily of methane. CO2 is also a byproduct of natural gas consumption. Certain states outside our service territories have passed legislation banning natural gas used in new construction in order to limit these GHG emissions. Future statewide or nationwide actions like these to regulate GHG emissions could increase the price of natural gas, restrict the use of natural gas, cause us to accelerate the replacement and/or updating of our natural gas delivery systems, and adversely affect our ability to operate our natural gas facilities. A significant increase in the price of natural gas may increase rates for our natural gas customers, which could reduce natural gas demand.

We also continue to monitor the financial and operational feasibility of taking more aggressive action to further reduce GHG emissions in order to limit future global temperature increases. Our plan to replace older, fossil-fueled generation with zero-carbon emitting renewable generation and natural gas-fired generation will contribute to the achievement of our goals related to reducing CO2 and methane emissions. However, our ability to achieve such goals depends on many external factors, including the development of relevant energy technologies. These efforts could impact how we operate our electric generating units and natural gas facilities and lead to increased competition and regulation, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our operations and financial condition.

Changes in tax legislation, IRS audits, or our inability to use certain tax benefits and carryforwards, may adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations, and cash flows, as well as our credit ratings.

Tax legislation and regulations can adversely affect, among other things, our financial condition, results of operations, cash flows, liquidity, and credit ratings. Future changes to corporate tax rates or policies, including under the new United States presidential administration, could require us to take material charges against earnings. Such changes include, among other things, increasing the federal corporate income tax rate, disallowing use of certain tax benefits and carryforwards, limiting interest deductions, and altering the expensing of capital expenditures. Our inability to manage these changes, an adverse determination by one of the applicable taxing jurisdictions, or additional interpretations, implementing regulations, amendments, or technical corrections by the Treasury Department, the IRS, or state income tax authorities, could significantly impact our financial results and cash flows.

We have significantly reduced our federal and state income tax liabilities in the past through tax credits, net operating losses, and charitable contribution deductions. A reduction in or disallowance of these tax benefits could adversely affect our earnings and cash flows. We have not fully used these allowed tax benefits in our previous tax filings and have carried them forward to use against future taxable income. Our inability to generate sufficient taxable income in the future to fully use these tax carryforwards before they expire, could significantly affect our tax obligations and financial results.

In addition, we have invested, or plan to invest, in renewable energy generating facilities. These facilities generate PTCs or ITCs that we use to reduce our federal tax obligations. The amount of tax credits we earn depends on the amount of electricity produced, the applicable tax credit rate, or the amount of the investment in qualifying property. A variety of operating and economic factors, including transmission constraints, adverse weather conditions, and breakdown or failure of equipment, could significantly reduce the PTCs generated by the wind parks we have invested in, resulting in a material adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations.

We are also uncertain as to how credit rating agencies, capital markets, the FERC, or state public utility commissions will treat any future changes to federal or state tax legislation. These impacts could subject us to credit rating downgrades. In addition, certain financial metrics used by credit rating agencies, such as our funds from operations-to-debt percentage, could be negatively impacted by changes in federal or state income tax legislation.

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We could be subject to higher costs and penalties as a result of mandatory reliability standards.

We are subject to mandatory reliability and critical infrastructure protection standards established by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and enforced by the FERC. The critical infrastructure protection standards focus on controlling access to critical physical and cyber security assets. Compliance with the mandatory reliability standards could subject us to higher operating costs. If we were ever found to be in noncompliance with the mandatory reliability standards, we could be subject to sanctions, including substantial monetary penalties, or damage to our reputation.

Risks Related to the Operation of Our Business

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could adversely affect our business functions, financial condition, liquidity, and results of operations.

The global outbreak of COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the WHO and the CDC and has spread globally, including throughout the United States. There is still considerable uncertainty regarding the extent and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic itself, as well as the measures currently in place to try to contain the virus, such as travel bans and restrictions, quarantines, limitations on business operations, and the timing of widespread availability of the vaccines. Although the shelter-in-place order that was in effect for Wisconsin has expired, other orders limiting the capacity of various businesses have been adopted at the state and local levels. In addition, similar or more restrictive orders could be adopted in the future depending on how the virus continues to spread and/or mutate. Although no longer mandated by the PSCW, we are continuing to temporarily suspend disconnections.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and related government responses have significantly disrupted economic activity in our service territories. Such effects have included, and may continue to include, extended disruptions to supply chains and capital markets, reduced labor availability and productivity, and a prolonged reduction in economic activity. These effects could continue to have a variety of adverse impacts on us, including continued reductions in demand for energy, particularly from commercial and industrial customers; impairment of goodwill or long-lived assets; increased bad debt expense; increases in past due accounts receivable balances, impairment of our ability to develop, construct, and operate facilities; and impaired ability to successfully access funds from credit and capital markets.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also caused significant disruption and volatility in the United States capital markets, and any additional or lingering effects on the capital markets may significantly impact us. For example, the costs related to our pension and other post-retirement benefit plans are based in part on the value of the plans’ assets. Adverse investment performance for these assets or the failure to maintain sustained growth in pension investments over time could increase our plan costs and funding requirements. Similarly, we rely on access to the capital markets to fund some of our operations and capital requirements. To the extent that access to the capital markets is adversely affected by COVID-19, we may need to consider alternative sources of funding for our operations and for working capital, which may increase our cost of, as well as adversely impact our access to, capital.

We have taken precautions with regard to employee hygiene and facility cleanliness, imposed travel limitations on our employees, provided additional employee benefits, and implemented remote work policies where appropriate. Additional protocols have been implemented for our field employees who travel to customer premises in order to protect them, our customers, and the public.

As a reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is possible that federal and state fiscal spending to fund COVID-19 relief measures, coupled with a drop in tax revenue from pandemic-related reductions in economic activity, may add to the pressure to raise more tax revenue from federal and state corporate income, other taxes including payroll or property taxes, to enact new types of taxes on businesses and their customers, or to disallow certain deductions.

Despite our efforts to manage the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the extent to which COVID-19 may continue to affect us depends on factors beyond our knowledge or control. Therefore, we are currently unable to determine what additional impact the COVID-19 pandemic may have on our business plans and operations, liquidity, financial condition, and results of operations, but will continue to monitor COVID-19 developments and modify our plans as conditions change.

Our operations are subject to risks arising from the reliability of our electric generation, transmission, and distribution facilities, natural gas infrastructure facilities, renewable energy facilities, and other facilities, as well as the reliability of third-party transmission providers.

Our financial performance depends on the successful operation of our electric generation, natural gas and electric distribution facilities, and renewable energy facilities. The operation of these facilities involves many risks, including operator error and the
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breakdown or failure of equipment or processes. Potential breakdown or failure may occur due to severe weather; catastrophic events (i.e., fires, earthquakes, explosions, tornadoes, floods, droughts, pandemic health events, etc.); significant changes in water levels in waterways; fuel supply or transportation disruptions; accidents; employee labor disputes; construction delays or cost overruns; shortages of or delays in obtaining equipment, material, and/or labor; performance below expected levels; operating limitations that may be imposed by environmental or other regulatory requirements; terrorist attacks; or cyber security intrusions. Any of these events could lead to substantial financial losses, including increased maintenance costs, and unanticipated capital expenditures.

Because our electric generation and renewable energy facilities are interconnected with third-party transmission facilities, the operation of our facilities could also be adversely affected by events impacting their systems. Unplanned outages at our power plants may reduce our revenues, cause us to incur significant costs if we are required to operate our higher cost electric generators or purchase replacement power to satisfy our obligations, and could result in additional maintenance expenses.

Insurance, warranties, performance guarantees, or recovery through the regulatory process may not cover any or all of these lost revenues or increased expenses, which could adversely affect our results of operations and cash flows.

Our operations are subject to various conditions that can result in fluctuations in energy sales to customers, including customer growth and general economic conditions in our service areas, varying weather conditions, and energy conservation efforts.

Our results of operations and cash flows are affected by the demand for electricity and natural gas, which can vary greatly based upon:

Fluctuations in customer growth and general economic conditions in our service areas. Customer growth and energy use can be negatively impacted by population declines as well as economic factors in our service territories, including workforce reductions, stagnant wage growth, changing levels of support from state and local government for economic development, business closings, and reductions in the level of business investment. We are impacted by economic cycles and the competitiveness of the commercial and industrial customers we serve. Any economic downturn, disruption of financial markets, or reduced incentives by state government for economic development could adversely affect the financial condition of our customers and demand for their products or services. These risks could directly influence the demand for electricity and natural gas as well as the need for additional power generation and generating facilities. We could also be exposed to greater risks of accounts receivable write-offs if customers are unable to pay their bills.
Weather conditions. Demand for electricity is greater in the summer and winter months when cooling and heating is necessary. In addition, demand for natural gas peaks in the winter heating season. As a result, our overall results may fluctuate substantially on a seasonal basis. In addition, milder temperatures during the summer cooling season and during the winter heating season, as a result of climate change or otherwise, may result in lower revenues and net income.
Our customers' continued focus on energy conservation. Our customers' use of electricity and natural gas has decreased as a result of continued individual conservation efforts, including the use of more energy efficient technologies. Customers could also voluntarily reduce their consumption of energy in response to decreases in their disposable income and increases in energy prices. Conservation of energy can be influenced by certain federal and state programs that are intended to influence how consumers use energy. For example, several states, including Wisconsin, have adopted energy efficiency targets to reduce energy consumption.

As part of our planning process, we estimate the impacts of changes in customer growth and general economic conditions, weather, and customer energy conservation efforts, but risks still remain. Any of these matters, as well as any regulatory delay in adjusting rates as a result of reduced sales from effective conservation measures or the adoption of new technologies, could adversely impact our results of operations and financial condition.

We are actively involved with several significant capital projects, which are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that could adversely affect project costs and completion of construction projects.

Our business requires substantial capital expenditures for investments in, among other things, capital improvements to our electric generating facilities, electric and natural gas distribution infrastructure, and other projects, including projects for environmental compliance. We also expect to continue constructing and investing in renewable energy generating facilities as part of the ESG Progress Plan, including repowering existing wind generation projects in our generation portfolio.

Achieving the intended benefits of any large construction project is subject to many uncertainties, some of which we will have limited or no control over, that could adversely affect project costs and completion time. For example, the timing of Badger Hollow I
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was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional risks include, but are not limited to, the ability to adhere to established budgets and time frames; the availability of labor or materials at estimated costs; the ability of contractors to perform under their contracts; strikes; adverse weather conditions; potential legal challenges; changes in applicable laws or regulations; the impact on global supply chains of pandemic health events; other governmental actions; continued public and policymaker support for such projects; and events in the global economy. In addition, certain of these projects require the approval of our regulators. If construction of commission-approved projects should materially and adversely deviate from the schedules, estimates, and projections on which the approval was based, our regulators may deem the additional capital costs as imprudent and disallow recovery of them through rates, and otherwise available PTCs and ITCs for renewable energy projects could be lost or lose value.

To the extent that delays occur, costs become unrecoverable, tax credits are lost or lose value, or we (or third parties with whom we invest and/or partner) otherwise become unable to effectively manage and complete our (or their) capital projects, our results of operations, cash flows, and financial condition may be adversely affected.

Our operations are subject to risks beyond our control, including but not limited to, cyber security intrusions, terrorist attacks, acts of war, or unauthorized access to personally identifiable information.

We have been subject to attempted cyber attacks from time to time, but these attacks have not had a material impact on our system or business operations. Despite the implementation of security measures, all assets and systems are potentially vulnerable to disability, failures, or unauthorized access due to physical or cyber security intrusions caused by human error, vendor bugs, terrorist attacks, or other malicious acts. These threats could result in a full or partial disruption of our ability to generate, transmit, purchase, or distribute electricity or natural gas or cause environmental repercussions. If our assets or systems were to fail, be physically damaged, or be breached, and were not recovered in a timely manner, we may be unable to perform critical business functions, and data, including sensitive information, could be compromised.

We operate in an industry that requires the use of sophisticated information technology systems and network infrastructure, which control an interconnected system of generation, distribution, and transmission systems shared with third parties. A successful physical or cyber security intrusion may occur despite our security measures or those that we require our vendors to take, which include compliance with reliability standards and critical infrastructure protection standards. Successful cyber security intrusions, including those targeting the electronic control systems used at our generating facilities and electric and natural gas transmission and distribution systems, could disrupt our operations and result in loss of service to customers. These intrusions may cause unplanned outages at our power plants, which may reduce our revenues or cause us to incur significant costs if we are required to operate our higher cost electric generators or purchase replacement power to satisfy our obligations, and could result in additional maintenance expenses. The risk of such intrusions may also increase our capital and operating costs as a result of having to implement increased security measures for protection of our information technology and infrastructure.

Our continued efforts to integrate, consolidate, and streamline our operations have also resulted in increased reliance on current and recently completed projects for technology systems, including but not limited to, a customer information and billing system, automated meter reading systems, and other similar technological tools and initiatives. We implement procedures to protect our systems, but we cannot guarantee that the procedures we have implemented to protect against unauthorized access to secured data and systems are adequate to safeguard against all security breaches. The failure of any of these or other similarly important technologies, or our inability to support, update, expand, and/or integrate these technologies with those of our affiliates could materially and adversely impact our operations, diminish customer confidence and our reputation, materially increase the costs we incur to protect against these risks, and subject us to possible financial liability or increased regulation or litigation.

Our business requires the collection and retention of personally identifiable information of our customers and employees, who expect that we will adequately protect such information. Security breaches may expose us to a risk of loss or misuse of confidential and proprietary information. A significant theft, loss, or fraudulent use of personally identifiable information may lead to potentially large costs to notify and protect the impacted persons, and/or could cause us to become subject to significant litigation, costs, liability, fines, or penalties, any of which could materially and adversely impact our results of operations as well as our reputation with customers and regulators, among others. In addition, we may be required to incur significant costs associated with governmental actions in response to such intrusions or to strengthen our information and electronic control systems. We may also need to obtain additional insurance coverage related to the threat of such intrusions.

Any operational disruption or environmental repercussions caused by these on-going threats to our assets and technology systems could result in a significant decrease in our revenues or significant reconstruction or remediation costs, which could materially and adversely affect our results of operations, financial condition, and cash flows. The costs of repairing damage to our facilities, operational disruptions, protecting personally identifiable information, and notifying impacted persons, as well as related legal
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claims, may also not be recoverable in rates, may exceed the insurance limits on our insurance policies, or, in some cases, may not be covered by insurance.

Advances in technology, and legislation or regulations supporting such technology, could make our electric generating facilities less competitive.

Advances in new technologies that produce power or reduce power consumption are ongoing and include renewable energy technologies, customer-oriented generation, energy storage devices, and energy efficiency technologies. We generate power at central station power plants and utility-scale renewable generation facilities to achieve economies of scale and produce power at a competitive cost. There are distributed generation technologies that produce power, including fuel cells, microturbines, wind turbines, and solar cells, which have become more cost competitive than they were in the past. It is possible that legislation or regulations could be adopted supporting the use of these technologies. There is also a risk that advances in technology will continue to reduce the costs of these alternative methods of producing power to a level that is competitive with that of central station and utility-scale renewable power production. If these technologies become cost competitive and achieve economies of scale, our market share could be eroded, and the value of our generating facilities could be reduced. Advances in technology could also change the channels through which our electric customers purchase or use power, which could reduce our sales and revenues or increase our expenses.

We transport and distribute natural gas, which involves numerous risks that may result in accidents and other operating risks and costs.

Inherent in natural gas distribution activities are a variety of hazards and operational risks, such as leaks, accidental explosions, and mechanical problems, which could materially and adversely affect our results of operations, financial condition, and cash flows. In addition, these risks could result in serious injury to employees and non-employees, loss of human life, significant damage to property, environmental pollution, impairment of operations, and substantial losses to us. The location of natural gas pipelines near populated areas, including residential areas, commercial business centers, and industrial sites, could increase the level of damages resulting from these risks. These activities may subject us to litigation and/or administrative proceedings from time to time, which could result in substantial monetary judgments, fines, or penalties against us, or be resolved on unfavorable terms.

We may fail to attract and retain an appropriately qualified workforce.

We operate in an industry that requires many of our employees to possess unique technical skill sets. Events such as an aging workforce without appropriate replacements, the mismatch of skill sets to future needs, or the unavailability of contract resources may lead to operating challenges or increased costs. These operating challenges include lack of resources, loss of knowledge, and a lengthy time period associated with skill development. In addition, current and prospective employees may determine that they do not wish to work for us. Failure to hire and obtain replacement employees, including the ability to transfer significant internal historical knowledge and expertise to the new employees, may adversely affect our ability to manage and operate our business. If we are unable to successfully attract and retain an appropriately qualified workforce, our results of operations could be adversely affected.

Our counterparties may fail to meet their obligations, including obligations under power purchase, natural gas supply, natural gas pipeline capacity, and transportation agreements.

We are exposed to the risk that counterparties to various arrangements who owe us money, electricity, natural gas, or other commodities or services will not be able to perform their obligations. Should the counterparties to these arrangements fail to perform or if capacity is inadequate, we may be required to replace the underlying commitment at current market prices or we may be unable to meet all of our customers' electric and natural gas requirements unless or until alternative supply arrangements are put in place. In such event, we may incur losses, and our results of operations, financial position, or liquidity could be adversely affected.
We have entered into several power purchase, natural gas supply, natural gas pipeline capacity, and transportation agreements with non-affiliated companies. Revenues are dependent on the continued performance by the counterparties of their obligations under these agreements. Although we have a comprehensive credit evaluation process and contractual protections, it is possible that one or more counterparties could fail to perform their obligations. If this were to occur, we generally would expect that any operating and other costs that were initially allocated to a defaulting customer's power purchase, natural gas supply, natural gas pipeline capacity, or transportation agreement would be reallocated among our retail customers. To the extent these costs are not allowed to be reallocated by our regulators or there is any regulatory delay in adjusting rates, a counterparty default under these agreements could have a negative impact on our results of operations and cash flows.
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Risks Related to Economic and Market Volatility

Our business is dependent on our ability to successfully access capital markets.

We rely on access to credit and capital markets to support our capital requirements, including expenditures for our utility infrastructure and to comply with future regulatory requirements, to the extent not satisfied by the cash flow generated by our operations. We have historically secured funds from a variety of sources, including the issuance of short-term and long-term debt securities. Successful implementation of our long-term business strategies, including capital investment, is dependent upon our ability to access the capital markets, including the banking and commercial paper markets, on competitive terms and rates. In addition, we rely on a committed bank credit agreement as back-up liquidity, which allows us to access the low cost commercial paper markets.

Our access to the credit and capital markets could be limited, or our cost of capital significantly increased, due to any of the following risks and uncertainties:

A rating downgrade;
Failure to comply with debt covenants;
An economic downturn or uncertainty;
Prevailing market conditions and rules;
Concerns over foreign economic conditions;
Changes in tax policy;
Changes in investment criteria of institutional investors;
War or the threat of war;
The overall health and view of the utility and financial institution industries; and
Changes in the method of determining LIBOR or the replacement of LIBOR with an alternative reference rate.

Our bank credit agreement provides for interest at variable interest rates, primarily based on LIBOR. LIBOR is the subject of recent national, international, and other regulatory guidance and proposals for reform, which may cause LIBOR to cease to exist after June 2023 or to perform differently than in the past. While we expect that reasonable alternatives to LIBOR will be implemented prior to the 2023 target date, we cannot predict the consequences and timing of the development of alternative reference rates. The transition to alternative reference rates could include an increase in our interest expense.

If any of these risks or uncertainties limit our access to the credit and capital markets or significantly increase our cost of capital, it could limit our ability to implement, or increase the costs of implementing, our business plan, which, in turn, could materially and adversely affect our results of operations, cash flows, and financial condition.

A downgrade in our credit ratings could negatively affect our ability to access capital at reasonable costs and/or require the posting of collateral.

There are a number of factors that impact our credit ratings, including, but not limited to, capital structure, regulatory environment, the ability to cover liquidity requirements, and other requirements for capital. We could experience a downgrade in ratings if the rating agencies determine that the level of business or financial risk of us or the utility industry has deteriorated. Changes in rating methodologies by the rating agencies could also have a negative impact on credit ratings.

Any downgrade by the rating agencies could:

Increase borrowing costs under our existing credit facility;
Require the payment of higher interest rates in future financings and possibly reduce the pool of creditors;
Decrease funding sources by limiting our access to the commercial paper market;
Limit the availability of adequate credit support for our operations; and
Trigger collateral requirements in various contracts.

Fluctuating commodity prices could negatively impact our electric and natural gas utility operations.

Our operating and liquidity requirements are impacted by changes in the forward and current market prices of natural gas, coal, electricity, renewable energy credits, and ancillary services.
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We burn natural gas in several of our electric generation plants, and as a supplemental fuel at one of our coal-fired plants. In many instances the cost of purchased power is tied to the cost of natural gas. The cost of natural gas may increase because of disruptions in the supply of natural gas due to a curtailment in production or distribution, international market conditions, the demand for natural gas, and the availability of shale gas and potential regulations affecting its accessibility.

For Wisconsin retail electric customers, we bear the risk for the recovery of fuel and purchased power costs within a symmetrical 2% fuel tolerance band compared to the forecast of fuel and purchased power costs established in our rate structure. Prudently incurred fuel and purchased power costs are recovered dollar-for-dollar from our wholesale electric customers. We receive dollar-for-dollar recovery of prudently incurred natural gas costs from our natural gas customers.

Changes in commodity prices could result in:

Higher working capital requirements, particularly related to natural gas inventory, accounts receivable, and cash collateral postings;
Reduced profitability to the extent that lower revenues, increased bad debt, and higher interest expense are not recovered through rates;
Higher rates charged to our customers, which could impact our competitive position;
Reduced demand for energy, which could impact revenues and operating expenses; and
Shutting down of generation facilities if the cost of generation exceeds the market price for electricity.

We may not be able to obtain an adequate supply of coal, which could limit our ability to operate our coal-fired facilities.

We operate jointly-owned coal-fired electric generating units. Although we generally carry sufficient coal inventory at our generating facilities to protect against an interruption or decline in supply, there can be no assurance that the inventory levels will be adequate. While we have coal supply and transportation contracts in place, we cannot assure that the counterparties to these agreements will be able to fulfill their obligations to supply coal to us or that we will be able to take delivery of all the coal volume contracted for. If we are unable to obtain our coal requirements under our coal supply and transportation contracts, we may be required to purchase coal at higher prices or we may be forced to reduce generation at our jointly-owned coal-fired units, which could lead to increased fuel costs. The increase in fuel costs could result in either reduced margins on net sales into the MISO Energy Markets, a reduction in the volume of net sales into the MISO Energy Markets, and/or an increase in net power purchases in the MISO Energy Markets. There is no guarantee that we would be able to fully recover any increased costs in rates or that recovery would not otherwise be delayed, either of which could adversely affect our results of operations and cash flows.

Our use of derivative contracts could result in financial losses.

We use derivative instruments such as swaps, options, futures, and forwards to manage commodity price exposure. We could recognize financial losses as a result of volatility in the market value of these contracts or if a counterparty fails to perform. These risks are managed through risk management policies, which might not work as planned and cannot entirely eliminate the risks associated with these activities. In addition, although our hedging programs must be approved by the PSCW, derivative contracts entered into for hedging purposes might not offset the underlying exposure being hedged as expected, resulting in financial losses. In the absence of actively quoted market prices and pricing information from external sources, the value of these financial instruments can involve management's judgment or use of estimates. Changes in the underlying assumptions or use of alternative valuation methods could affect the reported fair value of these contracts.

Restructuring in the regulated energy industry and competition in the retail and wholesale markets could have a negative impact on our business and revenues.

The regulated energy industry continues to experience significant structural changes. Deregulation or other changes in law in the states where we serve our customers could allow third-party suppliers to contract directly with customers for their natural gas and electric supply requirements. This increased competition in the retail and wholesale markets could have a material adverse financial impact on us.

The FERC continues to support the existing RTOs that affect the structure of the wholesale market within these RTOs. In connection with its status as a FERC-approved RTO, MISO implemented bid-based energy markets that are part of the MISO Energy Markets. All market participants, including us, must submit day-ahead and/or real-time bids and offers for energy at locations across the MISO region. MISO then calculates the most efficient solution for all of the bids and offers made into the market that day and establishes
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an LMP that reflects the market price for energy. We are required to follow MISO's instructions when dispatching generating units to support MISO's responsibility for maintaining the stability of the transmission system. MISO also implemented an ancillary services market for operating reserves that schedules energy and ancillary services at the same time as part of the energy market, allowing for more efficient use of generation assets in the MISO Energy Markets. These market designs continue to have the potential to increase the costs of transmission, the costs associated with inefficient generation dispatching, the costs of participation in the MISO Energy Markets, and the costs associated with estimated payment settlements.

The FERC rules related to transmission are designed to facilitate competition in the wholesale electricity markets among regulated utilities, non-utility generators, wholesale power marketers, and brokers by providing greater flexibility and more choices to wholesale customers, including initiatives designed to encourage the integration of renewable sources of supply. In addition, along with transactions contemplating physical delivery of energy, financial laws and regulations impact hedging and trading based on futures contracts and derivatives that are traded on various commodities exchanges, as well as over-the-counter. Technology changes in the power and fuel industries also have significant impacts on wholesale transactions and related costs. We currently cannot predict the impact of these and other developments or the effect of changes in levels of wholesale supply and demand, which are driven by factors beyond our control.

We may experience poor investment performance of benefit plan holdings due to changes in assumptions and market conditions.

We have significant obligations related to pension and OPEB plans. If WEC Energy Group is unable to successfully manage our benefit plan assets and medical costs, our cash flows, financial condition, or results of operations could be adversely impacted. Our cost of providing these plans is dependent upon a number of factors, including actual plan experience, changes made to the plans, and assumptions concerning the future. Types of assumptions include earnings on plan assets, discount rates, the level of interest rates used to measure the required minimum funding levels of the plans, future government regulation, estimated withdrawals by retirees, and our required or voluntary contributions to the plans. Plan assets are subject to market fluctuations and may yield returns that fall below projected return rates. In addition, medical costs for both active and retired employees may increase at a rate that is significantly higher than we currently anticipate. Our funding requirements could be impacted by a decline in the market value of plan assets, changes in interest rates, changes in demographics (including the number of retirements), or changes in life expectancy assumptions.

General Risks

We may fail to maintain effective internal controls in accordance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

We are subject to reporting, disclosure control, and other obligations under SOX. SOX contains provisions requiring our management to report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting. We have undertaken, and will continue to undertake, a variety of initiatives to integrate, standardize, centralize, and streamline our operations with technology, including, but not limited to, the implementation of several different enterprise resource planning systems. There is a risk that we will not be able to conclude that our internal control over financial reporting is effective because of the discovery of material weaknesses, with either our current controls and processes or with the implementation of new controls and processes around these new technologies. Any failure to maintain effective internal controls could cause investors to lose confidence in the accuracy or completeness of our financial reports, restrict our access to the capital markets, or subject us to investigations by the SEC or other regulatory authorities.

We may be unable to obtain insurance on acceptable terms or at all, and the insurance coverage we do obtain may not provide protection against all significant losses.

Our ability to obtain insurance, as well as the cost and coverage of such insurance, could be affected by developments affecting our business; international, national, state, or local events; and the financial condition of insurers and our contractors that are required to acquire and maintain insurance for our benefit. Insurance coverage may not continue to be available at all or at rates or terms similar to those presently available to us. In addition, our insurance may not be sufficient or effective under all circumstances and against all hazards or liabilities to which we may be subject. Any losses for which we are not fully insured or that are not covered by insurance at all could materially adversely affect our results of operations, cash flows, and financial position.

ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

None.

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ITEM 2. PROPERTIES

We own our principal properties outright. However, the major portion of our electric utility distribution lines and natural gas utility distribution mains and services are located on or under streets and highways, on land owned by others, and are generally subject to granted easements, consents, or permits.

Electric Facilities

The following table summarizes information on our electric generation facilities, including owned and jointly owned facilities, as of December 31, 2020:
NameLocationFuelNumber of Generating Units
Capacity In MW (1)
Coal-fired plants
ColumbiaPortage, WICoal311 
(2)
WestonRothschild, WICoal719 
(2)
Total coal-fired plants1,030 
Natural gas-fired plants
De Pere Energy CenterDe Pere, WINatural Gas/Oil166 
Fox Energy CenterWrightstown, WINatural Gas574 
PulliamGreen Bay, WINatural Gas/Oil81 
West MarinetteMarinette, WINatural Gas/Oil149 
WestonRothschild, WINatural Gas/Oil115 
Total natural gas-fired plants11 1,085 
Renewables
Hydro plants (17 in number)WIHydro51 48 
(3) (4)
Two CreeksWISolar48 100 
(2)
Wind sites (2 in number)WI and IAWind152 161 
(2)
Total renewables251 309 
Total system266 2,424 

(1)    Capacity for our electric generation facilities, other than wind and solar generating facilities, is based on rated capacity, which is the net power output under average operating conditions with equipment in an average state of repair as of a given month in a given year. Values are primarily based on the net dependable expected capacity ratings for summer 2021 established by tests and may change slightly from year to year. The summer period is the most relevant for capacity planning purposes. This is a result of continually reaching demand peaks in the summer months, primarily due to air conditioning demand. Capacity for wind generating facilities is based on nameplate capacity, which is the amount of energy a turbine should produce at optimal wind speeds. Capacity for solar generating facilities is based on nameplate capacity, which is the maximum output that a generator should produce at continuous full power.

(2)    We jointly own these facilities with various other utilities. The capacity indicated for each of these units is equal to our portion of total plant capacity based on our percent of ownership.

Wisconsin Power and Light Company, an unaffiliated utility, operates the Columbia units. We hold a 27.5% ownership interest in Columbia.

We operate the Weston 4 facility and hold a 70.0% ownership interest in this facility. Dairyland Power Cooperative, an unaffiliated energy cooperative, holds the remaining 30.0%.

We jointly own Two Creeks with an unaffiliated utility. We hold a 66.7% ownership interest in this facility.

We jointly own Forward Wind Energy Center along with two other unaffiliated utilities. We hold a 44.6% ownership interest in this facility. See Note 2, Acquisitions, for more information on the Forward Wind Energy Center acquisition.

(3)     All of our hydroelectric facilities follow FERC guidelines and/or regulations.

(4)    WRPC owns and operates the Castle Rock and Petenwell units. We hold a 50.0% ownership interest in WRPC and are entitled to 50.0% of the total capacity at Castle Rock and Petenwell. Our share of capacity for Castle Rock and Petenwell is 7.0 MW and 10.3 MW, respectively.
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As of December 31, 2020, we operated approximately 14,200 miles of overhead distribution lines and approximately 8,300 miles of underground distribution cable, as well as 119 electric distribution substations and approximately 193,200 line transformers.

Natural Gas Facilities

At December 31, 2020, our natural gas properties were located in northeastern Wisconsin and consisted of the following:

Approximately 8,300 miles of natural gas distribution mains,
Approximately 250 miles of natural gas transmission mains,
Approximately 309,500 natural gas lateral services, and
Approximately 90 natural gas distribution and transmission gate stations.

Our natural gas distribution and gas storage systems included distribution mains and transmission mains connected to the pipeline transmission systems of ANR Pipeline Company and Guardian Pipeline L.L.C..

We also own office buildings, natural gas regulating and metering stations, and major service centers, including garage and warehouse facilities, in certain communities we serve. Where distribution lines and services and natural gas distribution mains and services occupy private property, we have in some, but not all instances, obtained consents, permits, or easements for these installations from the apparent owners or those in possession of those properties, generally without an examination of ownership records or title.

ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

In addition to those legal proceedings discussed in Note 21, Commitments and Contingencies, and Note 23, Regulatory Environment, we are currently, and from time to time, subject to claims and suits arising in the ordinary course of business. Although the results of these additional legal proceedings cannot be predicted with certainty, management believes, after consultation with legal counsel, that the ultimate resolution of these proceedings will not have a material effect on our financial statements.

ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES

Not applicable.    

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PART II

ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT'S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES

There is no established public trading market for our common stock, as Integrys, a wholly-owned subsidiary of WEC Energy Group, owns all of our outstanding common stock. See Note 11, Common Equity, for more information.

ITEM 6. SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA

Omitted pursuant to General Instruction I(2)a.

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ITEM 7. MANAGEMENT'S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

CORPORATE DEVELOPMENTS

Introduction

We are an electric and natural gas utility and an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of WEC Energy Group. We derive revenues primarily from the distribution and sale of electricity and natural gas to retail customers. We also provide wholesale electric service to numerous utilities and cooperatives for resale. We conduct our business primarily through our utility reportable segment. See Note 20, Segment Information, for more information on our reportable business segments.

Corporate Strategy

Our goal is to continue to build and sustain long-term value for our customers and WEC Energy Group's shareholders by focusing on the fundamentals of our business: environmental stewardship; reliability; operating efficiency; financial discipline; exceptional customer care; and safety. WEC Energy Group's 2021-2025 capital investment plan for efficiency, sustainability and growth, referred to as its ESG Progress Plan, provides a roadmap to achieve this goal. It is an aggressive plan to cut emissions, maintain superior reliability, deliver significant savings for customers, and grow WEC Energy Group's and our investment in the future of energy.

Throughout its strategic planning process, WEC Energy Group takes into account important developments, risks and opportunities, including new technologies, customer preferences and commodity prices, energy resiliency efforts, and sustainability. WEC Energy Group published the results of a priority sustainability issue assessment in 2020, identifying the issues that are most important to the company and its stakeholders over the short and long terms. This risk and priority assessment has formed WEC Energy Group's direction as a company.

Creating a Sustainable Future

WEC Energy Group's ESG Progress Plan includes the retirement of older, fossil-fueled generation, to be replaced with the construction of zero-carbon-emitting renewable generation and clean natural gas-fired generation at its electric utilities including us. When taken together, the retirements and new investments should better balance supply with demand, while maintaining reliable, affordable energy for our customers. The retirements will contribute to meeting WEC Energy Group's and our goals to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from electric generation.

In 2019, WEC Energy Group met and surpassed its original goal to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% below 2005 levels. In July 2020, WEC Energy Group announced new goals to reduce CO2 emissions from its electric generation by 70% below 2005 levels by 2030 and to be net carbon neutral by 2050. It also added a near-term goal in November 2020 to reduce CO2 emissions by 55% below 2005 levels by 2025.

WEC Energy Group has already retired more than 1,800 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired generation since the beginning of 2018, which included the 2018 retirement of the Pulliam power plant as well as the jointly-owned Edgewater Unit 4 generating units. See Note 6, Regulatory Assets and Liabilities, for more information related to these power plant retirements. As part of the ESG Progress Plan, WEC Energy Group expects to retire approximately 1,800 MW of additional fossil-fueled generation by 2025.

In addition to retiring these older, fossil-fueled plants, WEC Energy Group expects to invest approximately $2 billion from 2021-2025 in low-cost renewable energy in Wisconsin. WEC Energy Group's plan is to replace a portion of the retired capacity by building and owning a combination of clean, natural gas-fired generation and zero-carbon-emitting renewable generation facilities that are anticipated to include the following new investments made by either us or WE based on specific customer needs:

800 MW of utility-scale solar;
600 MW of battery storage;
100 MW of wind;
100 MW of reciprocating internal combustion engine (RICE) natural gas-fueled generation; and
the planned purchase of 200 MW of capacity in the West Riverside Energy Center – a new, combined-cycle natural gas plant recently completed by Alliant Energy in Wisconsin.

These new investments discussed above are in addition to the renewable projects currently underway.
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We have partnered with an unaffiliated utility to construct two solar projects in Wisconsin: Two Creeks Solar Park, now in service, and Badger Hollow Solar Park I, targeted for completion in the second quarter of 2021. We own 100 MW of Two Creeks and will own 100 MW of Badger Hollow I for a total of 200 MW.

WEC Energy Group also has a goal to decrease the rate of methane emissions from the natural gas distribution lines in its network by 30% per mile by the year 2030 from a 2011 baseline. WEC Energy Group was over half way toward meeting that goal at the end of 2019.

Reliability

We have made significant reliability-related investments in recent years, and in accordance with the ESG Progress Plan, expect to continue strengthening and modernizing our generation fleet and distribution networks to further improve reliability.

We continue work on our System Modernization and Reliability Project, which involves modernizing parts of our electric distribution system, including burying or upgrading lines. The project focuses on constructing facilities to improve the reliability of electric service we provide to our customers. We also continue to upgrade our electric and natural gas distribution systems to enhance reliability.

Operating Efficiency

We continually look for ways to optimize the operating efficiency of our company and will continue to do so under the ESG Progress Plan. For example, we are making progress on our Advanced Metering Infrastructure program, replacing aging meter-reading equipment on both our network and customer property. An integrated system of smart meters, communication networks, and data management programs enables two-way communication between us and our customers. This program reduces the manual effort for disconnects and reconnects and enhances outage management capabilities.

WEC Energy Group continues to focus on integrating resources of its businesses and finding the best and most efficient processes while meeting all applicable legal and regulatory requirements.

Financial Discipline

A strong adherence to financial discipline is essential to meeting our earnings projections and maintaining a strong balance sheet, stable cash flows, and quality credit ratings.

We follow an asset management strategy that focuses on investing in and acquiring assets consistent with our strategic plans, as well as disposing of assets, including property, plants, and equipment, that are no longer strategic to operations, are not performing as intended, or have an unacceptable risk profile. See Note 2, Acquisitions, for information on our acquisition of a portion of a wind energy generation facility in Wisconsin.

Exceptional Customer Care

Our approach is driven by an intense focus on delivering exceptional customer care every day. We strive to provide the best value for our customers by demonstrating personal responsibility for results, leveraging our capabilities and expertise, and using creative solutions to meet or exceed our customers’ expectations.

A multiyear effort is driving a standardized, seamless approach to digital customer service across all of the WEC Energy Group companies. It has moved all utilities, including us, to a common platform for all customer-facing self-service options. Using common systems and processes reduces costs, provides greater flexibility and enhances the consistent delivery of exceptional service to customers.

Safety

Across the organization, we monitor the integrity of our networks and conduct comprehensive incident response planning to enhance the safety of our operations.

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Under our "Target Zero" mission, we have an ultimate goal of zero incidents, accidents, and injuries. We also set goals around injury-prevention activities that raise awareness and facilitate conversations about employee safety. Our corporate safety program provides a forum for addressing employee concerns, training employees and contractors on current safety standards, and recognizing those who demonstrate a safety focus.

RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

The following discussion and analysis of our Results of Operations includes comparisons of our results for the year ended December 31, 2020 with the year ended December 31, 2019. Effective December 31, 2020, we changed our measure of segment profitability from operating income to net income. As no significant items were reported in our other segment during the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, a similar discussion that compares our results for these years can be found in Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Results of Operations in Part II of our 2019 Annual Report on Form 10-K.

Earnings

Our earnings for the year ended December 31, 2020 were $221.6 million, compared to $184.7 million for the year ended December 31, 2019. See below for additional information on the $36.9 million increase in earnings.

Non-GAAP Financial Measures

The discussion below addresses the contribution of our utility segment to net income. The discussion includes financial information prepared in accordance with GAAP, as well as electric margins and natural gas margins, which are not measures of financial performance under GAAP. Electric margin (electric revenues less fuel and purchased power costs) and natural gas margin (natural gas revenues less cost of natural gas sold) are non-GAAP financial measures because they exclude other operation and maintenance expense, depreciation and amortization, and property and revenue taxes.

We believe that electric and natural gas margins provide a useful basis for evaluating utility operations since the majority of prudently incurred fuel and purchased power costs, as well as prudently incurred natural gas costs, are passed through to customers in current rates. As a result, management uses electric and natural gas margins internally when assessing the operating performance of our utility segment as these measures exclude the majority of revenue fluctuations caused by changes in these expenses. Similarly, the presentation of electric and natural gas margins herein is intended to provide supplemental information for investors regarding our operating performance.

Our electric margins and natural gas margins may not be comparable to similar measures presented by other companies. Furthermore, these measures are not intended to replace operating income as determined in accordance with GAAP as an indicator of operating performance. Our utility segment operating income for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019 was $308.2 million and $267.6 million, respectively. The discussion below includes a table that provides the calculation of electric margins and natural gas margins, along with a reconciliation to the most directly comparable GAAP measure, operating income.

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Utility Segment Contribution to Net Income
Year Ended December 31
(in millions)20202019B (W)
Electric revenues$1,137.0 $1,115.4 $21.6 
Fuel and purchased power costs318.9 366.0 47.1 
Total electric margins818.1 749.4 68.7 
Natural gas revenues270.1 296.5 (26.4)
Cost of natural gas sold139.4 174.6 35.2 
Total natural gas margins130.7 121.9 8.8 
Total electric and natural gas margins948.8 871.3 77.5 
Other operation and maintenance426.3 396.2 (30.1)
Depreciation and amortization174.3 166.2 (8.1)
Property and revenue taxes40.0 41.3 1.3 
Operating income308.2 267.6 40.6 
Other income, net29.9 38.2 (8.3)
Interest expense63.5 63.4 (0.1)
Income before income taxes274.6 242.4 32.2 
Income tax expense54.2 58.7 4.5 
Net income$220.4 $183.7 $36.7 

The following table shows a breakdown of other operation and maintenance:
Year Ended December 31
(in millions)20202019B (W)
Operation and maintenance not included in line items below$207.1 $196.9 $(10.2)
Transmission (1)
159.9 146.0 (13.9)
Regulatory amortizations and other pass through expenses (2)
37.6 32.4 (5.2)
Earnings sharing mechanism (3)
21.6 20.6 (1.0)
Other0.1 0.3 0.2 
Total other operation and maintenance$426.3 $396.2 $(30.1)

(1)    Represents transmission expense that we are authorized to collect in rates, in accordance with the PSCW's approval of escrow accounting for ATC and MISO network transmission expenses. As a result, we defer as a regulatory asset or liability, the difference between actual transmission costs and those included in rates until recovery or refund is authorized in a future rate proceeding. During 2020 and 2019, $146.8 million and $140.0 million, respectively, of costs were billed to us by transmission providers.

(2)    Regulatory amortizations and other pass through expenses are substantially offset in margins and therefore do not have a significant impact on net income.

(3)    See Note 23, Regulatory Environment, for more information about our earnings sharing mechanism.

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The following tables provide information on delivered volumes by customer class and weather statistics:
Year Ended December 31
MWh (in thousands)
Electric Sales Volumes20202019B (W)
Customer class  
Residential3,038.9 2,869.0 169.9 
Small commercial and industrial3,865.1 3,981.5 (116.4)
Large commercial and industrial3,682.7 3,877.6 (194.9)
Other26.9 27.2 (0.3)
Total retail10,613.6 10,755.3 (141.7)
Wholesale2,035.9 2,190.2 (154.3)
Resale 784.1 789.8 (5.7)
Total sales in MWh13,433.6 13,735.3 (301.7)

Year Ended December 31
Therms (in millions)
Natural Gas Sales Volumes20202019B (W)
Customer class  
Residential247.6 269.2 (21.6)
Commercial and industrial184.5 201.9 (17.4)
Total retail432.1 471.1 (39.0)
Transport437.9 434.9 3.0 
Total sales in therms870.0 906.0 (36.0)

Year Ended December 31
Degree Days
Weather (1)
20202019B (W)
Heating (7,450 normal)7,139 7,723 (7.6)%
Cooling (515 normal)660 504 31.0 %

(1)    Normal degree days are based on a 20-year moving average of monthly temperatures from the Green Bay, Wisconsin weather station.

2020 Compared with 2019

Electric Utility Margins

Electric utility margins increased $68.7 million during 2020, compared with 2019. Electric utility margins were not impacted significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic, as fluctuations in sales volumes were offset between certain customer classes.

The significant factor impacting the higher electric utility margins was a $77.2 million net increase in margins related to the impact of our rate order approved by the PSCW, effective January 1, 2020. This increase in margins includes an $11.1 million negative impact related to unprotected excess deferred taxes, which we agreed to return to customers and is offset in income taxes.

This increase in margins was partially offset by:

A $4.7 million decrease in margins related to lower wholesale sales volumes, driven by lower sales to UMERC. UMERC's new natural gas-fired generating units in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan began commercial operation on March 31, 2019, at which time we stopped providing wholesale services to UMERC.

A $2.2 million decrease in margins from other revenues, primarily related to lower revenues from third party use of our assets.

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Natural Gas Utility Margins

Natural gas utility margins increased $8.8 million during 2020, compared with 2019. The most significant factor impacting the higher natural gas utility margins was an $11.6 million increase related to the impact of our rate order approved by the PSCW, effective January 1, 2020. This increase in margins includes a $5.3 million negative impact related to unprotected excess deferred taxes, which we agreed to return to customers and is offset in income taxes.

This increase in margins was partially offset by a $4.0 million reduction in margins related to lower sales volumes, driven by warmer winter weather during 2020. As measured by heating degree days, 2020 was 7.6% warmer than 2019. Natural gas utility margins were not impacted significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other Operating Expenses (includes other operation and maintenance, depreciation and amortization, and property and revenue taxes).

Other operating expenses at the utility segment increased $36.9 million during 2020, compared with 2019. The significant factors impacting the increase in operating expenses were:

A $28.9 million increase in other operation and maintenance expense related to our power plants, driven by changes to certain plant-related regulatory assets resulting from decisions included in our December 2019 Wisconsin rate order. See Note 23, Regulatory Environment, for more information on our Wisconsin rate order.

A $13.9 million increase in transmission expense as approved in the PSCW's 2019 rate order, which was effective January 1, 2020. See the notes under the other operation and maintenance table above for more information.

An $8.1 million increase in depreciation and amortization, driven by assets being placed into service as we continue to execute on our capital plan.

A $5.2 million increase in regulatory amortizations and other pass through expenses, as discussed in the notes under the other operation and maintenance table above.

These increases in operating expenses were partially offset by:

An $18.1 million decrease in electric and natural gas distribution expenses, driven by lower maintenance and storm restoration expense, as well as our focus on operating efficiency.

A $6.5 million decrease in benefit costs, primarily due to lower deferred compensation costs, stock-based compensation, and medical costs.

Other Income, Net

Other income, net decreased $8.3 million during 2020, compared with 2019. The decrease was primarily driven by the impact from the 2019 deferral of costs that were offset in other income statement line items and had no impact on net income. Partially offsetting this decrease was higher AFUDC–Equity due to continued capital investment.

Income Tax Expense

Income tax expense decreased $4.5 million during 2020, compared with 2019. This decrease was primarily due to the 2020 amortization of the unprotected excess deferred tax benefits from the Tax Legislation in connection with our Wisconsin rate order approved by the PSCW, effective January 1, 2020. This item did not impact earnings as it was offset in operating income. Partially offsetting this decrease was the impact of higher pre-tax earnings. See Note 16, Income Taxes, and Note 23, Regulatory Environment, for more information.

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Other Segment Contribution to Net Income
Year Ended December 31
(in millions)20202019B (W)
Net income$1.2 $1.0 $0.2 

LIQUIDITY AND CAPITAL RESOURCES

The following discussion and analysis of our Liquidity and Capital Resources includes comparisons of our cash flows for the year ended December 31, 2020 with the year ended December 31, 2019. For a similar discussion that compares our cash flows for the year ended December 31, 2019 with the year ended December 31, 2018, see Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Liquidity and Capital Resources in Part II of our 2019 Annual Report on Form 10-K.

Cash Flows

The following table summarizes our cash flows during the years ended December 31:
(in millions)20202019Change in 2020 Over 2019
Cash provided by (used in):
Operating activities$453.4 $421.1 $32.3 
Investing activities(527.0)(515.9)(11.1)
Financing activities74.0 88.2 (14.2)

Operating Activities

2020 Compared with 2019

Net cash provided by operating activities increased $32.3 million during 2020, compared with 2019, driven by a $97.6 million reduction in payments for natural gas for our customers and for fuel used at our plants during 2020, compared with 2019, due to lower natural gas prices. The average per-unit cost of natural gas decreased 13.3% during 2020, compared with 2019. Lower fuel costs were also driven by lower sales volumes related to warmer winter weather during 2020.

This increase in net cash provided by operating activities was partially offset by:

A $46.3 million decrease in cash from higher payments for other operation and maintenance expenses primarily related to our power plants as well as higher payments to transmission providers.

A $17.0 million decrease in cash related to lower cash received for income taxes during 2020, compared to 2019, due to plant related adjustments included in the 2019 federal tax return filed in 2020.

Investing Activities

2020 Compared with 2019

Net cash used in investing activities increased $11.1 million during 2020, compared with 2019, driven by an increase in cash paid for capital expenditures, which is discussed in more detail below.

Capital Expenditures

Capital expenditures for the years ended December 31 were as follows:
(in millions)20202019Change in 2020 Over 2019
Capital expenditures$530.7 $517.8 $12.9 

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2020 Compared with 2019

The increase in cash paid for capital expenditures during 2020, compared with 2019, was driven by an increase in payments for capital expenditures related to Badger Hollow I. This increase in cash paid for capital expenditures was offset by a decrease in cash paid for capital expenditures related to Two Creeks, upgrades to our electric distribution system, upgrades of automated meter reading devices, construction of the SMRP, and various other software projects during 2020, compared with 2019.

See Capital Resources and Requirements – Capital Requirements – Capital Expenditures and Significant Capital Projects below for more information.

Financing Activities

2020 Compared with 2019

Net cash provided by financing activities decreased $14.2 million during 2020, compared with 2019, driven by:

A $300.0 million decrease in cash due to the issuance of long-term debt during 2019. There were no issuances of long-term debt in 2020.

A $140.0 million decrease in cash related to higher dividends paid to our parent during 2020, compared with 2019, to balance our capital structure.

These decreases in net cash provided by financing activities were partially offset by:

A $311.9 million increase in cash due to $119.0 million of net borrowings of commercial paper during 2020, compared with $192.9 million of net repayments of commercial paper during 2019.

A $110.0 million increase in equity contributions received from our parent during 2020, compared with 2019, to balance our capital structure.

Significant Financing Activities

For more information on our financing activities, see Note 13, Short-Term Debt and Lines of Credit, and Note 14, Long-Term Debt.

Capital Resources and Requirements

Capital Resources

Liquidity

We anticipate meeting our capital requirements for our existing operations through internally generated funds and short-term borrowings, supplemented by the issuance of intermediate or long-term debt securities, depending on market conditions and other factors, and equity contributions from our parent.

We currently have access to the capital markets and have been able to generate funds both internally and externally to meet our capital requirements. Our ability to attract the necessary financial capital at reasonable terms is critical to our overall strategic plan. We currently believe that we have adequate capacity to fund our operations for the foreseeable future through our existing borrowing arrangements, access to capital markets, and internally generated cash. See Factors Affecting Results, Liquidity, and Capital Resources – Coronavirus Disease – 2019, for additional information on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We maintain a bank back-up credit facility, which provides liquidity support for our obligations with respect to commercial paper and for general corporate purposes. We review our bank back-up credit facility needs on an ongoing basis and expect to be able to maintain adequate credit facilities to support our operations. See Note 13, Short-Term Debt and Lines of Credit, for more information on our credit facility.

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At December 31, 2020, we were in compliance with all covenants related to outstanding short-term and long-term debt. We expect to be in compliance with all such debt covenants for the foreseeable future. See Note 14, Long-Term Debt, for more information.

Working Capital

As of December 31, 2020, our current liabilities exceeded our current assets by $504.9 million. We do not expect this to have any impact on our liquidity since we believe we have adequate back-up lines of credit in place for our ongoing operations. We also believe that we can access the capital markets to finance our construction programs and to refinance current maturities of long-term debt, if necessary.

Credit Rating Risk

We do not have any credit agreements that would require material changes in payment schedules or terminations as a result of a credit rating downgrade. However, we have certain agreements in the form of commodity contracts that, in the event of a credit rating downgrade, could result in a reduction of our unsecured credit granted by counterparties.

In addition, access to capital markets at a reasonable cost is determined in large part by credit quality. Any credit ratings downgrade could impact our ability to access capital markets.

Subject to other factors affecting the credit markets as a whole, we believe our current ratings should provide a significant degree of flexibility in obtaining funds on competitive terms. However, these security ratings reflect the views of the rating agency only. An explanation of the significance of these ratings may be obtained from the rating agency. Such ratings are not a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold securities. Any rating can be revised upward or downward or withdrawn at any time by a rating agency.

If we are unable to successfully take actions to continue to manage any impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, the credit rating agencies could place our credit ratings on negative outlook or downgrade our credit ratings. Any such actions by credit rating agencies may make it more difficult and costly for us to issue future debt securities and certain other types of financing and could increase borrowing costs under our credit facility.

See Factors Affecting Results, Liquidity, and Capital Resources – Coronavirus Disease – 2019, for additional information.

Capital Requirements

Contractual Obligations

We have the following contractual obligations and other commercial commitments as of December 31, 2020:
 
Payments Due By Period (1)
(in millions)Total Less than 1 year1-3 years3-5 yearsMore than 5 years
Long-term debt obligations (2)
$2,806.2 $464.2 $104.5 $104.5 $2,133.0 
Finance lease obligations (3)
89.3 1.0 2.0 2.0 84.3 
Energy and transportation purchase obligations (4)
788.9 129.6 194.2 121.5 343.6 
Purchase orders (5)
77.3 34.7 9.1 8.1 25.4 
Pension and OPEB funding obligations (6)
4.6 1.6 3.0 — — 
Total contractual obligations$3,766.3 $631.1 $312.8 $236.1 $2,586.3 

(1)    The amounts included in the table are calculated using current market prices, forward curves, and other estimates.

(2)    Principal and interest payments on long-term debt (excluding finance lease obligations).

(3)    Finance lease obligations for land leases related to solar projects. See Note 15, Leases, for more information.

(4)    Energy and transportation purchase obligations under various contracts for the procurement of fuel, power, gas supply, and associated transportation related to utility operations.

(5)    Purchase obligations related to normal business operations, information technology, and other services. Also includes construction obligations related to Badger Hollow I.
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(6)    Obligations for pension and OPEB plans cannot reasonably be estimated beyond 2023.

The table above does not reflect estimated future payments related to the manufactured gas plant remediation liability of $88.3 million at December 31, 2020, as the amount and timing of payments are uncertain. We expect to incur costs annually to remediate these sites. See Note 21, Commitments and Contingencies, for more information about environmental liabilities.

AROs in the amount of $45.5 million are not included in the above table. Settlement of these liabilities cannot be determined with certainty, but we believe the majority of these liabilities will be settled in more than five years. See Note 9, Asset Retirement Obligations, for more information.

Obligations for utility operations have historically been included as part of the rate-making process and therefore are generally recoverable from customers.

Significant Capital Projects

We have several capital projects that will require significant capital expenditures over the next three years and beyond. All projected capital requirements are subject to periodic review and may vary significantly from estimates, depending on a number of factors. These factors include environmental requirements, regulatory restraints and requirements, changes in tax laws and regulations, acquisition and development opportunities, market volatility, economic trends, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Our estimated capital expenditures for the next three years are as follows:
(in millions)
2021$578.8 
2022537.6 
2023443.8 
Total$1,560.2 

We continue to upgrade our electric and natural gas distribution systems to enhance reliability. These upgrades include the AMI program. AMI is an integrated system of smart meters, communication networks, and data management systems that enable two-way communication between utilities and customers. We are also continuing work on the SMRP. This project involves modernizing parts of our electric distribution system, including burying or upgrading lines. The project focuses on constructing facilities to improve the reliability of electric service that we provide to our customers. In 2021, we expect to invest approximately $50 million on this project at which time it will be substantially complete.

WEC Energy Group is committed to investing in solar, wind, and battery storage. Below are examples of renewable projects that are proposed or currently underway.

We have partnered with an unaffiliated utility to construct two utility-scale solar projects in Wisconsin. Two Creeks is located in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, and Badger Hollow I is located in Iowa County, Wisconsin. We own 100 MW of Two Creeks, which achieved commercial operation in November 2020, and will own 100 MW of Badger Hollow I for a total of 200 MW. Commercial operation is targeted for the second quarter of 2021 for Badger Hollow I. Our share of the cost of both projects is estimated to be approximately $260 million.

In February 2021, we, along with WE and an unaffiliated utility, filed an application with the PSCW for approval to acquire and construct the Paris Solar-Battery Park, a utility-scale solar-powered electric generating facility with a battery energy storage system. The project will be located in Kenosha County, Wisconsin and features 200 MW of solar generation and 110 MW of battery storage. The joint applicants propose that we would acquire a 15% ownership, WE would acquire a 75% ownership interest, and the unaffiliated utility would acquire the remaining 10% ownership interest. If approved, our share of the cost of this project is estimated to be approximately $65 million with construction expected to begin in 2022 and completed by the end of 2023.

In February 2021, we, along with WE, filed an application with the PSCW for approval to accelerate capital investments in two wind parks. Our share of the investment is expected to be approximately $69 million to repower major components of CCWP, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

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See Factors Affecting Results, Liquidity, and Capital Resources – Coronavirus Disease – 2019, for information on the impacts to our capital projects as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Common Stock Matters

For information related to our common stock matters, see Note 11, Common Equity.

Investments in Outside Trusts

We use outside trusts to fund our pension and certain OPEB obligations. These trusts had investments of approximately $1.1 billion as of December 31, 2020. These trusts hold investments that are subject to the volatility of the stock market and interest rates. We contributed $0.7 million and $0.6 million to our pension and OPEB plans in 2020 and 2019, respectively. Future contributions to the plans will be dependent upon many factors, including the performance of existing plan assets and long-term discount rates. For additional information, see Note 19, Employee Benefits.

Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements

We are a party to various financial instruments with off-balance sheet risk as a part of our normal course of business, including financial guarantees and letters of credit that support construction projects, commodity contracts, and other payment obligations. We believe that these agreements do not have, and are not reasonably likely to have, a current or future material effect on our financial condition, changes in financial condition, revenues or expenses, results of operations, liquidity, capital expenditures, or capital resources. See Note 1(r), Guarantees, and Note 13, Short-Term Debt and Lines of Credit, for more information.

FACTORS AFFECTING RESULTS, LIQUIDITY, AND CAPITAL RESOURCES

Coronavirus Disease – 2019

The global outbreak of COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the WHO and the CDC and has spread globally, including throughout the United States. There is still considerable uncertainty regarding the extent and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic itself, as well as the measures currently in place to try to contain the virus, such as travel bans and restrictions, quarantines, limitations on business operations, and the timing of widespread availability of the vaccines. Although the shelter-in-place order that was in effect for Wisconsin has expired, other orders limiting the capacity of various businesses have been adopted at the state and local levels. In addition, similar or more restrictive orders could be adopted in the future depending on how the virus continues to spread and/or mutate. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and related government responses have significantly disrupted economic activity in our service territory. See Item 1A. Risk Factors for more information on our risks related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Liquidity and Financial Markets

Volatility and uncertainty in the financial markets and global economy have impacted us in a number of ways. Upon the initial enactmen