The Village of Pioneer has a great deal of which to be proud. One aspect of our community that gives us a strategic advantage, helps improve the quality of life and is beneficial to our business environment is a public power community. We own and operate a municipal electric system literally giving ‘power to the people’ in terms of one of the most important aspects of our lives – electricity to power our homes and businesses.
Reliability is a critically important characteristic of an electric system. When the power is out, our lives are interrupted and commerce comes to a standstill. Unfortunately, realities like severe weather that are outside of anyone’s control make electric outages a fact of life; but in our public power community employees dedicated solely to our community make these outages shorter. Unlike other electric utilities, our team can focus on getting the lights back on in our community, rather than needing to prioritize a larger area. Additionally, when significant events cause widespread outages, we have access to a mutual aid network coordinated by American Municipal Power (AMP), which provides help from other public power communities to shorten outages. This benefit proved its worth last summer when severe thunderstorms caused widespread outages throughout the Midwest. Public power customers were returned to service much more quickly than those of other electric utility providers.
When we were young, we often heard the adage ‘don’t put all of your eggs in one basket’. That advice is critically important in terms of an electric distribution system. For many years we had the ability to obtain long-term, fixed-price contracts for power, but those opportunities disappeared with the advent of restructured electric markets. This left our community overexposed to a volatile market, which during the last 10 years has seen prices fluctuate between a low of less than $30 a megawatt-hour to nearly $90 a megawatt-hour. To maintain our ability to provide reliable, cost-competitive power we needed to develop a diversified power supply portfolio that includes participation in fixed-price generation assets and short-term market purchases. This combination allows our community to respond to market fluctuations, without being overexposed to upward swings. Through our partnership with AMP, Pioneer has the opportunity to participate in projects utilizing coal, natural gas, hydroelectric, wind, solar and landfill gas.
Our community makes the decision as to what projects make the most sense for our utility. Listed here are the projects Pioneer participates in with many other public power communities:
Fremont Energy Center
• Natural gas combine cycle, state-of-the-art, highly efficient. As a combined cycle plant the facility generates more power with the same amount of gas when compared to simple cycle
• Has outperformed projections since beginning commercial operation in January 2012
AMP Hydroelectric Projects
• A total of 300 MW under construction at four existing dams on the Ohio River, making it the largest deployment of new run-of-the-river hydro in the nation
• Fully financed at attractive rates
• Project reduces risk associated with future environmental regulatory actions
Prairie State Energy Campus
• State-of-the-art clean coal facility, one of the cleanest facilities of its type in the nation
• Mine mouth facility with 30 year supply of coal, eliminates risks associated with volatile coal market and cost/environmental impact of coal transportation
• Fully financed at attractive rates
• Unit 1 has outperformed projections since beginning commercial operation in June 2012. Unit 2 will begin commercial operation by year’s end
• Bring long-term cost stability and predictability
Belleville Hydroelectric Plant
• Run-of-the-river hydroelectric plant built at an existing dam on the Ohio River
• Commercial operation began in 1999
• Has outperformed original projections, cost of power is less than originally anticipated in feasibility study
• Owned by OMEGA JV5
AMP Wind Farm at Bowling Green
• Was Ohio’s first commercial-scale wind farm
• Facility has operated as expected since commercial operation began in 2003
• Emission free generation source
• Owned by OMEGA JV6
As a municipal utility, we are able to take a long-term approach to power supply planning. Since we do not have to pay quarterly dividends to investors, we can plan for the future and take advantage of strategies and assets that will stabilize our portfolio and rates for generations to come. The stability and predictability allows us to control our own destiny.
Our public power utility is an important economic development tool for our community. In public power communities, the utility and the village government are one and the same. It’s ‘one-stop shopping’. A business owner can speak with one voice about water, sewer, electric services, tax rates, etc. This helps identify matters that might become an issue and also provides an opportunity to share information on behalf of the community that the business (or prospective business) may not have considered.
This year Pioneer celebrates 100 years of local control. To celebrate we are offering a $100.00 electric rebate to each and every one of our customers. The hallmark of public power is that the utility is locally owned and locally controlled. Decisions regarding rates, operations and long-term planning are made by locally elected officials, at public meetings, with opportunities for input from customers. This is what separates a municipal electric system from an investor-owned utility, and it’s probably the most valuable aspect of public power.
If you have questions comments or concerns regarding your local electric utility please join us for a council meeting or contact Mayor Ed Kidston or Village Administrator Al Fiser.