Home » Economic Outlook: Utilities — Systems Are Growing, Diversifying to Support Economic Development

Economic Outlook: Utilities — Systems Are Growing, Diversifying to Support Economic Development

By Mark Green

In a world reliant upon electricity, clean water and internet connectivity, the importance of the utilities sector can’t be understated.

John R. Crockett III, president of LG&E and KU, notes utilities are the driving force behind economic development efforts. Accordingly, grants are offered to assist communities with site development and bill credit offers to help launch investments.

“We have awarded 20 ‘Opportunity Kentucky’ grants across 18 counties within our service territories since inception in 2019,” he said. “Twelve of those grants were awarded in 2023 and totaled $906,000 of $1.7 million that is committed to assist the enhancement of the communities we serve.”

In September, LG&E and KU began providing electric and gas service to the Ford BlueOval SK Battery Park in Glendale, which involved constructing two transmission lines, a high-pressure natural gas pipeline extension, a gas metering and regulating facility, and two substations, Crockett said.

Though the company remains the largest purchaser of coal in Kentucky, the company is diversifying its energy portfolio following the retirement of two aging coal generation units and is using natural gas generation and solar energy toward its goal of becoming net zero by 2050.

Kelley Dearing Smith, vice president of strategic communications and marketing for Louisville Water Co., said a four-year project will be completed in 2024 that upgrades nearly 300,000 water meters for Louisville customers, giving customers real-time access to their water usage.

Additionally, the $139 million 2024 capital budget—$90 million of which supports infrastructure—addresses preventative maintenance, inspecting and replacing miles of water main annually using robotic technology to inspect some larger pipes.

Installation will begin in 2024 on nearly 36 miles of water mains supporting Ford’s investment in Kentucky, Dearing Smith said.

“One of the largest investments for Louisville Water right now is helping our partners in Nelson, Bullitt and Hardin counties provide water for the business growth that’s happening along the I-65 corridor with Ford’s BlueOval SK project and the bourbon industry expansion,” she said. “The improvements that are underway will provide up to 15 million gallons of additional drinking water to water providers in Nelson and Hardin Counties.”