Oklahoma’s low cost of electricity is directly related to economic development efforts to attract and expand businesses, the top executive of OGE Energy Corp. said.
Sean Trauschke, OGE Energy’s chairman, president and CEO, told attendees of the Oklahoma State University energy conference he views the company’s utility as integral to growing the economy.
“We are as much in the economic development business as we are in the electricity business,” said Trauschke, who said Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co.’s rates are 20 percent below the national average.
Among the newest large customers coming onto OG&E’s system are a steel mill in Durant and a paper mill in Fort Smith, Ark., executives said in an earnings call last week. The utility has 827,000 customers in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
“You’d be amazed at how important energy prices are to businesses looking to relocate here in the state. It’s huge. It’s a big component, especially if you’re in the manufacturing business,” Trauschke said.
Testing solar output
OG&E last summer unveiled a 2.5 megawatt solar farm, which it is using to test the characteristics of solar output. Trauschke said solar generation peaks in late afternoon are more aligned with the peak demands on the grid overall, at least for customers in Oklahoma.
The utility is replacing its aging Mustang plant in far western Oklahoma City with natural gas combustion turbines that can start within 10 minutes. That type of generating plant will complement wind generation in the Southwest Power Pool, which operates a wholesale electricity market for Oklahoma and 13 other states.