Top Utilities: Power To The People

New electric generating capacity in 2020 will come primarily from wind and solar, with renewables making up 76 percent of the 42 gigawatts that will be added.


https://businessfacilities.com/2020/02/top-utilities-power-to-the-people/
New electric generating capacity in 2020 will come primarily from wind and solar, with renewables making up 76 percent of the 42 gigawatts that will be added.
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Top Utilities: Power To The People

New electric generating capacity in 2020 will come primarily from wind and solar, with renewables making up 76 percent of the 42 gigawatts that will be added.

Top Utilities: Power To The People

By Jack Rogers
From the January/February 2020 Issue

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest inventory of electric generators, EIA expects 42 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity additions to start commercial operation in 2020. Solar and wind represent almost 32 GW, or 76 percent, of these additions. Wind accounts for the largest share of these additions at 44 percent, followed by solar and natural gas at 32 percent and 22 percent, respectively. The remaining two percent comes from hydroelectric generators and battery storage.

renewable energyOperators have scheduled 18.5 GW of wind capacity to come online in 2020, surpassing the record level of 13.2 GW set in 2012, EIA says. More than 60 percent, or 11.2 GW, of wind capacity is scheduled to come online at the end of the year, in November and December of 2020, which is typical for solar and wind applications. Expiration of the U.S. production tax credit (PTC) at the end of 2020 is driving the large wind capacity addition. Five states account for more than half of the 2020 planned wind capacity additions. Texas accounts for 32 percent; followed by Oklahoma at six percent; then Wyoming, Colorado and Missouri at five percent each.

Top UtilitiesThe drive toward renewables has shaped the selection process for our annual list of Editor’s Picks: Top Utilities, as we focus on the readiness of the leading U.S. power players to meet the needs of an evolving market that is rapidly embracing a clean energy future. Sustainability is the watchword, and here, without further ado, are our choices for the cream of the crop.

HOOSIER ENERGY: SPEED AND FLEXIBILITY

For more than 30 years, Hoosier Energy’s economic development team has worked on behalf of its distribution cooperatives to promote business investment, job creation and load growth. The work has paid big dividends for local cooperatives and communities in its 15,000-square-mile Midwest service territory.

Headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana, Hoosier Energy is a not-for-profit generation and transmission (G&T) cooperative that provides wholesale electric power and services to its 18 member distribution cooperatives in central and southern Indiana and southeastern Illinois. The G&T that was formed in 1949 to get power to rural southern Indiana has transformed into a significant power supplier that now ranks among the top 100 largest cooperatives in the United States in annual sales.

The co-op’s success in facilitating steady growth stems from its innovative economic development prowess. It is one of the primary reasons Business Facilities magazine has named the utility among its “Top Utilities” picks for the last three consecutive years.

“Everything we do is aimed at increasing employment opportunities, capital investment and electric load for our member cooperatives,” says Harold Gutzwiller, Hoosier Energy manager of economic development and key accounts. “We focus on industry retention, expansion, recruitment, site development and local economic development organization support. We also market communities and specific areas in partnership with our member co-ops and encourage business attraction through local and regional economic development organizations.”

Strong economic development numbers reflect this cooperative effort. Since 1989, companies have announced more than $11.5 billion of capital investment, more than 50,000 jobs and 800 MW of new load. In 2019 alone, the G&T recorded 60 successes, including 14 new facilities and 46 expansions in 16 member distribution cooperatives’ territories. Those projects are expected to add $485 million of investment, more than 2,500 positions and 23 MW of demand.

Home to several Tier 1 and Tier 2 manufacturing and agribusiness giants, large, power-intensive projects are just the kind that Hoosier Energy can accommodate and is working with communities to attract. After six years of effort by Hoosier Energy, other utilities and economic development organizations, the Indiana Legislature passed changes in Indiana’s tax structure to make data center development more competitive. Prior to these changes, Indiana was at a competitive disadvantage due to sales tax on data center equipment and electricity purchases.

Hoosier Energy is well-positioned to take advantage of the legislation. Subject to approval by its board, the G&T has the flexibility to offer a market-based rate for projects 20 MW and larger—data centers, for example. Hoosier Energy also offers an economic development rider, which discounts the cost of electricity for the first six years of a project.

Much of Hoosier Energy’s success comes from its ability to work with member cooperatives to quickly craft and implement solutions to meet commercial accounts’ needs. “We can’t change the population density of the region. But what we can do is innovate to change the dynamics of how we serve members,” Gutzwiller says. “Our flexibility and speed of decision-making are two of our biggest advantages. We’re not rate-regulated and our board of directors can approve a special contract or a market-based rate in rapid fashion.”

In the member-owned cooperative business model, decisions are made by the member-elected board and by members themselves. Cooperatives do not report to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), the state’s public utilities commission. Potential public-utility-related roadblocks of case hearings and appeals are non-existent for cooperative-owned electrics.

The G&T’s economic development department was originally established in the 1980s to counter falling electric demand due to the recession and surging energy prices. “One way we decided to turn things around was to focus on increasing sales to commercial and industrial consumers,” says Gutzwiller.

Over the years, the G&T has built relationships with dozens of federal, state, regional and local economic development partners, and this year participated in state-level trade missions to Mexico and Japan.

Investments facilitated by Hoosier Energy’s member cooperatives are proof of the region’s ability to attract and retain global players. Last year’s investments included:

  • TOA USA of Mooresville, a Tier 1 metal stamping and suspension parts supplier to the automotive industry, is investing $75 million at its 158-acre campus in Morgan County. Founded in 2000, the manufacturer’s Mooresville facility is the company’s first and only auto-parts manufacturing plant in the United States.
  • Berry Global, a global manufacturer of consumer packaging products based in Evansville, IN strengthened its presence in the region, taking advantage of Hoosier Energy’s economic development rider.
  • Energizer Manufacturing Inc., a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Energizer Holdings Inc., announced plans to invest $62 million in a 933,000-square-foot leased facility for the packaging and distribution of small batteries. The distribution facility located in Franklin, IN along the growing I-65 corridor is expected to create 440 jobs.

“Our work has not only increased load, but also the overall density and meters per mile for our member systems, which helps them control rates,” Gutzwiller adds. “Everything we do is focused on improving local economies by expanding the tax base, which leads to better-funded schools, better roadways and better overall public infrastructure.”

Berry Global
Berry Global has plans for a $70-million expansion of its plastics production line at its Evansville, IN factory. The expansion would add 150 jobs over the next 2-3 years. (Photo: Berry Global)

In many cases, the G&T often takes on a professional advisory role. “Our expertise allows us to offer a range of services like project economic impact analysis, electric rate analysis and technical guidance on infrastructure needs for power delivery,” Gutzwiller remarks.

Hoosier Energy also has programs in place to help commercial and industrial members meet renewable energy and carbon reduction goals. Today, 7 percent of the G&T’s generation portfolio is made up of renewables. It will grow to 10 percent by 2025.

In addition, members and Hoosier Energy maintain demand side management programs that provide consumers and large power users with tools to better manage energy use and costs.

“From site identification to site preparation to assisting with power delivery and rate calculations, we are here to streamline the process,” Gutzwiller says. “Some projects today wouldn’t exist if not for our members’ proactive efforts during the past 30 years. We are here and we are in it for the long haul.”

FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT: GLOBAL EXPERTISE

Florida Power & Light Company’s (FPL) award-winning economic development team leverages the company’s local and worldwide relationships and its expertise as an energy industry leader to ensure that businesses have a one-of-a-kind partner committed to finding them the best location and comprehensive energy solutions.

Businesses are in good hands when looking at the Sunshine State. FPL is one of the cleanest and most reliable electric utilities in the country with rates well below the national average and, as one of the state of Florida’s largest employers, it believes it has a responsibility to advance the state’s economic development activities.

renewable energy
Florida visitors are greeted by solar panels at the FPL Sunshine Gateway Solar Energy Center, which is located near the intersection of I-10 and I-75 in Columbia County. (Photo: NextEra Energy)

In addition to being home to FPL, Florida is home to FPL’s parent company NextEra Energy, Inc. NextEra Energy is the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun, so a company’s sustainability won’t ever be an afterthought. In 2018, NextEra Energy was America’s No.1 capital investor in energy infrastructure and the fifth-largest capital investor across all sectors. The company plans to make investments between $50 billion and $55 billion through 2022. Its scale and diversity means the company has a wide range of resources and expertise available to support capital projects.

Florida’s advantageous corporate tax structure, competitive workforce and outstanding infrastructure make it a great location for businesses. FPL’s economic development team works tirelessly every day telling the Florida story, attracting new businesses and helping existing ones flourish. The team supports business expansions and relocations with customized service in the following areas: site and building searches, infrastructure assessments, electricity rate quotes, electricity rate incentives, tax exemption qualifications, energy efficiency and clean energy programs, and electric service planning and delivery timing.

FPL believes energy costs should never be a barrier for companies when deciding whether to invest in Florida and has created innovative solutions to drive down customer costs. In addition to offering a commercial/industrial rate that is more than 40 percent below the national average, FPL offers incentives to advance business growth and investment in the state depending on the number of jobs and electric load the project will bring.

Those incentives include two key discounted electric rate programs:

  • Economic Development Rate (EDR) – To qualify for EDR, which is a discounted rate over four or five years, a company must create 25 new jobs per 350 kilowatts of new demand
  • Commercial Industrial Service Rider (CISR) – To qualify for CISR, which is a flexible negotiable electric rate, a company must have at least two MW 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

FPL, which is the largest energy company in the U.S. as measured by retail electricity produced and sold, recently introduced a strategic focus on attracting specific target sectors in which the economic development team can provide additional leadership and value. One of those sectors is sustainable technologies, which is a perfect fit for FPL as it is leading one of the largest solar expansions in the southeastern U.S. Through its groundbreaking “30-by-30” plan to install more than 30 million solar panels across the state by 2030, FPL will make Florida a world leader in the production of solar energy.

In addition to sustainable tech, the target industries are:

  • Medical/Life Sciences
  • Aerospace and Aviation
  • Data Centers
  • Production Technologies

In fact, FPL itself has transformed into a technology company with its use of robots, drones and augmented reality, and nearly $4 billion invested to harden and secure its infrastructure and deliver reliable service for its customers. FPL has installed more than five million smart meters and more than 120,000 other intelligent devices across its service area to help monitor and manage the energy grid and to detect and prevent power issues.

Reliability is another key requirement for large energy users. FPL’s relentless focus on electric service to customers was recognized among industry leaders as a recipient of the 2019 ReliabilityOne™ National Reliability Excellence Award presented by PA Consulting. This is the fourth time in five years that the company has received the national award for its service reliability to its more than 5 million customer accounts.

The economic development team provides invaluable services to companies and partners throughout the journey from lead to established project. The team also offers access to many resources through its PoweringFlorida.com website, including the Explore Florida tool. The tool provides site selectors and prospective companies with a convenient and complimentary way to learn all about growth and investment opportunities in Florida’s communities. It also showcases seven years of foreign direct investment data to support international corporate decision-making.

FPL’s economic development team, comprised of some of the country’s top economic development professionals, is committed to help grow business in Florida. Visit PoweringFlorida.com to partner with us in continuing to move Florida forward.

ELECTRICITIES OF NC: PUBLIC POWER

More than 2,000 cities and towns in the United States are powered by municipally owned utilities. In North Carolina, more than 70 cities and towns light up their homes, businesses and streets with public power. These 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—more than the populations of Raleigh and Charlotte combined.

“Time and time again, public power communities throughout North Carolina have demonstrated the value that comes with owning and operating their own electric system,” said Roy Jones, CEO of ElectriCities, a nonprofit organization that serves public power communities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Take it from the residents: 85 percent of public power customers said they are satisfied with their service, according to a statewide survey in 2019. They also said their public power provider stood out for its helpful and knowledgeable staff and its support of community activities and events. Reliability, customer service and community support are pillars of what a public power community provides for its residents.

ElectriCities is proud to be the energy behind public power. The not-for-profit membership organization consolidates many of the administrative services needed by municipally owned electric utilities; provides customer service and safety training and emergency and technical assistance; and offers support in communications, economic development, government affairs and legal services. Through consolidation of these services, members save their customers the expense of administering them locally. Members also have an advocate—ElectriCities represents its members on major issues facing public power communities at both the state and federal levels.

Many public power communities see a direct economic development impact from being locally owned. And these communities are supported by an in-house ElectriCities economic development team that serves member communities with everything from site selection to providing demographic and market reports. A recent success story includes the announcement at the end of 2019 of a major aircraft recycling company’s plans to invest nearly $100 million into the Lenoir County public power community of Kinston, creating 475 jobs. Aircraft Solutions’ new center will be at the Global TransPark—a 2,500-acre multi-modal industrial property in the heart of Eastern North Carolina.

“After intensive research and great support from various sites, such as the ElectriCities Business Relocation Program, as well as excellent communications with each of the involved public departments, we are confident that Global TransPark is the right location for our tremendous project,” said Dr. Sven Daniel Koechler, general manager of Aircraft Solutions USA Inc. when making the announcement.

Aircraft Solutions serves commercial and military clients with aircraft that have reached their end-of-life stage and are ready for decommissioning. No matter the age, older airframes often contain many valuable parts and materials that can be recycled, including engines, avionics and in-flight entertainment systems. In the new Kinston center, the company will systematically remove, catalog and inspect parts, certifying them as either usable, repairable or unfit for service. In the future, Aircraft Solutions plans to expand the North Carolina center to include a paint shop, too.

ElectriCities works tirelessly to facilitate big economic development wins for its member communities, just like the recent announcement in Kinston. Another standout example of support is through Smart Sites®, a shovel-ready site qualification program. If they pass a rigorous engineering review, pieces of property in public power communities across the state are designated as “Smart Sites,” meaning they are primed-and-ready for new tenants. A key aspect of Smart Sites is each property’s on-site municipal electric service; sites also have water and sewer within 500 feet and are within 5 miles of an Interstate or Interstate-quality highway. It all adds up to encourage faster construction with fewer uncertainties and less risk. The certification saves companies a lot of time and money; what’s more, thanks to a partnership with the State, an ElectriCities Smart Site certification rolls into North Carolina’s similar shovel-ready program. The innovative program reduces paperwork and increases reach for new company recruitment. Smart Sites span the state, including the public power communities of Morganton, Statesville and New Bern, to name a few.

Innovative programs and stellar support provided by the ElectriCities economic development team mean North Carolina public power communities are equipped to handle whatever 2020 brings. To add to that, it’s important to note that municipally owned utilities in North Carolina—and across the nation—consistently outperform investor-owned utilities when it comes to reliability. And public power communities experience fewer power outages and are able to restore more quickly than others if the power does go out. All this is to say: The future is definitely bright in these vibrant communities.

Visit www.electricities.com to learn more and follow ElectriCities on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @ElectriCitiesNC.

CONSUMERS ENERGY CHARTS CLEAN ENERGY FUTURE

For its ongoing commitment to world class performance that delivers hometown service, Consumers Energy—Michigan’s largest utility and the nation’s fourth largest combination utility—was named as a Business Facilities Editor’s Choice Utility for the third consecutive year.

Consumers Energy
Consumers Energy is bringing the best in energy technology to Circuit West, a cutting-edge district in the heart of Grand Rapids, MI. (Photo: Consumers Energy)

In service to new and expanding businesses, the energy provider’s economic development team introduced a new website at www.ConsumersEnergy.com/econdev and put its Energy Ready sites online at www.ConsumersEnergy.com/energyreadysites. These two enhancements offer immediate access to information about available properties and additional information via the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Prospects also can easily connect with one of six team members.

Businesses in Michigan enjoy several competitive advantages. Among them: a stable tax and regulatory environment, plentiful natural resources, proximity to major Midwest cities and Canada and robust research and development and engineering talent.

Consumers Energy is proud of its deep relationships with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and local economic development agencies. No matter how a business begins the siting process, the company is at the table to understand a businesses’ long-term goals and provide tools beyond energy to reach them, with focus on growth.

Consumers Energy connects all the dots: education and talent, tax incentives, electric rates and natural resources and more. The company works to understand how all factors fit together for each business and recognizes what works for one business might not for another. The result is a seamless, from-all-angles, “we’ve got this” customer experience. That’s a major reason why, in 2019, leaders in automotive, medical technology, retail and other industries invested more than $1.5 billion and plan to create more than 3,600 jobs in Consumers Energy’s service territory.

Michigan’s largest energy provider added another key benefit to its site selector and business facilities offering in 2019 with the rollout of its nation leading Clean Energy Plan. Businesses can now partner with the sustainability-minded utility on a path to zero coal by 2040 that relies on increasing amounts of renewable energy and produces significantly less carbon emissions. The company encourages customers to learn more and join the clean energy movement at www.MICleanEnergy.com.

From demand response programs and energy efficiency incentives to more solar and wind generation and battery storage, Consumers Energy is positioning clean and renewable energy as a cornerstone of Michigan’s energy future. Other clean energy offerings include DC fast-charging stations for electric vehicles that come with special electric rates and a 10-year natural gas delivery plan that enhances safety and reliability.

Consumers Energy continues to invest where it was founded more than 130 years ago. In 2019, the company committed to doubling its current diversity spend during the next five years with Michigan-owned companies through Pure Michigan Business Connect. Consumers Energy will spend $1.5 billion with Michigan suppliers annually through 2024. In addition, the company will focus on providing opportunities for suppliers that are more than half owned by persons who are racial minorities, women, military veterans and/or LGBTQ.

Nationally, the company continues its work with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to address talent challenges by using supply chain management principles. Consumers Energy was the first utility to debut its Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) Academy in 2017 and has made continuous enhancements.

Within the TPM Academy, businesses identify and signal talent needs and engage with talent suppliers. These include local economic development agencies, K-12 schools and higher education institutions, workforce development organizations and others—also known as the talent supply chain. Together with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Consumers Energy is training local economic development agencies, chambers of commerce and other workforce development partners to work with groups of employers.

Consumers Energy’s job is to build confidence in Michigan site selection decisions and the siting process. The company is working to reduce risk by offering competitive industrial rate options, low natural gas prices and robust new construction and energy efficiency incentives.

Attracting businesses to Michigan and keeping them here means keeping upfront and ongoing energy costs competitive. The company’s goal is competitively priced—or potentially zero upfront cost—energy infrastructure for business customers.

When it comes to keeping energy costs low over the long haul, energy efficiency incentives for current and planned upgrades have saved customers more than $2.5 billion since 2009 and offer competitive energy- and cost-saving advantages. It also assigns a no-cost energy advisor to help businesses maximize energy efficiency incentives.

Consumers Energy shares in Michigan’s quest to become a top-tier state for business attraction. The company knows that goal is achievable and is getting better every day.

For more about Consumers Energy’s economic development services, contact Valerie Christofferson, director of economic development, at (616) 648-2777, email [email protected] or visit ConsumersEnergy.com/econdev.

SANTEE COOPER: POWERING SC FOR MORE THAN 80 YEARS

Santee Cooper has developed industrial sites for decades, and over the years we’ve learned how to incorporate what matters most to industry success. Camp Hall is the largest, not only in terms of acreage (roughly 1,400 developable acres)—but also in vision. With anchor tenant Volvo Car USA already manufacturing cars at its first U.S. automobile plant, Camp Hall will achieve success unlike any other industrial commerce park around.

Top Utilities
Interchange ribbon cutting. (Photo: Santee Cooper)

“Santee Cooper has been a partner to the Department of Commerce every day that I’ve been in the job,” South Carolina Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt noted at the Camp Hall groundbreaking in mid-2018.

Santee Cooper helped bring South Carolina’s two inland ports, one in Dillon and one in Greer, to fruition. The newest, Inland Port Dillon was dedicated in 2018, handling 30,000 rail moves in its first operational year. Santee Cooper, working with Marlboro Electric Cooperative, offered financial support to bring this important economic development asset online in Dillon County. Similarly, Santee Cooper’s loan program afforded the Greer Commission of Public Works the construction of an electric substation to supply power to the Spartanburg County port.

Santee Cooper has strong working relationships with key partners across the state, including the state Commerce Department, South Carolina electric cooperatives and the SC Power Team, local governments, economic development alliances, educational institutions and many other organizations who understand the importance of a strong industrial presence to this state.

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 industrial community, which in turn improves the quality of life for South Carolinians.

We power the Charleston Air Force Base, 20 electric cooperatives, the cities of Bamberg and Georgetown, 26 large industrial customers, and 10 member cities that form the Piedmont Municipal Power Agency, plus roughly 180,000 residential and commercial customers.

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 works for business, employees and the community.

Reliable, affordable electricity is what we do best. Santee Cooper has 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 30 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 in your success.

We also understand the importance of maximizing 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 beneficially reuse coal ash. Our comprehensive Reduce The Use campaign offers 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.

Santee Cooper provides competitive prices, reliability and excellent customer service—and our customers recognize us for that. A 2018 independent survey found 100 percent overall satisfaction among industrial customers who responded, the highest ever recorded in our nearly 20 years of surveys. Areas where customers gave us the strongest marks include pricing, power restoration after an interruption, communication, general customer service and technical expertise.

“They do an excellent job in all categories and have good people at all levels,” offered one customer.

Because of South Carolina’s favorable business climate and Santee Cooper’s competitive electric rates, reliable service, diverse generation mix, alliances with electric cooperatives and municipalities, and exceptional customer service, companies like Samsung, Google and Volvo have located here.

Since 2014 alone, Santee Cooper has helped attract $4.6 billion in investment and helped create 18,571 jobs. Our partnerships across South Carolina have helped light the way for new industry with billions of dollars of investment and in payroll, and tens of thousands of jobs for South Carolina.

Camp Hall is a first-of-its-kind industrial community blending commerce, lifestyle, business and family in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.

Volvo built its first North American car manufacturing plant at Camp Hall and is planning an expansion there. Exeter Property Group is building a logistics park on a 77-acre tract with three speculative buildings totaling 945,000 square feet of space. Camp Hall is logistically strong with onsite access to Interstate 26 and plans for rail service in the near future. It is close to Interstate 95 and the Port of Charleston. Infrastructure, including roads, sewer, water, natural gas and redundant and diverse power and fiber are already constructed. Camp Hall is well-suited for large-scale industries, with more than 15,000 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.

Camp Hall’s Village Center will be home to amenities such as fitness options, medical services, convenience services, shops, restaurants and more. The plans also include recreational opportunities, such as walking and biking trails, and a large park to help employees who work there strike the perfect work-life experience.

Although Camp Hall is our largest project, we have other sites ready for industry too. Santee Cooper powers business and economic development across South Carolina. Visit www.poweringsc.com and let us put our power to work for you.

FIRSTENERGY: CUSTOMER-DRIVEN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

As part of its mission to make customers’ lives brighter and its communities stronger, FirstEnergy’s economic development efforts have brought thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in capital investments to its six-state service area that stretches from the Ohio-Indiana border to the Jersey Shore. Over the years, FirstEnergy has been consistently recognized for its economic development expertise.

In 2019, FirstEnergy’s economic development efforts influenced more than 100 projects. Collectively, these projects directly accounted for nearly $4.3 billion in capital investment, created over 12,000 new jobs and added a projected 310 megawatts of new connected electrical load.

FirstEnergy
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and first lady, Fran, stopped by the FirstEnergy booth at the Select USA event, held in Washington, DC last spring. (Photo: FirstEnergy)

The FirstEnergy service territory has become a major center for distribution center projects, with Amazon continuing its investment with two major fulfillment centers in Ohio, adding 2,700 new jobs. FirstEnergy continues to see significant investment in larger distribution centers in its Metropolitan Edison (Met-Ed) area in eastern Pennsylvania and in its Jersey Central Power & Light area in New Jersey.

“We suspect the interest in our eastern Pennsylvania areas, including Reading, is to find alternatives along the Interstate-78, 81 and 83 areas to avoid the congestion along the I-95 corridor,” said Patrick J. Kelly, economic development director for FirstEnergy. “Datacenters also remain a target for us, especially with our New Jersey and Maryland service territories being near New York City and Washington D.C.”

Manufacturing remains a major part of FirstEnergy’s service territory’s economy, with more capital investment in automation, including robotics and advancements around the industrial internet of things and additive manufacturing. The automotive industry remains strong in Ohio with Hendrickson announcing plans for a new 180,000-square-foot facility in Stark County; General Motors and LG Chem’s plans to hire up to 1,100 employees for a new electric vehicle battery facility in Lordstown; and Ford’s announced investment of over $1 billion at the Brookpark and Avon Lake facilities. Materials are a driver in the economy as well with NorthStar Blue Scope, a steel manufacturer in the Toledo area, expanding its operations.

Along with expertise in business development relationships and programs, Kelly says the company is a trusted advisor to customers and communities in helping to meet their energy and sustainability goals. FirstEnergy is investing heavily in grid modernization to provide world-class infrastructure capable of powering energy-intensive industries.

“FirstEnergy is spending over $1.2 billion a year on our Energizing the Future program to make our transmission system more resilient, which also helps our economic development efforts to serve new customers since a reliable source of electricity is key, especially to the manufacturing sector” said Kelly. “We also helped our customers achieve over 1.4 million megawatt hours of energy efficiency savings in 2018, which equates to a CO2 reduction of nearly one million metric tons.”

Another aspect of FirstEnergy’s economic development effort expected to take on added significance involves looking for ways to place a greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion. FirstEnergy’s focus on diversity and inclusion began in 2015. Since then, FirstEnergy has enhanced its hiring, recruiting and development processes to focus on diversity and inclusion, introduced mentoring programs and expanded training options for employees.

“FirstEnergy is placing a greater importance on economic inclusion,” says Kelly. “However, it is very challenging to ensure all demographics of a region or community share equally in economic growth or business expansion. Whether it be in our hometown of Akron, or other large cities we serve, our goal is to encourage growth, opportunity and equity for all our customers.”

FirstEnergy also is leveraging its resources to help improve the economic wellbeing of the communities in its six-state service area. Consultants working on behalf of FirstEnergy produced a comprehensive economic strategy for Bedford County, Pennsylvania, and conducted a year-long study on the aerospace industry in Northcentral West Virginia. The company continues to help promote innovation, including the Northeast Ohio Energy Storage Cluster study in conjunction with BRITE Energy, in Warren, Ohio, and the Cleveland Innovation Project.

In addition to its local efforts, FirstEnergy’s economic development department ramped up lead generation activities overseas, participating in the U.S. Commerce Department’s Select USA events in Washington D.C. In partnership with Akron USA, The University of Akron, JobsOhio, Team NEO, PA DCED, US Commercial Service and other economic development partners, FirstEnergy attended the K-Show in Dusseldorf, Germany to promote its service territory’s comparative advantages for polymer companies. FirstEnergy continued with its outreach to site location consultants and corporate industrial real estate directors through its leadership in the Utility Economic Development Association, Industrial Asset Management Council and state and regional economic development organizations.

DOMINION ENERGY: POWERING THE COMMONWEALTH

In 2019, CNBC named Virginia the top state for business in America, and Dominion Energy is proud of the role it plays in helping to attract businesses to the Commonwealth. The company serves nearly 7.5 million electric and natural gas customers across 18 states, and is headquartered in Richmond, VA. Last year, the utility tallied wins in the data center, pharmaceutical, manufacturing and logistics industries, adding more large power users to their system. Dominion Energy continues to be involved in these economically-impactful projects as a result of their strong relationships with stakeholders at local and state levels.

Top Utilities
Farm Powered® anaerobic digesters capture methane from dairy farms that is turned into renewable
natural gas for local consumers. (Photo: Vanguard Renewables)

“At Dominion Energy, we are focused not just on providing electricity, but on actively partnering with customers to help define and advance their energy needs and sustainability goals,” said Richard Imel, manager of strategic economic development for the company. “We are committed to responsiveness and customer service.” Companies ultimately choose to locate within Dominion Energy’s service area because of that customer service, as well as the utility’s competitive rates, reliable power, strategic location, renewable energy options and the expertise afforded by their team of experienced energy and site-selection experts. A few key factors that attract companies to the utility’s service area include:

  • Rates consistently around 30 percent below the national average. When you pair that with robust reliability metrics, Dominion Energy offers a significant value to companies looking to locate within its service area.
  • The utility’s location in the mid-Atlantic region, adjacent to Washington, DC. Its location offers world-class transportation and logistics infrastructure and provides easy access to major U.S. and international markets.
  • Dominion Energy’s commitment to renewable energy. The company works to provide customers with options to support their renewable energy goals. Options include everything from an individual Green Power purchasing program to entire facilities dedicated to serve commercial and industrial customers.
  • The utility’s skilled economic development team. They help get facilities up and running quickly and effectively, prioritizing site selection, siting and permitting, construction design, service agreements and relationships.

In 2019, the data center industry continued to remain a strength for Dominion Energy Virginia. Multiple large data center campus projects were announced, including the new Cologix Ashburn facility. Once built out, the facility will have 100 megawatts of capacity and one million square feet of data center. Dominion Energy was also an integral part of Wegmans’ regional distribution facility expansion into Hanover County, Va., along the I-95 corridor which will bring 700 new jobs to the area. Hershey announced an expansion of their existing manufacturing facility in Augusta County, Va. Merck also committed to invest up to $1 billion into their existing Rockingham County, Va., facility over the next three years in the pursuit of expanding pharmaceutical production. These projects highlight both the scale and diversity of industries Dominion Energy has helped attract to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Dominion Energy is committed to providing sustainable, reliable, affordable and safe energy. “More than 85 percent of our current generation comes from either clean energy sources such as nuclear, renewables and hydro, or natural gas-fired generation that supports renewables,” said Thomas F. Farrell II, Chairman, President and CEO of Dominion Energy. The company continues to expand its footprint across the country with more than 20,000 employees. With a goal of being the most sustainable energy company in America, Dominion Energy has made commitments to deliver clean energy to customers through new, renewable sources. The company operates the fourth-largest solar portfolio in America and has announced the largest offshore wind project in the U.S., which will produce enough energy to power 650,000 homes by 2026. Dominion Energy is also committed to reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 55 percent and methane emissions by 50 percent by 2030.

For more information about Dominion Energy Economic Development, visit the company’s website.

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