Since the creation of competitive electricity markets over 20 years ago, competitive power suppliers have driven progress for energy customers and the environment. This Competitive Power Spotlight explores leading independent energy company Tenaska’s efforts to invest in and operate some of the nation’s cleanest power facilities while supporting reliability. Tenaska demonstrates that private investment in competitive power markets can solve the nation’s most critical energy challenges.
Westmoreland Generating Station. Credit: Tenaska
“Our reputation is our company treasure to be protected at all times.” – Howard Hawks, Co-Founder and Chairman, Tenaska
As the United States continues its efforts to decarbonize the electric grid while maintaining a reliable power supply under increasingly extreme conditions, electricity generators throughout the country are proving that both these challenges can be met, while mitigating consumer costs, through competitive power markets. EPSA member company Tenaska, a privately-owned independent energy company based in Omaha, Nebraska, has a more than 35-year history of building and operating reliable and increasingly clean power generation resources through private investment – with most all of its new development efforts currently focused on renewable generation solutions and carbon reduction.
Today, Tenaska and its partners own and operate 12 natural gas, solar, and wind energy facilities, comprising approximately 7,580 MW of generation capacity across 10 states and seven independent system operators throughout the U.S., including the California Independent System Operator, the Electric Reliability Corporation of Texas, the Southwest Power Pool, the Midwest Independent System Operator, SERC, PJM Interconnection, and ISO-New England.
Since its inception in 1987, Tenaska has developed, managed, owned and operated approximately 22,000 MW of generation projects that historically rank among the cleanest and best operated of their kind, according to the MJ Bradley & Associates Benchmarking Air Emissions of the 100 Largest Power Producers in the United States.
Working to reduce power sector emissions
Tenaska has always prioritized managing and operating its plants with a focus on safety, reliability, and sensitivity to the physical and cultural environment around them. Today, Tenaska is taking that commitment further by providing growth capital to a growing portfolio of new sustainable and innovative startups that drive advancement and efficiency.
One of these initiatives, Tenaska Marketing Ventures (TMV), is focused on anticipating and developing innovative, tailored solutions to meet customer needs. This includes developing a renewable natural gas (RNG) and carbon offset strategy to support customers’ carbon reduction goals through RNG opportunities and other cleaner gas alternatives.
Another, Tenaska Power Services (TPS) Renewable Energy Advisory, is helping customers reach their sustainability goals through education, analytics, and procurement of renewable virtual and physical power purchase agreements, including behind-the-meter generation. TPS designed, developed, and manages the innovative renewables-focused ORIGEN™ system to optimize energy and ancillary service market offers for stand-alone storage and hybrid solar and storage resources.
Staying at the cutting edge of clean energy through innovation
Since 2005, Tenaska has developed and constructed five new power plants, four of which are emission-free solar and wind facilities:
- Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South, a 130 MW solar facility in California’s Imperial Valley
- Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center West, a 150 MW solar facility in California’s Imperial Valley
- Tenaska Clear Creek Energy Center, a 242 MW wind facility in northwest Missouri
- Nobles 2 Power Partners, a 250 MW wind facility in southwest Minnesota
Its Westmoreland Generating Station, which became operational in 2018, is a 940 MW natural gas-fueled combined cycle facility located in Pennsylvania, part of the PJM Interconnection footprint. While providing necessary dispatchable natural gas generation capacity needed to meet reliability requirements, the Westmoreland Generating Station is among the most fuel- and carbon-efficient power plants in the country, emitting less CO2 emissions in lb./MWh generated and achieving a lower heat rate than over 90% of fossil-fueled plants in the U.S.
Today, the vast majority of Tenaska project development efforts focus on renewable generation and carbon reduction, providing development services for a combined total of approximately 22,000 MW of solar, wind, and storage projects across the U.S. These include a pipeline of:
- Over 14,000 MW of solar projects,
- Approximately 700 MW of wind projects,
- Approximately 7,300 MW pipeline of battery storage projects, and
- Carbon sequestration projects that will transport and sequester up to 15 million metric tons of CO2.
Tenaska stays engaged and educated on emerging technologies and how technological advancements are changing markets and business models. The company monitors and invests in distributed energy, cybersecurity, micro-grid technology, data analytics, and electric vehicle and charging infrastructure, and more.
How competitive markets make these projects possible and benefit consumers
As one of the first entrants into competitive markets, Tenaska has been provided the opportunity and transparency necessary for independent power producers to: (1) evaluate regional/market needs; (2) consider what projects, products and services meet those needs; (3) explore opportunities; and (4) tailor resources to meet specific customer and market needs. None of these projects would have been built by Tenaska absent the competitive market construct – leaving electricity needs to be met by ratepayer funded utility projects that put the investment risk on customers.
Energy consumers receive significant benefits from competitive power markets. Competition promotes transparency and lower energy costs and rates. It also drives innovation, energy diversity, and reliability as the nation’s grid adapts to changing energy needs and expectations.
Building strong communities
Competitive investment also benefits communities and the economy beyond just reducing the need for tax or ratepayer funded power generation. Tenaska is strongly committed to the communities where it operates. In local governments and infrastructure improvements, the company’s privately funded projects create jobs that are critical to local economies. Additionally, Tenaska has contributed $900,000 in scholarship funds to more than 900 college-bound students. Tenaska employees have also contributed thousands of volunteer hours for community projects and hundreds of thousands of dollars to support for community programs, food banks, and United Way.
Keeping an eye toward the future
Tenaska has always placed a priority on understanding and meeting its customers’ and partners’ needs as the energy industry has evolved. As energy markets change and technologies continue to advance, Tenaska will continue to develop, own, and operate solar, wind, and highly efficient natural gas power plants. It will continue to leverage the knowledge and expertise gained over 35 years working in the power and natural gas industries to help its customers and partners strategically manage and optimize their energy needs. This ranges from providing renewable and natural gas power plant siting, transmission interconnection, permitting, financing, and construction management services to further innovating, expanding, and evolving power and gas marketing affiliates’ footprints and offerings.
This holistic approach will also continue to inform Tenaska’s energy innovation investment initiatives, aimed at providing capital to business opportunities with the potential to transform the energy industry.
What is Tenaska most excited about?
“Operating at the intersection of sustainability, reliability, and resiliency, Tenaska is putting its extensive market knowledge and proven development capabilities to work promoting grid reliability and clean, sustainable energy solutions,” said Chris Leitner, President, Tenaska Strategic Development and Acquisitions. “The company’s 35-year record of success reflects its ability to grow promising and innovative energy businesses with the potential to transform the market.”
Stay tuned for more special projects, new acquisitions and community outreach by competitive power suppliers propelling our power grid forward, and learn more about how competition makes it possible.