Home » MRGLSI 2016: Utility companies are growing and getting creative

MRGLSI 2016: Utility companies are growing and getting creative

MRGLSI-2016-300x402By Katheran Wasson

When you’re searching for a city to open a business or expand an industry, few needs are as basic – and as crucial – as a strong infrastructure to deliver the utilities you’ll need.

Louisville has it in spades, from a power company making strides to modernize its sources of electricity to a water company that consistently ranks in the top 10 for quality and taste.

Cane Run station opens
The commonwealth’s first-of-its-kind natural gas combined-cycle generating unit officially came online in July 2015, at Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities’ Cane Run Generating Station in Louisville. It marked an historic changeover from the traditional coal-fired or hydro-generated electricity to a new energy source for making electricity.

The $545 million unit was more than two and one-half years in the making with more than 2 million construction hours.

The unit replaces the bulk of 800 megawatts of coal-fired generation as the company retired 13 percent of its energy production from coal-fired units. LG&E and KU announced the retirement plans in 2011 as the result of stricter U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandates, which, after a thorough analysis of available options, made building this new unit the most economical option to pursue.

“With this new facility, along with our coal, hydro and future solar plant, we have a more diversified portfolio of generation that will help us continue to meet our customer’s energy needs at some of the lowest costs in the nation,” said LG&E and KU Chairman, CEO and President Vic Staffieri.

The transition from coal to natural gas brought an end to three units of coal-fired generation at Cane Run that spanned more than six decades and pioneered award-winning, environmental technology for the utility industry – even prompting a visit from President Jimmy Carter in 1979.

Louisville Water grows into regional utility
As the Louisville region continues to grow, so does the footprint of Louisville Water Co. The utility now provides safe, high-quality drinking water to 850,000 people in the area. The company’s regionalization business has grown steadily; water sales to other providers have increased 27 percent in the last decade.
Currently, Louisville Water has wholesale contracts with water providers in Bullitt, Nelson, Shelby and Spencer counties. The company also operates the water treatment plant at River Ridge in Southern Indiana under a contract agreement, as well as the treatment plant on the Fort Knox base in Bullitt, Hardin and Meade counties.

Additional partners are on the horizon: Louisville Water has finished laying a water main that will deliver water to portions of Hardin County in 2017, and last December, the utility signed a wholesale contract with Shelbyville Water and Sewer to begin in 2019.

“Louisville Water produces 120 million gallons of water a day, but our plants can produce up to 200 million, so we have water to share,” said Kelly Dearing-Smith, strategic communications and government relations director for the utility, adding that up to 75 billion gallons of water flow by Louisville every day in the Ohio River.

“Industry-wide, water sales are flat – people are using low-flow fixtures, and we’re being smarter about our water footprint. So you don’t see the steady growth you did 20 years ago. Expanding our footprint helps us keep rates low for our customers.”

Water rates in Louisville are some of the lowest in the region. You can fill an eight-ounce glass 66 times for one penny, which means the average residential customer pays 75 cents a day for water service. This is key to industrial growth in the area, Dearing-Smith said, particularly the cluster of food and beverage companies and advanced manufacturing that calls the Louisville region home.


Besides quantity, quality is also a focus for Louisville Water, where the water is actually trademarked as Louisville Pure Tap.

“In Louisville, we can be a little snobby when it comes to tap water,” Dearing-Smith said. “Teenagers on Twitter were tweeting about how they were on spring break in Florida and they were missing the tap water back home.”

Atmos Energy

Columbia Gas of Kentucky

Delta Natural Gas Company

Equitable Gas

Hardin County Water District No. 1

Hardin County Water District No. 2

Kentucky American Water

LG&E and KU Energy

Louisville/Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District

Louisville Water Co.

Touchstone Energy Cooperatives