After a year of study and analysis, Florida public power utility Gainesville Regional Utilities on Feb. 7 presented the preliminary results of its most recent Integrated Resource Plan during the GRU Authority meeting.
While evaluating the IRP over the next several months, GRU will weigh many factors, including cost, timing and evolving technologies as it comes up with a plan to prioritize meeting future power needs while also lessening the financial burden on customers and stabilizing the utility’s financial picture.
“We’re excited to bring the IRP to the GRU Authority for further evaluation,” said GRU CEO/GM Tony Cunningham prior to the meeting. “The IRP plays an influential role in determining GRU’s future energy portfolio and in helping determine how we can provide affordable and reliable power to our customers for years to come.”
An IRP is a planning tool used by utilities to study different options to meet future energy needs. GRU conducts an IRP every three to five years to ensure it is keeping up with the safest, most reliable and affordable technology.
As with the utility’s last IRP in 2019, GRU worked with experts from The Energy Authority, which has conducted more than 20 IRPs for municipal utilities.
TEA ran several different computer models that solve for the lowest cost while still accounting for projected energy usage and other predetermined inputs. The result is a “baseline” scenario, GRU noted.
Preliminary results from this scenario are similar to IRPs conducted throughout the industry and show the following:
- The most cost-effective solution to GRU’s future power needs is a diverse mix of natural gas, solar and batteries.
- GRU may be able to defer large capital investments by delaying the retirement of two gas turbines at the Deerhaven Generation Station.
- Generating power locally and internally is the most cost-effective alternative.
- GRU will need additional resources within three to four years.
At the meeting, Eric Walters, Interim Chief Sustainability Officer at GRU, noted that “with this IRP, we really wanted to do a couple of things.”
Specifically, he said the utility wanted to protect the integrity of the process. He said, “Everybody’s heard the phrase garbage in, garbage out. You put bad information in you get bad information out of a model and we did not want to do that,” he said.
“Another thing we did not want to do is we did not want to predetermine the outcomes of any of these studies,” Walters said.
Moreover, GRU did not want a “bias against or for any kind of technology,” he said.
Mark Anderson, Account Director at TEA, also made remarks at the Feb. 7 meeting. Anderson works as a liaison between TEA and GRU.
In his presentation, he described TEA and the services it provides to public power utilities “and what we ultimately see in the marketplace.”
TEA is a public power-owned, nonprofit corporation with offices in Jacksonville, Florida and Bellevue (Seattle), Washington.
“As a national portfolio management company, we evaluate challenges, manage risks and execute solutions to help our clients maximize the value of their assets and meet their goals in a cost effective manner,” it notes on its website.
IRP Process Began in January 2023
GRU began its IRP process in January 2023.
Unlike in previous iterations, GRU has sought community feedback throughout by holding frequent meetings with utility customers and a Stakeholder Advisory Group made up of representatives from local businesses and organizations.
GRU did not take the city’s 2018 net-zero carbon resolution into consideration for its baseline scenario, however, almost all computer models reduce GRU’s 2005 CO2 emissions levels by 75 percent or more.
The next steps are to finalize results, develop a preferred resource plan, an action plan and a final IRP report.
Visit gru.com/IRP for more information.