PORTAGE, Wis. — Alliant Energy announced it would retire its final coal power plant in Wisconsin by the year 2025 on Tuesday. 

The Columbia Energy Center located near Portage is scheduled to phase out by the end of 2024 as part of Alliant's move to cut carbon emissions and shift to renewable energy.

“The closure of Columbia is truly a historic moment as we stop burning coal in our Wisconsin Operations and fully turn our attention to generating cleaner energy using renewable resources, such as solar, battery storage and high efficiency gas,” said David de Leon, President of Alliant Energy's Wisconsin energy company in a press release.

Currently the plant employs roughly 110 people. Alliant plans to work with those people to help transition to new jobs — either by transitioning them to other roles in the company or paying tuition reimbursement for education into any field of their choosing.

“Some have been here for many years and in some cases decades, so we just want to make sure that we help them into that transition into something of interest for them. Whether that's with Alliant or even outside of Alliant,” said Matthew Cole, director of operations for the Columbia Energy Center.

Cole said their focus for the staff is safety, advising them to take a step back if they get distracted this week after the announcement.

“Today is a very difficult and emotional day for our employees,” Cole said. “We're thinking about them and their families.”

Alliant has a goal of cutting carbon emissions in half by the year 2030 and says this helps accomplish that goal. It announced plans to build six solar facilities last year which will ultimately generate 675 mega watts of energy. 

The company also says shuttering the plant will save ratepayers money. De Leon said the Columbia plant needs about $250 million in expenses to keep the facility running.

Cole said the shift will cost money on the front end, but ultimately save money in the long run.

“With the cost of renewables coming down in price it's a smart investment,” Cole said.

Cole said Alliant is still committed to the communities around the Columbia Plant and will still have a presence.

Some people in Portage were surprised to hear the news on Tuesday.

“It's been there for so long,” said Pam Hackley, who lives in a trailer park near the plant.

Hackley said a lot of her neighbors work in the plant and she's worried about them, though she does think it's a good idea for Alliant to focus on renewable energy.

“It's a good idea, but it's still going to be hard for the people that work there,” Hackley said “What are they going to do they have kids?”

The Columbia plant has been operating since 1975. Alliant also plans on retiring a coal-fired power plant in Sheboygan by the end of 2022.

Environmental advocacy groups like Clean Wisconsin celebrated the announcement on Tuesday. 

“Because coal-fired power plants are major sources of air pollution, Wisconsinites can breathe easier knowing this plant will be closed,” said Katie Nekola, Clean Wisconsin General Counsel in a press release. “This is especially important for kids, the elderly and those with asthma or other respiratory problems, who are disproportionately impacted by polluted air from coal plants.”