Since kicking off the Electrify Indiana conference three years ago, Hoosier Energy and its 18-member distribution systems have been actively identifying how co-ops can bring the benefits of emerging technologies to their communities. Collectively, Hoosier Energy’s members serve more than 760,000 consumers in central and southern Indiana and southeastern Illinois.
Low and carbon-free energy solutions, energy efficiency programs and near-term renewable energy projects are all part of the G&T’s updated strategic priorities and long-range resource plan to help members and their consumers reduce emissions and meet clean energy goals.
“While conservation is always a good thing, beneficial electrification takes the idea one step farther,” said Kleaving. “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions through energy consumption, as well as conservation, speaks volumes to today’s consumer.”
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. Several beneficial electrification pilots have evolved into expanding programs. Others are showing promise for scaled-up programs that can offer innovative economic development opportunities for the agriculture, transportation and manufacturing industries that support the economic vitality of member cooperative communities.
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.
Smart grid efficiencies extend to commercial lighting, with wide-ranging applications for agribusiness. (Photo: Chris Johnson, Hoosier Energy)
“Electrification doesn’t mean electrify everything,” noted Kleaving. “But where it makes sense, electrification can promote economic growth while reducing the carbon footprint.”
A vehicle charging project is placing direct current (DC) fast EV charging stations at strategic interstate locations that crisscross the southern half of Indiana, a major supply chain corridor. The effort is part of the Indiana Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund program that is installing at least 61 DC fast electric vehicle charging stations across the state by December 2023.
Another initiative is looking at waste-heat technologies for the poultry industry, which contributes more than $12 billion to Indiana’s total economic activity and employs more than 12,000 Hoosiers. This pilot program is now in its second year and already showing promise for greater flock health and food safety.
LED technology installed in southern Indiana greenhouses is helping the state cultivate seasonal crops year-round. The potential for the state’s agricultural industry alone is significant. Agriculture contributes an estimated $31.2 billion to Indiana’s economy. The state is the eighth largest agricultural exporter in the nation, exporting just over $4.6 billion in 2017.
Cooperative Charge, an electric vehicle smart charging program, is demonstrating how consumer charging patterns can help smooth the peaks and valleys of system-wide energy use.
Hoosier Energy’s efforts are part of a strategy to leverage the success of legacy energy efficiency programs to meet growing consumer interest in electrification. The programs are also providing important data on how emerging technologies work on the interconnected electric system to ensure an appropriate balance between reliability and affordability.
Taken together, Hoosier Energy’s programs continued to realize significant large-scale reduction/savings in energy use and demand. In 2021, power reductions in energy savings amounted to 9,050 MWh, a 4.24 megawatt (MW) reduction in winter peak demand and a 2.32 MW reduction in summer peak demand.
Hoosier Energy’s portfolio strategy, combined with members’ expertise in serving energy-intensive industries, and the flexible cooperative business model also supports environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles and disclosures. The G&T’s scalable ESG framework promises to enhance economic development as prospective projects look to communities that favor corporate accountability and good stewardship.
Hoosier Energy’s renewables portfolio is already helping companies meet corporate sustainability goals. Many companies served by Hoosier Energy members are utilizing the G&T’s renewable energy credit (REC) program to achieve their carbon reduction goals. A REC is the environmental attributes associated with 1 megawatt-hour of generation from a renewable energy asset. Instead of building on-site generation, a commercial and industrial member can purchase renewable credits from a member cooperative at a designated price.
“Instead of concentrating only on reducing kW hours, we encourage actions that help businesses save money while helping the environment,” said Kleaving. “It also supports the value consumers place on knowing their energy sources and those of their utility are clean, efficient—the best energy source a consumer would want to have.”