By the BF Staff
From the January/February 2018 Issue
It’s not hard to specify America’s largest utilities. Any list based on the size of the utility and its installed power capacity will always include multi-state and regional goliaths like Tennessee Valley Authority and American Electric Power. If you factor in market caps, Duke Energy and National Grid are standouts that automatically make the cut. Our list also includes some big players that recently got a lot bigger: in January, Virginia-based Dominion Energy agreed to purchases SCANA (based in neighboring South Carolina) for $7.9 billion.
But in choosing our Editor’s Choice selections for Top Utilities (see list at right) we expanded the standard criteria to include our evaluation of the leaders who are ahead of the curve, including the powerhouses who are upgrading their grids, diversifying their energy sources (aggressively expanding renewables) and going the extra mile to partner with economic development agencies and facilitate business expansions and new job-creating facilities.
A good example is Entergy. Entergy’s long-term leadership in environmental stewardship and energy efficiency, including its pioneering role as the first U.S. utility to voluntarily commit to stabilizing CO2 emissions, a steady increase of natural gas-fired power generation and the achievement of a GRI Level A compliance designation in 2016 were among the factors the secured it a spot on our Top Utilities chart.
The steady performance of ComEd’s smart grid made the IL-based utility a standout. ComEd’s smart grid has delivered superior reliability and its fewest customer interruptions on record from 2013-2016 (ComEd notched the second-lowest outage duration among its peers. ComEd’s 10-year, $2.6-billion grid modernization program is 98 percent complete, with 3.4 million new digital smart meters installed throughout its territory.
We’ve also included some players that are aiming for the top tier. Consumers Energy, for example, is investing $345 million in expanding its wind power resources, including the three-phase Cross Winds Energy Park, aimed at large businesses that are converting to 100 percent renewable energy. the Michigan utility also has made an impressive commitment to add $5 billion to the Wolverine State economy through Pure Michigan Business Connect by buying goods and services from Michigan companies.
Here are some of BF’s Top Utilities describing their assets and capabilities in their own words:
FPL: BRINGING NEW BUSINESS TO THE SUNSHINE STATE
Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), Florida’s largest utility with 4.9 million customers in 35 counties, launched its economic development efforts in Florida in 2011. With rates 25 percent below the national average, top-tier reliability and two incentive rates for growing businesses, it’s no surprise FPL’s Office of Economic Development has directly supported 121 companies in their competitive location or business expansion efforts in Florida, resulting in pledges to create more than 26,000 jobs.
More than 50 of the 121 companies qualify for one of FPL’s two discounted electric rates: the Economic Development Rate (EDR) or Commercial Industrial Service Rider (CISR). To quality for EDR, a discounted rate over four or five years, a company must create 25 new jobs per 300 kilowatts of new demand. To qualify for CISR, which is a flexible negotiable electric rate, a company must have two MW or more of firm power from a single meter and should be a participant vying to select a location between at least two states in a competitive project.
In addition to Florida Power & Light’s low rates and incentive options, it helps that Florida has an ideal pro-business climate. In 2017, the Sunshine State was ranked #2 “Best State for Business,” by U.S. Corporate Executives and by Chief Executive Magazine in 2017. It should also be noted that the Florida legislature approved a tax policy that makes Florida more competitive by allowing it join the 31 other states that offer tax incentives to data centers.
According to Data Center Dynamics, Florida’s new tax policy is among the most generous in the U.S.—just four states currently apply such exemptions to data center electricity. FPL has three pre-qualified sites primed and ready for data center development to complement a robust real-estate market throughout the state. With the most submarine cable landing points on the East Coast, abundant fiber and FPL’s reliable service and low electric rates, Florida, and specifically FPL’s territory is a great location for data centers.
FPL’s robust service record stands out as another factor that enhances Florida’s favorable environment for business growth. FPL’s strong record of reliability in its territory is a utility industry-leading highlight. FPL was named the winner of the 2017 ReliabilityOne™ “Award for Outstanding Reliability Performance in the Southeast U.S.,” by PA Consulting Group, Inc., for the fourth consecutive year. The company was also awarded both the “Outstanding Response to a Major Outage Event” award for its Hurricane Matthew restoration, as well as the prestigious “AEIC Achievement Award” from the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies (AEIC) for a technology breakthrough in anticipating intermittent power failures before they happen and, in turn, improving the company’s ability to take preventative action.
FPL also prioritizes sustainable, clean energy investments. FPL leads the way in the advancement of affordable clean energy infrastructure in Florida; reducing emissions while keeping customer bills among the lowest in the nation. In 2016, it built three, 74.5 MW universal solar energy centers, each capable of generating enough solar to power about 15,000 homes.
By early 2018, FPL will complete eight new universal solar power plants, adding nearly 600 MW of solar generating capacity—enough to power about 120,000 homes with zero-emissions energy. FPL’s solar energy centers are cost-effective, resulting in millions of dollars in net savings to FPL business customers over their operational lifetimes. FPL is projected to add more than 2,300 new megawatts of solar by 2023, which include more than 225 of those megawatts that have come online since 2016 and nearly 600 megawatts currently under construction, totaling more than 10 million solar panels.
In Florida, economic development activities are a team effort. FPL’s Office of Economic Development works closely to support Enterprise Florida, Inc., and its regional and local partners globally. FPL’s leadership clearly recognizes that a strong Florida economy benefits all of its residents.
FPL economic development tools include a comprehensive website that gets traction from around the world—PoweringFlorida.com—a one-stop shop for business owners and site consultants interested in exploring Florida locations to establish or expand their businesses as well as local economic development organizations that benefit from the data FPL provides to help market their respective communities.
To explore Florida’s economic development tools and the benefits of working with Florida Power & Light’s Office of Economic Development team, visit PoweringFlorida.com.
THE DOMINION OF GROWTH
Dominion Energy had a great economic development year in 2017 with new and existing companies investing millions of dollars and bringing thousands of high-paying jobs to our electric service territory in Virginia and North Carolina. These gains are the result of years of diligent planning centered on creating a favorable business climate and ensuring companies looking to expand or relocate have business-ready sites available.
The availability of clean energy along with reliable service at a competitive price, have become key drivers for companies during site selection. Companies are keenly focused on ways to meet their corporate sustainability goals through renewable energy sources. The high-tech sector in particular, including our customers in Virginia which is home to the largest data center market in the world, is very interested in considering environmental impacts as part of its siting process. Dominion Energy is responding with an increase in renewables solutions. Backed by an ongoing $1 billion investment, Dominion Energy has grown its solar fleet in Virginia and North Carolina over the last two years from near zero to approximately 1,350 megawatts in service, in construction or under development. That is enough clean energy to power nearly 340,000 homes during peak sunshine. The company has also announced several innovative renewable rate options allowing large energy users to meet their needs through the addition of clean energy sources which opens the door for future robust economic development.
Dominion Energy’s goal is to provide options for customers. There is no one solution for renewable energy. Customers need options to choose from to meet their needs. Dominion Energy’s focus on clean energy investments include solar, natural gas and nuclear power as part of a generation portfolio centered on lower emission rates and competitive electric costs. Dominion Energy is also building the mid-Atlantic’s first offshore wind project in a strategic partnership with Ørsted Energy of Denmark, a global leader in offshore wind development. This is the first phase of a plan to bring wind generated electricity to our customers. The investments in diverse, reliable and affordable sources of energy will ensure the company and its customers will have a lower-carbon future.
In 2017, Facebook, Google and Vantage Data Centers announced major data center investments in Virginia. Dominion Energy’s service area in Northeastern North Carolina will be the future home of Triangle Tyre’s new $580-million plant and a new $86-million distribution facility for Corning, Inc. In total, Dominion Energy’s Economic Development team supported new projects that will create nearly 1,400 jobs and over $3.2 billion of new capital investment in VA and NC.
The company is undertaking a transformative effort to modernize the energy grid and better serve its customers. In addition to a lower carbon footprint, customers will experience improved reliability and enhanced voltage stability. Investments in new energy storage technologies, intelligent grid devices, and infrastructure improvements will improve resiliency and reduce the risk of cyber and physical threats. Transforming the power grid will ensure customers will continue to enjoy stable rates below the state, regional and national average, strong service reliability, and extensive renewable energy options.
As one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy, Dominion Energy serves a broad territory and offers an array of services. In Virginia and North Carolina, Dominion Energy’s portfolio includes approximately 25,700 megawatts of generation and 6,600 miles of electric transmission lines. Dominion Energy also has a substantial portfolio of gas assets with approximately 15,000 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering and storage pipeline. The company also operates one of the nation’s largest natural gas storage systems with 1 trillion cubic feet of storage capacity and serves more than 6 million utility and retail energy customers.
DELIVERING BRIGHTER TOMORROWS, TODAY
Flip a switch and the lights come on. Plug in your computers and get plugged in. Turn on the water and it flows.
This is what Santee Cooper delivers, every day, across South Carolina. We also deliver the intangibles that people never see, such as leadership, environmental stewardship and an economic environment attractive to new business. All of this builds a brighter South Carolina for us all.
Santee Cooper is South Carolina’s largest power provider and one of the nation’s largest publicly owned electric utilities based on generation. For more than 80 years, we’ve been breaking new ground in South Carolina by creating safe, reliable, energy-saving solutions that support our business community and ultimately improve the quality of life for South Carolinians.
Today, we are the primary source of electricity across the state, including direct power delivery to Charleston Air Force Base, 20 electric cooperatives, the cities of Bamberg and Georgetown, 26 large industrial customers, the Alabama Municipal Electric Authority and the 10 member cities that form the Piedmont Municipal Power Agency.
Santee Cooper believes in industrial growth, strong business and community partnerships, personal relationships, environmental stewardship, quality and respect. We also believe that innovation and forward thinking create a dynamic environment that is advantageous for business, employees and the community.
Reliable, affordable electricity is what we do best. Santee Cooper has earned the American Public Power Association’s prestigious Diamond RP3 award for outstanding reliability. Our constant focus on reliability, quality delivery, minimal outages and swift restoration are some of the many reasons we can offer such low industrial pricing. Our industrial electric costs are 31 percent below the national average and reflect our diverse generating portfolio combining natural gas, nuclear, coal, hydro and renewable resources. And we prioritize a hometown, here-for-you service that makes us partners to your success.
We also understand the importance of maximizing our natural resources and are proud of our record in renewable generation, energy efficiency, and environmental stewardship. We’ve been the state’s pacesetter when it comes to Green Power and renewable energy. Our recycling initiatives have earned industry accolades, and we’ve attracted national attention for our innovative program to recycle coal ash instead of leaving it in the ground in ash ponds or landfills. Our comprehensive Reduce The Use campaign offers various rebates, incentives and low-interest financing to encourage customers to make energy-efficient improvements to their homes and businesses. We also help customers who choose to use the sun to help offset their electric use through our Solar Home, Solar Business and Community Solar programs.
South Carolina has a favorable business environment. Combine that with Santee Cooper’s low electric rates, reliable service, diverse generation mix, partnerships with electric cooperatives and municipalities, and exceptional customer service and you’ll understand why companies like Google and Volvo Cars US have located in South Carolina. Our creative and dynamic economic development team is actively engaged with our local and regional partners to attract new industry and stands ready to serve as your point of contact through the site selection process.
We have buildings, and we have sites ready for your building. We have partners who have buildings and sites, too. And we’re building more: We’ve loaned money to dozens of projects since 2012 and our grant program can put finishing touches on a site to suit your needs.
Our industrial rates are 31 percent lower than the national average. In addition to the state, Santee Cooper offers economic development incentives, including an incentive industrial electric rate for qualified industrial customers. Through Santee Cooper’s incentive industrial rate, eligible new or expanding industries can receive an initial, significant discount off the demand charge in your “firm” industrial rate. Industrial customers must meet minimum employment and capital investment requirements to qualify.
Our partnerships across South Carolina have helped light the way for new businesses that have brought billions of dollars of investment and in payroll, and tens of thousands of jobs to South Carolina. Camp Hall, a budding commerce park with a focus on industry and lifestyle, is one of the newest locations where partnerships and innovation are leading to incredible opportunities. It’s a first-of-its-kind community blending commerce, lifestyle, business and family in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
Volvo Cars US is building its first North American car manufacturing plant at Camp Hall and already has plans for future expansions. At Santee Cooper, we’re currently clearing tracts and readying the area for more industry and business. Camp Hall is logistically strong with onsite Interstate 26 access and rail service and easy access to Interstate 95 and the Port of Charleston. Infrastructure, including roads, sewer, water, power and fiber are already constructed, and plans for increased power and fiber redundancy are moving forward. Camp Hall is well-suited for large-scale industries with more than 10,000 employees and more than 15 million square feet expected upon completion, and with development opportunities on tracts that range from 7 to 600 acres for sale.
In addition, the Camp Hall vision includes a people-first community with a village core that includes daycare, fitness, medical services, convenience services, shops, restaurants and more. The plans also include a number of recreational opportunities, such as walking and biking trails, and a large park to help strike the perfect work-life experience.
Santee Cooper powers business and economic development. Let us put our power to work for you.
ELECTRICITIES OF NC: PERFORMANCE LEADER
In more than 70 cities and towns across North Carolina, homes and businesses are powered by municipal-owned utilities. These public power communities have a well-earned reputation for providing safe, reliable electric service and outstanding customer service to more than 1.2 million people in North Carolina. A statewide survey of 3,000 customers in North Carolina conducted this year found that 86% of residents are satisfied with public power.
“You can’t underestimate the importance of being local. Public power providers have the local community’s best interest at heart with everything they do,” said Roy Jones, CEO of ElectriCities, a non-profit organization that serves public power communities in North Carolina and beyond. “Local crews can quickly respond to power outages to get the lights back on, and local customer service representatives provide the type of personal attention that comes from being part of your community.”
Public power providers in North Carolina—and across the nation—consistently outperform investor-owned utilities when it comes to reliability. Public power experiences fewer power outages, and gets the power restored more quickly than others.
At ElectriCities, we’re proud to be the energy behind public power. ElectriCities is a not-for-profit membership organization that consolidates many of the administrative, technical, legal, and legislative services needed by more than 70 municipally owned electric utilities operating in NC. ElectriCities was formed to protect the interests of North Carolina Public Power communities and to provide a unified voice on state and federal issues affecting public power.
In addition, ElectriCities provides customer service and safety training, emergency and technical assistance, communications, economic development, government affairs and legal services. Through consolidation of these services, members save their customers the expense of administering these functions locally.
Economic development is a huge driver in NC Public Power communities. The benefits of public power have helped our communities attract and retain businesses, adding a growing workforce throughout North Carolina. In the past year alone, our public power communities added close to 4,000 new jobs with more than $827 million in new investments.
Some prime examples of the successes were EGGER Wood Products, which built their first U.S. manufacturing facility in Lexington, NC, creating 400 jobs while investing $700 million. Additionally, Lionchase Holdings plans to develop a cold storage facility in Tarboro, NC a one of ElectriCities’ shovel-ready Smart Sites. The development will create 100 new jobs with $22.6 million in investments.
ENERGIZING REGIONAL ECONOMIC POTENTIAL
At FirstEnergy, our long legacy of contributing to the prosperity and vitality of our communities continues today and takes many forms—from providing our customers with safe, reliable, affordable and clean electricity, to supporting economic development efforts that create jobs, sustain local suppliers and attract new businesses.
We are proud of our strong presence in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, where we are a leading regional energy provider dedicated to safety, operational excellence and responsive customer service. Our subsidiaries are involved in the transmission, distribution and generation of electricity, and our 10 utility operating companies form one of nation’s largest investor-owned electric systems based on more than 6 million customers served.
With more than 15,000 employees working in a nearly 65,000-square-mile area of OH, PA, NJ, WV, MD and NY, we know firsthand the advantages of operating a business in this region. These include a well-educated, diverse workforce and a great location with access to a large portion of the U.S. population and its buying power. Our region also benefits from ongoing investments in education, infrastructure and transportation.
FirstEnergy’s Economic Development team promotes our service area’s capacity for meeting the needs of new and existing businesses. This includes assisting site-seekers with services such as in-depth location analysis as well as introductions to local, regional and state officials. We also offer advanced analytics tools that provide customized and detailed economic forecasting, and support and sponsor community-based business retention and expansion initiatives.
Our efforts are wide-ranging and include supporting ongoing development at West Virginia’s I-79 Technology Park, which is located on 375 acres just south of Fairmont. The park is one of the nation’s top technology centers and home to numerous private companies and government organizations. These include R&D programs run by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, as well as NASA’s Independent Verification and Validation Program, which confirms the performance of the agency’s major software systems.
We also support initiatives to advance an educated workforce with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. For instance, in Ohio we contributed to the Youngstown State Foundation’s capital campaign for The Mahoning Valley Innovation and Commercialization Center, which will be an educational and entrepreneurial hub, connecting creative minds with advanced manufacturing equipment and knowledge of the regional business community.
Access to reliable power at stable, affordable prices is necessary to keep our region competitive and support economic development initiatives. Toward this goal, we’re making significant investments to upgrade our electric system through our Energizing the Future program – a multibillion-dollar initiative to strengthen our transmission system through projects that make sense for our customers and are a source of well-paying jobs.
By installing automated advanced equipment in our substations, we no longer must wait for field crews to operate line switches during outage events, which significantly improves our response times. Digital relay devices also can detect and automatically isolate outages and efficiently restore power to customers. In addition, remote monitoring devices proactively evaluate the health of the grid and take corrective actions before outages occur.
With some of the world’s most productive shale fields located directly beneath our service area, we believe manufacturing growth and other business opportunities resulting from shale gas development could be the basis for a second industrial revolution in our region. We are taking significant steps to leverage the economic potential of shale-related projects across our footprint in the tri-state shale region.
For example, we’re making significant investments in our infrastructure to support increased demand for electricity from new shale gas facilities, pipeline compressor stations and other energy-intensive operations. We also have assembled multidisciplinary regional teams to support manufacturing growth and other business opportunities resulting from shale gas. These teams bring together our experts in economic development, local, state and regulatory affairs, energy delivery and other disciplines under a single point of contact with our company.
We consistently promote the ability of our electric utilities to meet the energy needs of new and existing businesses. Our customer support representatives maintain quality relationships with commercial customers and help them grow their businesses, while leveraging their strong relationships in the economic development community and with key trade and professional organizations.
Our mission has remained the same for more than a century: producing and delivering safe, reliable, affordable and clean electricity to our customers. Whether we’re partnering with local and regional economic development agencies to facilitate economic growth, supporting shale gas development, or meeting our customers’ electric service requirements, FirstEnergy is dedicated to supporting the long-term prosperity and vitality of the communities we serve.
HOOSIER: EXPANDING RENEWABLES
Hoosier Energy is an electric cooperative that was formed in 1949 to provide wholesale power and services to its 18 member systems in southern and central Indiana and southeastern Illinois. Cooperative businesses are unique because the consumers they serve own the business. For many who participate in the electric cooperative movement, the philosophy of cooperation is a way of life. Today, U.S. electric cooperatives contribute nearly 5 percent of electricity in the United States, playing a critical role in the economy of the communities they serve. Distribution cooperatives are the foundation of the cooperative network, delivering electricity to 42 million consumers. Hoosier Energy and other generation & transmission cooperatives (G&Ts) provide wholesale power to distribution co-ops through owned generation or by purchasing power on behalf of distribution members.
Each cooperative is an independent, member-owned business established to provide at-cost electric service and represented by directors elected from the membership. Electric co-ops such as Hoosier Energy are deeply involved in their communities promoting economic development and revitalization projects, small businesses, job creation, improvement of water and sewer systems and assistance in delivery of healthcare and educational services.
Hoosier Energy’s “all-of-the-above” power supply includes 2,000 megawatts of coal, natural gas, renewable resources, power purchase contracts and energy efficiency. Power is delivered to member distribution systems over an interconnected transmission network of nearly 1,700 miles of high-voltage power lines, transmission stations and delivery points.
To help meet member electricity needs now and in the future, Hoosier Energy’s Board of Directors established a voluntary renewable energy policy in 2006 to encourage the development of efficient, economical renewable energy resources. Our renewable energy program now includes more than 100 megawatts of landfill methane gas, solar, wind and hydropower resources. The solar program, high-capacity landfill gas facilities as well as purchased power agreements for wind and hydropower resources complement coal and natural gas resources and energy efficiency programs. Taken together, they provide the best balance for electric service reliability, affordability and environmental stewardship.
High-capacity landfill methane gas (LMG) contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gases by destroying methane and using the remaining gas to produce electricity. Landfill gas, which occurs naturally from decomposing waste, consists of about 50 percent methane, whose emissions are many times stronger than carbon dioxide and considered a contributing factor to global warming. LMG facilities capture the methane and use it to produce electricity instead of flaring the gas into the atmosphere.
Hoosier Energy owns and operates three landfill methane gas facilities: the 4-megawatt Clark-Floyd landfill gas plant in southern Indiana, the 15-megawatt Livingston plant on Republic Industries’ 460-acre Livingston Landfill near Pontiac, IL and the 16-megawatt Orchard Hills facility in Davis Junction, IL.
Hoosier Energy’s solar program consists of ten 1-megawatt solar arrays placed along highly visible roadways across member service territories. Collectively, the solar sites will provide approximately 20,000,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy annually for the 300,000 consumers served by Hoosier Energy’s 18-member distribution cooperatives.
A key goal of the project is to learn how this variable energy resource integrates onto the grid and how solar might offset the need for other more costly energy resources during periods of high demand. Once collected, this information will help member distribution systems give advice to member consumers on the operational issues, costs and benefits of solar as a renewable energy resource.
Wind power comes from several purchased power agreements. Projects include agreements for wind capacity from Story County, Iowa, the Rail Splitter Wind Farm in Illinois, and most recently a joint agreement with Wabash Valley Power Association to purchase wind power from the Meadow Lake V wind farm in northwestern Indiana.
A 20-year purchased power agreement was finalized in 2012 for electricity produced by a 4-megawatt hydroelectric facility near Dayton, IL. The plant produces about 18,000 megawatt-hours annually, enough to power about 1,500 homes.
Hoosier Energy provides support to member cooperatives in analyzing data from seven distributed generation solar facilities, three wind facilities, as well as a solar thermal system in use at West Washington School in Jackson County. The solar hot water system was the first of its kind to be installed at an Indiana public school. Data from these facilities is helping members evaluate the long-term feasibility of residential- and commercial-scale wind and solar generation in southern Indiana.
In addition, Hoosier Energy provides training, key accounts, marketing, communications and technical services to its member cooperatives. Through Hoosier Energy’s 2017 efforts, an estimated 2,000 new jobs and $600M in capital investment was created in member territories. Because of this dedication and contribution to our counties’ economic growth, the Hoosier Energy Economic Development program continues to be one of the Midwest’s leading economic development organizations.
The Indiana and Illinois economic development program at Hoosier Energy provides comprehensive economic development services throughout its service territory. These services include:
- Shovel-ready site listings
- Electric usage cost estimates
- Searchable business maps
- Searchable sites and buildings maps
- Personalized assistance.
Hoosier Energy’s power delivery system is connected to the regional power grid and interconnected with other utilities. As well, the electric cooperative is a founding member of the Indianapolis-based Midcontinent Independent System Operator, which manages power flow, transmission reliability and power marketing throughout a 15-state region and parts of Canada. Hoosier Energy has been recognized nationally for its environmental stewardship and education programs, including an education center, free electronic lending library and watershed conservation efforts.”