EnergyLines January/February 2016

Take a look back at Hoosier Energy’s success in meeting 2015 challenges.

Commitment to cooperation among cooperatives

With 2015 in the record books, EnergyLines takes a look back at Hoosier Energy’s successes in meeting the challenges faced by electric cooperatives.

More than 300 people from Hoosier Energy and its member systems attended formal dedication ceremonies for the G&T’s new Operations Center and Headquarters.

 

Both facilities provide increased work efficiencies, greater collaboration opportunities and room for growth. The new headquarters received LEED gold certification, a tribute to Hoosier Energy’s commitment to sustainability. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of an energy-efficient facility.

 

DEDICATED PURPOSE: Hoosier Energy CEO Steve Smith, (center, left) and Board Chairman Darin Duncan, (center, right) along with the Hoosier Energy Board of Directors cut a ceremonial ribbon for both facilities last April outside the new headquarters.

 

Regulatory challenges

Hoosier Energy continued to voice concerns that the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan rule will disproportionately affect rural communities without regard to stranded costs or emission reductions already achieved. Hoosier Energy also supported the territory preservation law in Indiana and will continue to work proactively to protect an assured, reliable and competitively-priced power supply.

 

All-of-the-above strategy

In 2015, Hoosier Energy added more solar, wind and landfill gas projects to complement coal and natural gas resources as part of an “all-of-the-above” power supply strategy. Working together, these resources provide the best balance for electric service reliability, affordability and environmental stewardship.

 

Three of 10 solar sites were completed as part of a 10-megawatt solar program. Seven more are planned for 2016 and 2017. Two landfill gas projects are underway, funded through low-cost Clean Renewable Energy Bonds. Construction began on the 16-megawatt Orchard Hills landfill plant near Rockford, Ill., with power production scheduled to begin in June 2016. The 4-megawatt Cabin Creek project in Whitewater Valley REMC service territory is on track to begin operations in 2017.

 

Hoosier Energy also worked proactively with members on consumer-owned generation to develop consistent guidelines for interconnections, compensation and related issues.

 

The Ratts Generating Station operated for the last time on March 10, 2015. The plant’s highly dedicated, close-knit workforce performed superbly over the plant’s lifespan, operating the state’s first electric cooperative generating station efficiently and safely for more than four decades.

 

Maintaining a competitive position

In 2015, Hoosier Energy returned $6.2 million in patronage capital credits and $2.9 million in special bill credits to member systems, bringing total retirements and credits to nearly $83 million since 2000. Wholesale rates continued to remain competitive, with Hoosier Energy avoiding a projected increase in base rates for the fifth consecutive year.

 

Two major credit rating services affirmed Hoosier Energy’s credit rating and financial outlook, citing the sound G&T cooperative business model.

 

The G&T also achieved significant savings and efficiency gains through inventory reductions, contract savings and improved compliance and project management processes.

 

Improvements at Merom

Heat rate improvements at the Merom Generating Station resulted in nearly $1 million in annual fuel cost savings, increasing the station’s competitive advantage. Heat rate is a measurement of efficiency, or how much fuel must be expended in order to generate 1 kWh of electricity. Heat rate improvements decrease production costs, enabling the generating units to operate more efficiently.

 

Other improvements at Merom included completion of a new industrial wastewater treatment plant capable of treating up to 1,050 gallons per minute with twice the solids-removal capacity of the previous system.

 

WASHING WATER: A new water treatment facility at Merom treats more water and removes twice the solids as the previous system.

 

Assuring reliability

Power delivery reliability, as measured by outage duration, improved 28 percent over the previous year, based on a 7-year average. In 2015, the G&T completed more than $13 million in power supply capital projects to support economic growth and assure reliability.

 

Auditors from the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) affirmed Hoosier Energy’s reliable operations after an exhaustive review of the G&T’s reliability practices that yielded no violations.

 

Continued vulnerability assessments, participation in national drills and peer reviews keep Hoosier Energy’s reliability and cyber compliance programs in a continual state of readiness. 

 

ON “HIGH ALERT:” Mike Mugler, Information Technology Manager for Clark County REMC; Justin Swarens, Manager of System Control Services for Hoosier Energy and Richie Field, Hoosier Energy IT Infrastructure and Security Coordinator monitor the grid for threats during a GridEx III exercise.

 

Focusing on safety

Hoosier Energy rolled out a “Safe by Choice” initiative companywide to ensure continuous improvement and further safety as a core value. 

 

Overall safety performance was the best in the company’s history, with accident rates nearly 40 percent below national averages. Power delivery crews reached nearly one year without a lost-time incident and the Merom Generating Station completed its first year with no lost-time accidents. The Ratts Generating Station continued a trend of no lost-time accidents for the ninth year with the remaining workforce.

 

The Lawrence and Worthington Generating Stations achieved certification in the Indiana Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) as a “STAR” site through the Indiana Department of Labor. Indiana VPP sites are leaders in workplace safety and health and recognized for proactively protecting Hoosier workers.

 

Fifteen apprentices from Hoosier Energy and member distribution cooperatives graduated from the Hoosier Energy Apprenticeship Training and Safety (HEATS) program, the 36th HEATS class in this industry-leading program. Member system graduates from the linemen program included Clark County REMC, RushShelby Energy, South Central Indiana REMC and Whitewater Valley REMC. The total number of graduates since the program began now stands at 595.

 

More than 350 member employees were trained in skill improvement.

 

Value-added member services

Hoosier Energy continued to enhance and improve upon a wide range of member services.

 

A total of 17 employees representing 14 member cooperatives graduated from the first class of the Cooperative Accelerated Leadership Development Program.

 

The Team Up Demand Side Management programs contributed to an estimated 40,500 megawatt-hours of energy saved annually. Programs include heating and cooling rebates, distribution of CFL and LED light bulbs, attic insulation and duct sealing incentives as well as rebates for commercial and industrial energy efficiency improvements.

 

Hoosier Energy assisted members in locating 60 new or expanded businesses with more than 1,300 jobs, over $330 million in investment and nearly 32 megawatts of demand.

 

The joint economic development program of Hoosier Energy and its member distribution cooperatives once again was named one of the top 10 utility programs in the nation by Site Selection magazine.

 

The forecasting department completed the biennial residential end-use customer survey, a tool that aids in accurately predicting future member needs, as well as provide member systems with an increased knowledge of their end-consumers. This group also completed a Power Requirements Study forecast for each member system and Hoosier Energy. A residential commercial and industrial retail bill comparison report was issued to provide member systems with increased knowledge and understanding of other utility rates throughout the region. MV-Web training was provided to member systems and their large industrial consumers to increase their understanding of load levels at various times, as well as to assist in troubleshooting possible load issues.

 

Other services included support for member system’s communication efforts including more than 60 customizable articles, graphics, photos or videos for use in local communication programs or events. The communications team also provides Touchstone Energy regional partner support along with a coordinated media buy.

 

Video assistance helped Johnson County REMC earn an Award of Distinction for their annual meeting video. The Hoosier Energy video team won two Spotlight on Excellence awards from NRECA for videos featuring the Indiana Youth Tour and Crane Business Park.

 

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