Evansville to buy more renewable energy under utility deal

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Ashley McCallum
Wednesday, August 9, 2017

EVANSVILLEWhen Evansville residents flip their power switches in 2018, they won’t immediately notice they are helping reduce carbon emissions.

But thanks to a recent agreement between Evansville Water and Light’s power supplier, WPPI Energy, and power-generation company Invenergy, they will be doing exactly that.

WPPI Energy has agreed to buy energy from Invenergy’s new Bishop Hill III Wind Energy Center in Henry County, Illinois, once it becomes operational in 2018, according to a news release.

That will double the energy WPPI receives from wind resources, making its power supply more than 40 percent carbon emission-free, according to the release.

As a result, Evansville will receive 20 percent of its renewable energy from Bishop Hill, according to the release.

Evansville utility customers won’t see immediate changes in their energy services, said Ian Rigg, city administrator. The deal's benefits will play out over time.

Using renewable resources reduces the city’s dependence on natural resources and their changing markets, Rigg said. City officials then can better predict and plan energy costs, which makes energy rates more stable.

The city encourages residents to use less energy, a stark contrast from 30 years ago, Rigg said.

“We want people to use less energy because every time we have greater demand, the more (power) you have to actually produce,” Rigg said.

When energy use fluctuates wildly, costs increase over time because of higher demand and cost for maintenance, Rigg said.

The new agreement between WPPI and Invenergy will help stabilize those highs and lows with help from renewable energy, he said.

Councilman Jim Brooks, a member of WPPI’s board of directors, said his constituents have responded positively to conservation and green energy efforts.

“I can’t think of a single constituent of mine that would say they really wish we were burning more coal,” Brooks said. “I think, especially in Evansville, the push for renewable is strong.”

WPPI Energy is a joint-action, nonprofit, regional power company, Brooks said.

Each of the 51 municipalities served by WPPI has a director and an alternate on the company’s board of directors, Brooks said, so each had a say in the decision to buy energy from Bishop Hill.

Brooks supports the use of renewable energy in Evansville because it makes the city less vulnerable if major changes occur to gas or coal markets.

The public energy company also provides services to help communities lower utility costs, such as air conditioning tune-ups, tree planting programs and others, Brooks said.

“We get benefits from WPPI Energy in our stake far beyond just turning on the switch and the lights come on,” he said.

Brodhead Water and Light also uses WPPI Energy as its electricity provider, according to the power company’s member directory. The Gazette was unable to reach Brodhead officials for comment on the agreement.

Brodhead and Evansville are the only municipalities in Rock and Walworth counties to use a joint-action agency for power supply, according to the American Public Power Association.

In Green County, New Glarus is also a member of WPPI.

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