By the Business Facilities Staff
From the January/February 2021 Issue
As we unveil our annual list of editor’s picks of top utilities, the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) has forecast total U.S. electricity consumption, including direct use of electricity by combined-heat-and-power plants, will increase by 1.5 percent in 2021 and by 1.7 percent in 2022.
Electricity consumption in the commercial sector during 2020 was down by an estimated 6.0 percent from 2019 as a result of the economic contraction (and an increase in working from home) related to COVID-19. EIA expects commercial activity to increase in 2021, with non-farm employment rising by 2.8 percent. However, some of the changes in working patterns may continue in the long term, reducing the need for electricity use at offices. EIA forecasts commercial sector retail electricity sales will grow by 0.9 percent in 2021 and by 1.8 percent in 2022.
Our top power players are all preparing for a robust recovery in 2021. Keep reading and they’ll tell you how they’re getting ready for the better times to come.
MORE THAN HEAT AND LIGHT IN MICHIGAN
In 2020, Consumers Energy went from bringing essential heat and light to Michigan homes and businesses to delivering much-needed hope that connected communities and kept neighbors safe.
Heading into 2021, the nation’s fourth largest combination utility is poised to build on record breaking electric load growth while moving forward with its comprehensive Clean Energy Plan, coordinated corporate giving and breakthrough diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
Helping businesses, taking care of customers and keeping everyone safe were top priorities in 2020 as Michigan was initially one of the states hardest hit by COVID-19. The coronavirus led to statewide shutdowns and other restrictions from March 2020 into 2021. In addition, historic flooding in the spring received national attention, creating widespread property damage and displacing thousands of people in Mid-Michigan.
Taking care of customers and providing service after the sale—especially in challenging times—embody Consumers Energy’s purpose of world class performance that delivers hometown service.
As Michigan powers through COVID-19 and companies review their go-forward strategies and expansion plans, the company remains committed to helping businesses grow.
“We don’t succeed if our businesses and communities don’t succeed,” said Valerie Christofferson, Director of Economic Development. “We’re committed to a triple bottom line of people, planet and Michigan’s prosperity. That doesn’t change in times of crisis. We’ll be here to help every step of the way.”
Consumers Energy ended 2020 with a record 126 megawatts of projected new electric load growth with manufacturing expansions and indoor agriculture leading the increase. In addition, the company features certified Energy Ready sites and works closely with regional, state and federal economic development partners.
These challenging times are creating pure opportunity for those looking for a great site or to grow their business. As a state, Michigan:
- Offers about 133,000 engineers—more than any other U.S. state—and 250,000 skilled trades workers—among the top 10 in the nation.
- Is ranked 2nd nationally in tech-sector job growth since 2010 and is home to the 5th largest advanced manufacturing workforce in the U.S.
- Is a top 10 state for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degree completions (29,000 in 2018).
- Offers a low cost of living that makes it the 4th most affordable state in the country, along with many natural attractions.
The COVID-19 crisis also helped enhance the partnerships between Consumers Energy, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Small Business Association of Michigan and many other local economic development organizations. Together, these groups provided access to state and federal aid while also offering new business opportunities through the Pure Michigan Business Connect Program.
Consumers Energy is committed to helping small businesses, nonprofits and communities prosper—in clean energy and beyond—now more than ever. Learn more at www.ConsumersEnergy.com/econdev.
People, Planet and Prosperity
Consumers Energy continues to move forward on its triple bottom-line commitment to support people, the planet and prosperity with an increased focus on diversity, clean energy and energy efficiency.
- Diversity: Angela Thompkins was named the company’s first Chief Diversity Officer in August and the new vice president will guide the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion strategy. Additionally, the company has embraced robust supplier diversity outreach. Consumers Energy is committed to doubling the dollars it spends with diverse businesses over a five-year period by 2023. Recognizing the benefits of local spending on the state’s economy, the company also targets $1.5 billion per year to Michigan-based companies, including businesses with minority, women, veteran and LGBT ownership.
- Clean Energy: Consumers Energy’s Clean Energy Plan calls for eliminating coal as an energy source, achieving net-zero carbon emissions and meeting 90 percent of customers’ energy needs through clean sources like renewable energy, energy waste reduction and energy storage.
- Energy Efficiency: Consumers Energy has helped customers save over $3 billion on their bills since 2009 with energy efficiency programs. Bell’s Brewery and Consumers Energy teamed up on a series of energy efficiency projects over the last two years that helped Michigan’s largest independent craft brewery earn the U.S. EPA ENERGY STAR Challenge for Industry Certification in 2020. The energy improvements in 2020 had the environmental equivalent of returning 380 football fields to forest. Bell’s energy per consumed barrel packaged was reduced by 10.35 percent.
Caring for Michigan Communities
The Consumers Energy Foundation provided $5.4 million in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and remains active in 2021. The company partnered with local economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, nonprofits and others to meet the emerging needs of Michiganders and help power the economy.
An award-winning alpaca farm was just one of many local small businesses that received assistance supported by a Consumers Energy Foundation grant.
About $2.5 million of the Foundation grants issued in 2020 supported small businesses, and the company’s “Our Town” campaign put another $850,000 into 55 communities through gift cards for local shopping. The dollar-for-dollar match in December put dollars directly into shoppers’ hands to help them stretch their budgets and give a boost to shops and restaurants in their hometowns.
“We thank Consumers Energy for taking a meaningful step to help small businesses that have felt the impact of the pandemic,” said Rich Studley, president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. “Our Town focuses on our Michigan hometowns and puts dollars in the hands of businesses that keep Michiganders at work this holiday season.”
In addition, Consumers Energy offered $15 million in direct assistance to help residential and small business customers with bills if they were affected by the pandemic.
FP&L: RELIABLE, CLEAN ENERGY
Florida Power & Light provides its customers with America’s best energy value—energy that’s affordable, reliable and clean. FPL is a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc., the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and the sun, and a world leader in battery storage. FPL has a customer-base of more than 5.6 million accounts, serving more than half the state, including businesses both big and small. FPL’s average residential customer bills are about 30 percent below the national average, and its commercial and industrial rates are more than 45 percent below the national average. In addition to the company’s low rates, FPL offers incentives to help companies save money.
When the pandemic became widespread in mid-March 2020, FPL acted quickly to implement special policies in support of its customers and the communities it serves. Since that time, FPL has continued working to develop new ways to support customers, such as offering flexible payment options, accelerating fuel savings and providing direct relief to customers struggling to pay their bills. Overall, FPL has implemented initiatives valued at more than $75 million to show its steadfast support of adversely impacted customers during the global pandemic.
The economic development team’s PoweringFlorida.com website is a key resource accessible to anyone at no cost. It provides site-selection experts around the globe with direct access to information about Florida’s workforce, available real estate, utility rate options and potential discounts and incentives. To help its community partners market available sites in a time when traveling is a challenge, FPL has launched virtual tours of available greenfield land for large industrial development.
FPL has a strong belief that small businesses are the backbone of Florida’s more than $1 trillion economy. To support small businesses, FPL has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with them in a variety of ways, including offering energy efficiency webinars, an energy manager tool to help companies track and take control of their usage and assistance in understanding available CARES Act resources. The company also launched the Main Street Recovery Credit Program, which offers credits to qualifying small businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic.
Florida is consistently ranked as one of the best places to start a business. With world-class universities churning out graduates with the skills to immediately enter innovative workspaces, it’s more important than ever to ensure that the pandemic doesn’t stifle workforce development. FPL invested more than $1 million in a new workforce development program that is funding more than 1,600 laptops for individuals who enroll in rapid certification programs. These programs offer students an opportunity to obtain high-value technical credentials and certifications in industries including advanced manufacturing, transportation and logistics, healthcare and information technology, often in 20 weeks or less.
It is clear now more than ever, is the time to innovate. In 2020, FPL launched its 35 Mules innovation hub and received applications from across the world. FPL has since welcomed six startups to help take their ideas to the next level faster, smarter and at scale. The hub is designed to move the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem forward and help businesses grow and remain in Florida. Backed by NextEra Energy and FPL—leaders in clean energy and innovation—the startups receive a grant and unparalleled access to subject matter experts and coaches during a 12 to 18-month experience at the incubator.
In 1925, a very unlikely patchwork of enterprises combined to form the precursor to NextEra Energy, including an ice plant, a sponge fishing boat and 35 mules. At its core, FPL knows exactly what it’s like to be a small, up-and-coming company.
Today, 95 years later, FPL provides Florida with America’s best energy value, energy that is not just the most reliable and the cleanest, but also the most affordable, as they continue to move Florida forward.
DOMINION POWERS GROWTH IN VIRGINIA
In its most recent “Top States for Business” ranking, CNBC named Virginia the top state for business in America in 2019, and Dominion Energy is proud of the role it plays in helping attract businesses to the Commonwealth. The company serves more than 7 million electric and natural gas customers across 16 states, and is headquartered in Richmond, Va. In 2020, the utility tallied wins in the data center, medical, manufacturing and logistics industries, adding more than 350 megawatts of new capacity to support them. Dominion Energy continues to be a utility of choice when attracting new prospects because of its ability to maintain strong relationships with stakeholders at local and state levels.
“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 Felicia Howard, vice president of Economic Development Strategy 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 energy, strategic location, renewable energy options and the expertise afforded by its team of experienced energy and site-selection experts. A few key factors attract companies to the utility’s service area:
- Dominion Energy’s retail electricity rates for large commercial and industrial customers consistently remain around 25 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 has a prime location in the mid-Atlantic region, adjacent to Washington, D.C. Its location offers world-class transportation and logistics infrastructure and provides easy access to major U.S. and international markets.
- Dominion Energy is establishing itself as a national leader in renewable energy. The company currently has the nation’s largest utility-owned offshore wind project under development off the coast of Virginia Beach and is planning to deploy more than 16,000 megawatts of new solar generation over the next 15 years.
- The utility has a skilled economic development team that helps get facilities up and running quickly and effectively, prioritizing site selection, siting and permitting, construction design, service agreements and relationships. The economic development team also works to support businesses interested in contracting on clean energy infrastructure projects and to expand job opportunities by supporting development of the clean energy workforce in the commonwealth.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the continued need for digital infrastructure as many employees across the country shifted to remote work. The effects of the pandemic continued to drive data center project activity in Northern Virginia, home to the largest data center market in the world. Dominion Energy is the largest worldwide energy provider to this industry and continues to see a strong pipeline of data center development projects from customers such as AWS, CloudHQ and QTS, all of which continued their growth in 2020 with new projects totaling more than 300 megawatts of new facility capacity. Dominion Energy also was an integral part of CSX’s Intermodal facility in Rocky Mount, NC, along the I-95 corridor, which will bring 300 new
jobs to the area. In addition, Hershey announced an expansion of its existing manufacturing facility in Augusta County, Va., which is projected to add 110 new jobs. These projects highlight both the scale and diversity of industries Dominion Energy has helped attract to both Virginia and North Carolina.
Dominion Energy is committed to providing sustainable, reliable, affordable and safe energy. The company continues to expand its footprint across the country with nearly 17,000 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 third-largest solar portfolio among utility holding companies in the U.S., with more than 2,200 megawatts in operation across its nationwide footprint. It also has announced the largest offshore wind project in the U.S., which will produce enough clean, renewable energy to power 660,000 homes by 2026. Dominion Energy also is committed to achieving net zero carbon dioxide and methane emissions from its power generation and gas infrastructure operations nationwide by 2050.
More information about Dominion Energy Economic Development can be found here.
HOOSIER TAILORS ENERGY SOLUTIONS
In Indiana, Bloomington-based Hoosier Energy keeps inventing new ways to power economic growth, stability and sustainability, demonstrating deftness in meeting the needs of a competitive marketplace that can power today’s global enterprises.
Hoosier Energy, a not-for-profit generation and transmission cooperative (G&T), provides electric power and services to its 18 not-for-profit electric distribution cooperative owners throughout central and southern Indiana and southeastern Illinois.
The expertise of the co-op’s joint economic team runs deep, extending into workforce development, industrial site preparation and marketing, and collaborative partnerships that are creating jobs and fueling growth in a region rich in technology innovation that supports data center development, agribusiness, advanced manufacturing and logistics.
Significant economic development activity took place throughout the 15,000-square-mile service territory in 2020, even in the midst of an unprecedented year marked by a pandemic and economic uncertainty.
The G&T’s Board of Directors approved a new, long-range resource plan in January designed to provide members with reliable, affordable and sustainable energy through a transition to a more diverse generation mix that includes low-cost solar, wind, natural gas and storage. The company says this transition to greater diversity will provide members with a foundation for supply cost stability and predictability while saving an estimated $700 million over the next two decades and reducing Hoosier Energy’s carbon footprint by nearly 80 percent.
Hoosier’s co-ops didn’t stop with merely planning for tomorrow. They ensured the revised portfolio supports new technologies for grid management, beneficial electrification, workforce development and economic opportunity.
As the plan began to be put into action, the Hoosier Energy team completed a data center site qualification study to identify prime sites within the service territory for an enterprise-level data center. Five primary and five secondary sites jumped to the top of the list, meeting or exceeding site requirements.
Hoosier Energy was also instrumental in the development of Indiana Power Partners (IPP), a new economic development partnership designed to attract jobs and capital investment to the state of Indiana. Through the IPP’s direction, local, regional and state economic development organizations join utility partners to visit markets—either virtually or in person—where corporate real estate brokers and site location advisors are based.
What these organizations often find, local economic development experts say, is prime inventory and a community willing to go the extra mile to land a project. Rather than showing an open field and saying, ‘here it is,’ Hoosier Energy is helping member co-ops identify and market existing greenfield sites ideally suited for industrial expansion. With the area’s fiber network upgrades and buildouts, many sites can easily accommodate broadband connection critical to high-tech industries.
Other ongoing efforts regularly include local economic development organization (LEDO) trainings, assistance with site identification and grant programs, aerial photography and funding for a scholarship program for LEDO staff to enhance professional development.
As a member-owned, not-for-profit cooperative, Hoosier Energy can offer flexible economic incentives, too. Unlike investor-owned utilities, co-ops make this happen by working directly with their board of directors rather than being required to work through state public utility commissions. This model enables rapid decision making and flexibility, giving member cooperatives a significant competitive advantage.
Hoosier Energy’s economic development rider (EDR) offers significant discounts on a commercial consumer’s electric bill for the first six years of a project. A market-based rate for large projects—20 megawatts or more—is also available.
In addition to rate and engineering concerns, companies will find that Hoosier Energy can help them meet their renewable energy goals. With large-scale solar and other renewable resources in their own backyard, Hoosier Energy and its member cooperatives have developed a strong expertise in renewables. Options include co-op built and owned projects on or off-site, guidance on purchasing renewable energy credits or project analysis for self-built projects and carbon calculations.
The team is no stranger to emerging technologies, either. Hoosier Energy recently applied for a grant through the Indiana Utility Group to place direct current (DC) fast chargers at strategic interstate locations that crisscross the southern half of Indiana, a major commerce corridor. An electric vehicle smart charging pilot program is gathering local data on consumer charging patterns, while traditional demand side management programs are making way for projects that reward “smart grid” efficiencies through use of new commercial lighting, HVAC, thermostat or water heater technologies.
On a larger scale, battery storage pilots will explore how batteries storage could be used to solve critical power quality issues, optimize production of renewable energy resources or create microgrids to strengthen the reliability and resiliency of the larger interconnected power network.
“These technologies can change how farms operate, how manufacturers manage power quality, how food processors manage heat sources, or provide additional redundancy options for energy-intensive industries,” says Harold Gutzwiller, Manager of Key Accounts and Economic Development for Hoosier Energy.
Hoosier Energy offers unique flexibility through rates and programs to help businesses thrive. Projects won’t have to choose from among reliability, affordability or sustainability. All are possible in a region working together to create long-term solutions for today’s industries.
SANTEE COOPER: MORE THAN A UTILITY
Since its establishment in 1934, Santee Cooper, the South Carolina state-owned electric and water utility, has been a leading authority in the growth and development of the state. As South Carolina’s largest power provider, Santee Cooper works daily on its mission to be the leading resource for improving the quality of life for South Carolinians.
Santee Cooper produces energy that serves approximately 2 million people through a variety of generation sources and charges rates below the state and national averages. By also improving the economic climate, focusing on environmental sustainability, contributing to local communities and providing insightful education opportunities for students, educators and energy users, the state-owned utility is providing an essential service for communities with a focus on the customer first, as well as increasing value for South Carolina as a whole.
At its core, Santee Cooper is a public-power provider directly and indirectly for people in all 46 counties of South Carolina. It serves more than 189,000 residential and commercial customers directly in Horry, Georgetown and Berkeley counties. It also supplies electricity to 20 of the state’s electric cooperatives, the cities of Bamburg and Georgetown, 27 large industrial customers and the 10 member cities that make up the Piedmont Municipal Power Agency.
Based on 2019 data, Santee Cooper’s average residential rate is 9 percent lower than the state average and 9 percent lower than national average. Its average commercial rate is 8 percent lower than the state average and 8 percent lower than the national. And, among industrial rates, the utility’s average is 17 percent lower than the state average and 25 percent lower than the national average.
Santee Cooper’s rates are lower than the national average, but their customer satisfaction is higher, according to results from a new independent survey by MarketSearch. Some 96 percent of residential customers are satisfied with the utility service, compared to 93 percent satisfied residential customers nationally. Customers rated Santee Cooper highest in quality of electric power (99 percent), keeping power outages to a minimum (98 percent), responding quickly to customer questions and problems (95 percent), restoring power as quickly as possible after outages (95 percent) and its care for customers (95 percent). Satisfaction among commercial customers was also 96 percent, while satisfaction increased to 100 percent among industrial customers.
Santee Cooper is also a leading organization for utility safety. Employees and management put strong emphasis on safety practices daily, which has led to a strong, trusted, safe work environment that is highly respected and sought after. In 2019, Santee Cooper had a 98.9 percent incident-free safety rating. Santee Cooper earned a first-place award in the American Public Power Association’s Safety Award of Excellence program, for safe operating practices in 2019 for large utilities with 1 million to 3.99 million worker-hours of annual worker exposure.
As part of its mission, Santee Cooper has become South Carolina’s proven business partner, powering state industry by helping create a prosperous environment for businesses to build, relocate and expand. When you add in South Carolina’s favorable business climate, it’s no wonder companies like Google and Volvo Cars USA have moved to the area.
Most recently, Santee Cooper has created Camp Hall, a next generation commerce park, outside of Charleston. The 6,781-acre property offers infrastructure and site-ready facilities so businesses can quickly be up and running in a prime location in the southeast.
Camp Hall is ideally located in a sought-after hub for industrial expansion, with a workforce of over 500,000 people ready – and Camp Hall’s unique people-focused approach keeps that workforce at the center of every design detail. The Village Center at the heart of Camp Hall helps balance work with the necessities of life. A collection of small businesses and amenities such as convenience stores, healthcare, dry cleaning, sports fields and nature trails are, or will soon be, available to connect people, nature and productivity.
As a nonprofit organization that focuses on bringing you a brighter tomorrow, Santee Cooper is passionate about providing useful information and tools to empower customers to make the best decisions for their homes, businesses and lifestyles.
Through its newest collection of dynamic programs, EmpowerSC, Santee Cooper is helping its customers and South Carolina residents to be informed and empowered to make their own energy conscious decisions to conserve power, save money, contribute to environmental health and set up the community for a brighter future.
Along with efficiency knowledge, the utility also offers rebates and incentives for installing qualified equipment. And, to maximize energy efficiency and encourage positive habits, Santee Cooper focuses on providing education on home, business, auto and solar areas that will make an impact on a household’s or business’ bottom line.
As a steward of the state’s wellbeing, Santee Cooper plays a large role in contributing to the community. Throughout the year, Santee Cooper hosts American Red Cross blood drives, United Way volunteer events, support for area schools, and even produces the annual Celebrate The Season Holiday Lights Driving Tour and Fairs to benefit charities in Berkeley County.
On a bigger scale, Santee Cooper services, protects and maintains key environmental aspects that improve people’s surroundings and important natural habitats. Lakes Marion and Moultrie, two of South Carolina’s largest and most beloved freshwater resources, are kept by Santee Cooper and were created as a result of the Santee Cooper Hydroelectric and Navigation Project, a venture to transform the Santee River’s power into electricity and spark prosperity in Depression-ravaged rural South Carolina. Prominent outdoor locations such as Old Santee Canal Park, Overton Beach Park and portions of the Palmetto Trail are also managed by the state utility and provide recreational activities as well as crucial preservation of nature and history in South Carolina.
This state-owned utility does immensely more than generate power to turn on a light—although that will remain at the core of its purpose. Santee Cooper has a bigger mission to better the lives of South Carolinians as a whole, from household and business services to economic prosperity and the quality of the environment. As experts and leaders in serving the state’s most valuable asset, its people, Santee Cooper is an essential organization in shaping the home, business and recreational environments that have helped make South Carolina the great state it is today.
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. Public power providers stand out for their helpful and knowledgeable staff and 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. Even amid a tumultuous year, 2020 brought many success stories, including the announcement in November of a local manufacturing company’s plans to invest $25 million into the Nash County public power community of Rocky Mount. Cornerstone Building Brands, Inc., one of the largest manufacturers of exterior building products in North America, plans to re-open a manufacturing facility in Rocky Mount to produce a new, innovative siding product. The company is headquartered in Cary, NC and employs more than 20,000 staffers across North America and about 1,400 in North Carolina.
Over the next five years, the Rocky Mount facility will create 38 additional jobs. Positions to be created include maintenance, management and operations personnel, and the total payroll impact could be more than $2.1 million per year, with average annual salaries paying significantly higher than the county average. “Growth is what we are about in Rocky Mount,” said Rochelle Small-Toney, City Manager of Rocky Mount.
ElectriCities works tirelessly to facilitate big economic development wins for its member communities, including Rocky Mount. Another big 2020 success story is the announcement by Thermo-Fisher Scientific, a global life science services company, that it will add 500 new jobs and invest $500 million in the Pitt County public power community of Greenville. The investment will expand the company’s existing major operations in North Carolina by building a brand-new facility to grow its sterile drug product development and commercial manufacturing of critical medicines, therapies and vaccines.
And there are even more public power economic success stories statewide. The investments are diverse and run the gamut from the $500,000 expansion of East Coast Steel, a steel fabrication company in the Perquimans County public power community of Hertford, to the $38.5 million distribution center for Crate & Barrel in the Catawba County public power community of Newton. What they all have in common is a community supported by ElectriCities, including its resourceful economic development team.
A standout example of resourceful support is Smart Sites®, a shovel-ready site qualification program. Upon passing 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, reliable advocacy and trustworthy resources provided by the ElectriCities economic development team mean North Carolina public power communities are equipped to handle whatever 2021 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.
OMAHA PUBLIC POWER DISTRICT: WHERE THE LIGHT STARTS
For over 70 years, Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) has been where the light starts. OPPD serves more than 846,000 people in 13 eastern Nebraska counties, making OPPD the 12th largest public power utility in the United States. While honoring its public power heritage, OPPD has embraced the changing energy industry, including renewable technologies and carbon reduction.
With a focus on relationships, rates, renewable resources and reliability, OPPD is living out its vision of leading the way we power the future. In November 2019, the utility’s Board of Directors voted to add utility-scale solar capacity to OPPD’s energy portfolio. This additional generation will be the largest solar presence in the state of Nebraska and one of the largest in the Midwest. OPPD is also pursuing a goal of net-zero carbon production by 2050 and is working on many other strategic initiatives, including decarbonization.
OPPD is currently siting and developing up to 600 megawatts of utility-scale solar generation and up to 600 megawatts of backup natural gas for resiliency. The two natural gas facility sites were announced in 2020, and the solar sites will be announced soon in 2021. This project allows OPPD to retire older coal fired units and continue to integrate more renewable and clean energy into its generation portfolio, which currently supplies approximately 40 percent of its customers’ energy usage.
OPPD worked closely with commercial and industrial customers to help them meet their own renewable energy goals including Google, which announced plans to build a $600 million data center in Papillion, Nebraska.
The tech giant cited the utility’s rate that is designed to help meet the needs of large-power, high-voltage transmission-level customers as one of the main reasons for choosing the area. The same renewable rate was recognized by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg when the company announced its first data center in OPPD’s service territory. Throughout its service territory, OPPD proudly serves many mission critical facilities, including other large data centers, telecom intensive businesses, medical facilities and federal and state military and defense operations.
In 2020, OPPD built upon and enhanced its economic development strategy. The utility continued to establish its own site development initiative and speculative site development is currently underway including site control, engineering services and marketing of sites. OPPD has secured site control along its 56-mile rail line, which provides dual-rail access to Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads. The utility also works in close partnership with the State of Nebraska, area economic development organizations, utilities and cities to prepare shovel-ready sites.
OPPD is committed to no general rate increase through 2021 as part of a five-year commitment that was set by the Board of Directors. OPPD leadership is committed to stabilizing rates well beyond 2021 and currently provides rates 15 percent below the national average. OPPD has also invested heavily in electrical infrastructure, including high-level transmission voltage lines, which has already seen project activity and announcements. In addition, the utility consistently leads the industry in customer service and reliability metrics.
OPPD provided leadership and support on the passage of Nebraska’s new, modernized tax incentive program, the ImagiNE Nebraska Act, for new and expanding businesses. The program became effective in January 2021 and more information can be found at imagine.nebraska.gov.
OPPD knows economic development success begins with partnerships and teamwork, and this shared value across our communities is what ultimately makes eastern Nebraska a desired location to do business. A few of the projects that OPPD and other economic development partners landed in 2020 include:
- Amazon Robotic Fulfillment Facility: When fully operational in Sarpy County, the fastest growth county in Nebraska, the facility will employ 1,000 full-time employees and add nearly $204 million annually to the local economy according to an IMPLAN analysis done by the Greater Omaha Chamber.
- Dollar General Distribution Facility: This 800,000-square-foot, state-of-the art facility with dual capacity for both dry and DG Fresh distribution will be the first of its kind. The facility will add 400 full-time jobs to the Blair, Nebraska area.
- Papillion Foods, a Hormel Foods Company: The company reconfigured an old 535,000-square-foot Shopko distribution center in Sarpy County to become a new food processing space. The facility will make salami and dry sausage products. Operations at the facility started in the fourth quarter of 2020. The project invested $80 million to the area economy and will add nearly 350 team members in the first year of operation.
Two developers also added over 600,000 square feet of new distribution and warehousing space in Sarpy County, which is located just south of Douglas County where Omaha is located.
A diverse group of industries, including agricultural, technology and financial services are located in OPPD’s service territory. The Omaha area continues to see significant growth, and OPPD is ready to work with your business. Visit the OPPD website for more information.
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