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Business ViewPoint: Oklahoma is a leader in Nation’s clean energy revolution

By Mark Yates, Vice President, Advanced Power Alliance

Mark Yates, Vice President, Advanced Power Alliance

An energy revolution is underway, and Oklahoma is leading the nation in clean, cheap homegrown power.

In only 15 years, Oklahoma has successfully recruited more than $20 billion in investment from the wind and solar power industry. Wind energy already meets 36% of Oklahoma’s daily electrical needs, sustaining jobs and investing millions in school districts and rural communities across our state.

We are there. We are a leader. And we’re just getting started.

As a central location in the United States, Oklahoma is the heart of the wind corridor. We are now No. 2 in the Nation for wind energy generation, and more investment is already in advanced stages of development.

With 56 wind farms stretching across 26 counties in western Oklahoma, the wind industry is a boon to our stagnant, rural economy. Landowners are now the recipients of $51 million in land lease payments every year and growing. In turn, ranchers have expanded operations, acquired more land, bought more equipment, raised more cattle, planted more seed, hired more hands and exported more commodities on behalf of the state of Oklahoma.

But the positive economic impact is being realized in Tulsa and across northeast Oklahoma through the successful attraction of mega-employers seeking access to abundant renewable power sources. Global corporations are signing long-term power purchase agreements with renewable energy producers to transition business operations to 100% clean energy.

Two of the visionary corporations at the forefront of U.S. renewable energy revolution are Google and Amazon, both of which are making significant capital investments in Oklahoma.

The Google Data Center in Pryor recently announced another $600 million investment in its facility. This expansion brings the company’s total investment to more than $3 billion and more than 500 employees.

Amazon has broken ground on Tulsa’s upcoming Amazon Distribution Center that, when complete, will equal a $130 million investment and represent 1,500 new jobs. In Oklahoma City, Amazon has opened a delivery center and is building a similar fulfillment center.

Kimberly-Clark recently expanded its pledge to power the company’s North American mills with renewable energy. A major employer in Jenks, Kimberly-Clark announced in March its $120 million investment to expand its facility and add more than 50 full-time jobs.

An Oklahoma wind farm made its nationwide debut during the Super Bowl when it was featured in Anheuser-Busch’s famous advertisements touting Budweiser is brewed with 100% renewable energy.

The impact of the national renewable energy revolution is also evident in everyday shopping among corporations such as Walmart, Target, Starbucks, Gap, Nike and Apple.

Even Oklahoma’s famous oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens announced he is swapping out one of its crude investment stock options for renewables, seeing an opportunity to transition stocks to a “low-carbon” economy.

Our state is known for “the best wind in the world,” and now that we have harnessed its power and reaped its economic benefits, we must continue to diversify our energy portfolio. Next, Oklahoma has significant opportunities on the horizon through the development of solar energy and the growing power storage industry.

Together, with our natural and abundant resources in wind, solar, hydro and natural gas, Oklahoma holds incredible potential to lead our Nation’s energy revolution with perpetual and infinite power sources.

This Business ViewPoint appeared in the Work & Money section of the Tulsa World on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019.

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For first time ever, renewables surpass coal in U.S. power mix

Tulsa World / June 26, 2019

For first time ever, renewables surpass coal in U.S. power mix

For the clearest sign yet that renewable energy has gone mainstream, consider this: Clean energy resources supplied more of America’s electricity than coal for the first time ever in April.

Hydropower dams, solar panels and wind turbines generated almost 68.5 million megawatt-hours of power in April, eclipsing the 60 million that coal produced that month, Energy Information Administration data released late Tuesday show. That’s the most clean power the U.S. has ever made – and the least coal it has burned for power in years.

The shift is a testament to the rapid development of solar and wind farms across the country. The two forms of power have become so cheap to build that BloombergNEF is projecting that half of the world’s power may come from renewable energy by 2050. The onslaught of clean power is coming largely at the expense of coal, which only a decade ago supplied more electricity in the U.S. than anything else. The mining industry is collapsing even as President Donald Trump works to restore coal to its former glory by gutting environmental rules.

The clean energy industry should enjoy this moment while it lasts. One of the main reasons coal-fired power plants produced so little in April was because some were down for routine, springtime maintenance. Coal is forecast to return to its perch as the second-biggest source of electricity — after natural gas — as those units return to service and demand peaks this summer.

But the trend is clear: Renewable energy will continue to eclipse coal in future months as more wind and solar farms are deployed, EIA’s forecasts show.

(Michael R. Bloomberg, the founder and majority stakeholder of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, has committed $500 million to launch Beyond Carbon, a campaign aimed at closing the remaining coal-powered plants in the U.S. by 2030 and slowing the construction of new gas plants.)

Oklahoma Gas and Electric customers paid the lowest retail rates in the country for electricity in 2018, report states

Oklahoma Gas and Electric customers paid the lowest retail rates in the country for electricity in 2018, report states

The Oklahoman / by Jack Money

Oklahoma Gas & Electric’s retail electricity rates in 2018 were lowest in the country among major investor-owned utilities, a report issued this month states.

The report, issued by S&P Global Market Intelligence, also states Oklahomans on average enjoyed some of the lowest retail electric prices in the country.

The average retail rate an OG&E customer paid during the year was 7.31 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), the report states. The calculation was made by averaging rates residential, commercial and industrial users paid for their power, plus accounting for the number of customers the utility served in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

On Thursday, utility officials agreed power providers in this part of the country are blessed with multiple sources of energy that help keep power prices affordable.

But they added this month’s report also should be recognized as proof that OG&E’s hard work to control costs has paid off as it has invested billions of dollars in its operations to reduce emissions, increase reliability rates and elevate customer satisfaction levels.

The goal behind all those efforts, they said, is to bring new businesses and jobs into its service area, benefiting both the utility and the communities it serves.

“It is essential that we do our part to provide the lowest reasonable rates that we can,” said Brian Alford, a spokesman for the utility.

Ken Miller, OG&E’s vice president of state regulatory and legislative affairs and Emily Shuart, the utility’s director of regulatory relations and compliance, also commented on the study’s findings.

“The company really does live its mission to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy,” Miller said. “When our customers do well, we do well, and that is how we grow.”

As to the nearly $6 billion OG&E has invested since 2011 to improve its emissions profile and efficiencies, Miller and Shuart noted the company had kept rates largely unchanged in Oklahoma throughout that process.

“That seems counter intuitive,” Miller said, “but those investments have kept our aging infrastructure more productive and efficient.”

Shuart agreed.

“Our management continues to push us to be innovative and look out for the customer while seeing what we can do next,” she said. “A key part of that is trying to keep rates down while still delivering a premium product to our customers.”

The study showed that average retail prices for electricity on a statewide basis in 2018 ranged from 29.07 cents per kWh in Hawaii to 7.38 cents per kWh in Arkansas, a state where OG&E also provides retail power to customers.

Besides Arkansas, the next four lowest priced states were Texas, at 7.39 cents per kWh, Louisiana, at 7.51 cents per kWh, Oklahoma, at 7.55 cents per kWh and Wyoming, at 7.66 cents per kWh.

As OG&E officials said, having multiple energy sources certainly can help moderate average retail prices.

The utility uses coal, natural gas, wind and solar to generate power for customers that take energy from the Southwest Power Pool’s regional grid.

Much of what it generates is consumed by its customers and by other Oklahomans.

Loyd Drain, an Oklahoma-based renewable energy consultant, also pointed out that cheap natural gas, which OG&E uses to generate much of its power, also helped its 2018 performance.

Plus, customers across Oklahoma and all or parts of 14 other states also benefit from SPP’s power market, which estimates power requirements a day before the energy is needed and dispatches the most affordable, reliable energy to meet those needs.

“Oklahoma is blessed, as are a lot of states, with the mix of resources that are available,” Drain said this week. “To me, the good news going forward is the commodity portion of our electric bill is going to continue to decline along with wind and solar prices.

“That is all good stuff. because it saves consumers money they can use in turn to buy goods and services to boost the economy.”

Click here to view this story online at The Oklahoman.