Co-ops adapt though shared principles that honor teamwork, collaboration
At the heart of the cooperative culture is an honest desire to provide services that value reliability, affordability and sustainability, as well as fairness to all.
In 2020, Hoosier Energy began to put into action a new long-range resource plan centered on assuring member-consumers the energy they use in their homes and businesses is coming from energy sources that provide flexibility and value into the future.
Approved by the Board of Directors in January, the plan takes advantage of an abundance of low-cost natural gas, continued advancements in wind and solar technologies, and the potential for large-scale battery storage.
This path to greater energy supply diversity addresses changing consumer desires, while saving hundreds of millions of dollars, significantly reducing carbon emissions and creating long-term cost stability.
The cooperative didn’t stop with merely planning for tomorrow. It ensured the new plan supports modern technologies for grid management, beneficial electrification, workforce development and economic opportunity.
Adapting to changing times
These efforts began to unfold during a year marked by economic uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hoosier Energy and its members adapted to these times, leaning on shared cooperative principles that honor teamwork and collaboration. The pandemic may have changed how we work, but not what we do. If anything, it helped strengthen our resolve to cushion the blow.
Shift rotation changes limited potential exposure to the virus, while daily work — always performed with safety in mind — kept the system going while technology kept us connected.
Swift action by the Board of Directors led to a one-time special retirement of $6 million in capital credits to support member cash flow needs. Member assistance measures also included an extension for power bill payments, $29 million in cost reductions and lowering our operating margin for 2020. Opportunities to purchase low-cost energy through the wholesale markets supplemented these efforts, minimizing power supply costs.
As a result of Hoosier Energy’s financial strategies, unrelated to COVID assistance, our new resource portfolio and continued cost management, wholesale rates are >> currently projected to decrease 7 percent
Benefits of emerging technology
As the trusted energy partner for 710,000 people in central and southern Indiana and southeastern Illinois, Hoosier Energy’s 18 member distribution systems also began identifying how co-ops can bring the benefits of emerging technologies to homes and businesses throughout the 15,000-square-mile service area.
An electric vehicle smart charging pilot program is gathering local data on consumer charging patterns. The information is helping member co-ops identify the most beneficial time to charge for the consumer and the co-op, as well as introduce member-consumers to the cost advantages of electric vehicles.
Building a smarter grid
Traditional demand side management and energy efficiency programs are making way for projects that reward “smart grid” efficiencies through use of new commercial lighting, HVAC, thermostat or heat-pump technologies.
On a larger scale, battery storage pilots are exploring how battery packs 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.
Gathering local, real world data helps form the energy plan for the future — creating beneficial electrification programs that reward consumers or improve business efficiencies, while reducing overall environmental impacts.
Behind the scenes, members teamed up with Hoosier Energy to produce a comprehensive, interactive communications map identifying areas of potential collaboration in fiber optic, radio and smart switching technology. Together, we can now quickly identify areas of potential cost-effective collaboration in preparing for distributed generation and technology upgrades.
Substations, capacity and infrastructure upgrades with smart grid technology support future economic development and load growth. Upgraded communications equipment allows us to operate switches remotely and quickly identify faults on the system to provide quicker response, assuring reliability.
Economic Development successes
Our members’ knowledge and commitment to community extend beyond just wires and poles and are among the reasons Site Selection Magazine named Hoosier Energy as one of the nation’s top 10 utilities in economic development for 2020. Hoosier Energy’s renewables portfolio stands to help companies meet corporate sustainability goals, another advantage in a region intent on developing industrial and commercial sites that meet today’s standards for technology and sustainability.
Integrated decision making
The long-range resource plan is also about transitioning the Merom Generating Station site for industrial development.
Hoosier Energy will join Hallador Energy Company to develop 200MW of energy from solar and battery storage through purchase power agreements in 2025. The new generation will be located near the Merom Generation Station.
Our integrated resource portfolio is designed to reflect current and future market circumstances, which are favoring low-cost, sustainable resources.
Collectively, we will continue to pursue innovative opportunities to meet changing consumer needs in 2021 and beyond. Our optimism for the future — and continued success — is centered on the cooperative principles we share — while making a difference together.