By Abby Laub
Central Kentucky’s traditionally low energy costs create yet another appealing factor for both commercial and residential development and business.
According to a cost report released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration in 2015, Kentucky’s average retail price was listed at 7.26 cents per kilowatt-hour – lowest in the eastern United States and fifth lowest in the country.
The state’s coal production is a big reason costs are so low. Only West Virginia and Wyoming topped Kentucky’s coal output of 61.4 million tons in 2015. Despite still being third in production, Kentucky’s coal numbers are down. Other natural resources are filling in U.S. energy needs with falling coal production influenced primarily by competition from newly cheap and plentiful natural gas as well as available inventory and environmental regulations.
Last June, LG&E and KU unveiled its 10-megawatt solar power generation array at its E.W. Brown Generating Station in Burgin in Mercer County. It is the state’s first solar power facility, and KU officials estimate the 44,000 solar panels can produce 19,000 megawatt-hours of energy annually, enough to power 1,500 homes.
Another innovative undertaking LG&E and KU initiated recently is the state’s first natural gas combined cycle generating unit, Cane Run 7, located on the Ohio River southwest of Louisville. The plant generates electricity through two gas turbines and additionally uses the exhaust heat from those units to generate more electricity via a steam turbine. The single NGCC unit replaced the bulk of 800 megawatts of coal-fired generation retired to comply with environmental mandates.
Last summer Kentucky Utilities earned top honors in customer satisfaction from J.D. Power market researching. The recognition came via the 2016 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Survey, which collected responses from interviews conducted in four phases – from July 2015 through May 2016 – with residential customers of 137 large and mid-size electric utility brands across the United States. The sampling represents 101,138 households throughout the nation.
Other utilities in Central Kentucky include Winchester-based East Kentucky Power Cooperative, a 16 owner-member cooperative. It was founded in 1941 and generates electricity for 530,000 commercial and residential customers in 87 counties. Columbia Gas services 135,000 customers in 30 counties.
Kentucky American Water, a subsidiary of investor-owned American Water, provides water to 128,000 customers in 11 counties, including Fayette. The company also is involved in bettering the communities it’s involved in; in May 2017 it announced four Kentucky projects earned financial support from the 2017 American Water Environmental Grant Program. Projects coordinated by the City of Winchester, Friends of Parks in Fayette County, the Licking River Watershed Watch, and The Nature Conservancy received a share of grant funds totaling $13,700. Since the grant program’s inception in 2006, Kentucky American Water has awarded more than $187,000 in grant funds to area organizations making a difference to protect and preserve Kentucky watersheds and highlight the importance of water.
Lexington and Kentucky American Water currently are undergoing another round of projects to replace aged water mains. The upgrades will enhance hydraulic capacity in mains and eliminate discolored water caused by natural buildup in pipes that occurs over time.
The company also is investing $1.5 million in a project designed to enhance water pressure and service for nearly 8,000 customers in southeastern Fayette County. Customers in the affected area will see, on average, an increase in their water pressure of 30 pounds per square inch (psi) over the next several months. In some cases that translates to enabling tasks such as filling bathtubs and the washing machine to go quicker.