Four electric cooperatives have won Top 10 utility awards from the Smart Electric Power Alliance for adding the most solar or energy storage to the grid in 2018.
“The utilities in the Top 10 are truly spearheading the progress we’ve seen in the electric sector this past year,” Julia Hamm, SEPA’s president and CEO, said earlier this month in announcing the awards. “They are implementing replicable business models and paving the way to a clean and modern energy future, something that won’t be possible without utilities’ leadership and cooperation.”
Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative in Lihue, Hawaii, ranked No. 1 among utilities that added the most watt-hours of energy storage per customer in 2018.
KIUC posted more than 3,000 watt-hours per customer, nearly six times more than the second-ranked utility, Sterling Municipal Light Department in Massachusetts. This is the second year that KIUC topped the list of storage watts per customer.
“The addition of the AES Lāwaʻi solar-plus-storage facility launched KIUC significantly forward in the rankings,” said KIUC President and CEO David Bissell. “Combined with the Tesla facility, which opened in 2017, we are now able to meet 40% of our evening peak with stored solar power.”
“We are encouraged by our results,” said Connexus Energy CEO Greg Ridderbusch, whose co-op is the largest in Minnesota and a Midwest leader in battery storage. “In the first eight months of operation, the batteries are performing as we expected.”
KIUC, Connexus and United Power also ranked in the top 10 for energy storage among utilities that added the most annual megawatt-hours. They made the list along with big investor-owned utilities, including Southern California Edison and Florida Power & Light Co. KIUC ranked second, Connexus ranked eighth and United Power ranked 10th.
“Despite being one of the smaller utilities on this list, we continue to be leaders in energy innovation in Colorado, among cooperatives, and when measured against some of the largest investor-owned utilities across the country,” said John Parker, CEO of United Power, which serves about 92,000 meters and operates two Tesla battery storage systems.
Two co-ops also made the Top 10 list for utilities that added the most watts per customer of solar in 2018. Chickasaw Electric Cooperative of Somerville, Tennessee, in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority, ranked seventh. KIUC also earned a spot on this list, ranking eighth.
SEPA chose its 2019 winners in early August from among more than 500 utilities that provided solar data and more than 200 that provided energy storage data in response to the alliance’s 12th Annual Utility Market Survey. Participants included investor-owned utilities, government-owned utilities and not-for-profit co-ops. They represent more than 82 million customer accounts in the U.S., or about 56% of all accounts, according to SEPA.
Many utilities find the awards helpful in applying for grants to fund other clean energy projects, according to SEPA’s website.
Editor’s Note: This story originally included five co-ops, but SEPA discovered an error in the way it had interpreted some storage data from Randolph Electric Membership Corp. in North Carolina, so that co-op has been removed from the Top 10 list.
Erin Kelly is a staff writer at NRECA.