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Louisville utilities: Innovative approach, community focus

Louisville Water, LG&E/KU invest in enhancing customer service and economic development

By Russ Brown

Louisville Water Co. is known for innovation in maintaining its network of over 4,000 miles of pipes that deliver water. It’s a mix of preventative maintenance, capital budgeting and robotic devices, and it is considered a national model.

“Another aspect is the quality and supply,” said Kelley Dearing Smith, Louisville Water’s vice president of communications and marketing. “A very recent example of that is the announcement (this spring) for the House Foods America plant coming to Louisville. House Foods produces tofu, with water and soybeans as the key ingredients.”

Louisville Water performs 200 tests each day at its lab to check water quality and safety to meet strict health requirements established by the EPA.

House Foods America Corp. is a U.S. subsidiary of a 100-year-old Japanese tofu company that also has facilities in California and New Jersey. It plans to build a 350,000-s.f., $146.3 million production facility that will bring more than 100 jobs to the city.

“This company truly has its eye on the future, producing healthy food products and creating a significant number of high-paying jobs in the process,” said Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.

The plant will hire a range of positions, including machine operators, production workers, engineers, logistics and administrative positions. Work on the large project is to begin in 2022 and be completed by 2025.

“This is an example of our unique connection to industries that need the ‘right’ water recipe and supply,” Smith said. “Bourbon is another example: More than a dozen distillers use our water in their recipe.”

Smith said the filtration process used by many water utilities was developed at Louisville Water in 1896. Every day, the company conducts hundreds of tests in its Environmental Protection Agency-certified lab to ensure the quality and safety of its drinking water and provides an annual report on water quality to its customers.

The most recent Water Quality Report, published in May during the American Water Works Association’s Drinking Water Week, shows Louisville Water meets strict health requirements established by the EPA and maintains its long-standing tradition of excellent water quality.

“The theme of the week was ‘There When You Need It,’” Smith said. “And that rings true for Louisville Water customers, especially during this past year when water was vital to both handwashing and staying healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Public health is at the core of Louisville Water’s mission, Smith said.

Louisville Water has access to 75 billion gallons of water that flow by the city each day. On average, Louisville Water produces 119 million gallons of drinking water daily, which takes less than 1% of that flow. The company has the ability to double its daily production almost instantly, she said.

Louisville Water’s own service footprint includes more than 1,000 square miles and the six counties surrounding Jefferson. In addition, nine other water utilities purchase drinking water from Louisville Water and deliver it to their customers. More than 1 million people make up Louisville Water’s customer base, with 244,000 residences and 2,000 businesses.

To highlight the value and quality of its water, in 1997 the company trademarked its from-the-tap product: “Louisville Pure Tap.” The company is the only branded public water supplier to trademark its product. This spring, the Pure Tap logo was updated after a poll of customers and employees. Smith said the poll also showed:

  • Customers love the quality of the drinking water, giving it an 8.8 rating out of 10.
  • 73% consider the water a good value.
  • Awareness of the name Louisville Pure Tap is growing, with 74% recognizing the name compared to 55% in 2011.
  • 62% of customers say Pure Tap means “quality water.”
  • The company will market the updated logo on reusable bottles, cups, T-shirts and 75 bottle-refill stations around the city.
  • Out of 55,000 public U.S. water systems, Louisville Water’s treatment plants rank as two of the top 18 for outstanding water quality, Smith said.

“We’ve had great tasting water and been a progressive water utility for so long, we almost take it for granted,” she said. “Many cities, however, are extremely envious of both the quality and quantity of our water supply. It’s a huge part of what makes Louisville a great place to live as well as grow a business, because companies know they can count on a constant, affordable supply of water.”

LG&E/KU work to keep rates low and invest in Kentucky

For Louisville Gas and Electric Co. and Kentucky Utilities (LG&E/KU), making sure customers are being served efficiently and economically while also contributing to economic development in the community is their top priority – in other words, keeping rates low and investing in Kentucky.

“Through innovative programs and incentives, along with the tireless efforts of our business and economic development team, we’re proud to help empower business growth and expansion throughout Kentucky,” said Eileen Saunders, LG&E/KU vice president of customer services.

Throughout the global pandemic, the delivery of safe, reliable power has been more important than ever. With so many customers working and learning remotely, keeping additional groceries in the refrigerator and spending more time at home, customers’ reliance on ‘round-the-clock service – and LG&E and KU’s dedication to deliver it – has been essential.

LG&E serves customers in Louisville and 16 surrounding counties, while KU serves customers in 77 Kentucky counties.

At the onset of the pandemic, LG&E and KU suspended late fees, convenience charges and disconnects for non-payment. Though that initiative ended in June 2021, the utilities recently reaffirmed their commitment to helping customers connect with resources in the community for financial assistance or helping them spread out past-due balances with payment arrangements.

During the pandemic, the utilities supported COVID-19 relief efforts throughout Kentucky, encouraged economic recovery, and maintained planned infrastructure and technology enhancements to continue providing safe and reliable service.

Key to LG&E and KU’s system resiliency are ongoing investments in the utilities’ electric distribution and transmission systems. These include upgraded lines; replacing aging wooden poles with steel; new circuit breakers and substation equipment; cycle-based vegetation management; and advanced technology that immediately pinpoints the location of power outages – and in many cases, limits the impacted area and automatically restores service for all other customers. As a result, within the last decade, outage frequency and duration have been reduced by 20%, preventing more than 31 million outage minutes on the distribution system alone.

With a track record of reliable service for businesses both large and small as well as energy costs that are lower than most of the country, LG&E and KU are in a prime position to help attract new business.

Part of the PPL Corp. family of companies, LG&E and KU are regulated utilities that serve more than 1.3 million customers and have consistently ranked among the best companies for customer service in the U.S. LG&E serves 329,000 natural gas and 418,000 electric customers in Louisville and 16 surrounding counties, while KU serves 558,000 customers in 77 Kentucky counties and five counties in Virginia.

LG&E and KU encourage clean, renewable energy use with their Solar Share facility in Simpsonville that expanded this spring with the addition of 1,150 solar panels. Because of increased participation by customers, two more sections of the facility became fully subscribed, setting further construction plans in motion. With the new sections, which will consist of eight 500-kilowatt sections set to be completed by summer 2021, the Solar Share project will be 50% complete and cost customers as little as 20 cents a day.

By participating in the program, customers get the benefits from solar energy without having to pay the up-front and long-term expenses that come when installing and maintaining a private solar system. Since July 2019, the facility has produced more than 1.5 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy for participating customers.

More than 1,300 LG&E and KU residential customers are subscribed to Solar Share sections three and four combined, along with business customers that include Louisville-area nonprofit Center for Women and Families, Louisville-based printing and fulfillment services company V.G. Reed & Sons, and the Campbellsville division of global industrial services company Ingersoll Rand.

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