We embrace innovation, develop efficiencies and pursue environmental stewardship for future generations.
New Grinnell Operations Center brings efficiencies
With a plan to co-locate Iowa employees in Newton and Grinnell in the works, the announcement of the English Farms Wind Farm to be located nearby provided the perfect opportunity to bring electric and natural gas crews and wind farm technicians under one roof. Our new operations center in Grinnell, Iowa, is a regional hub that enables us to serve our customers, whether they rely on wind, electric or natural gas. By bringing everyone in the zone together under one roof, we reduce our environmental footprint, save on operating costs and encourage collaboration.
With cost-effective, sustainable construction techniques, this facility is a model for future buildings that reduce long-term maintenance costs. This project’s sustainability features were included in our wind farm Envision™ projects that received Platinum level of achievement. Local sourcing was used for 95% of the material on the project, and 50% of materials used are recycled or reclaimed. The new operations center includes low-flow toilets and water faucets and motion-sensing lights. Natural plants and drought-resistant grasses were planted to eliminate the need for irrigation. These native prairie plantings offer a public walking trail to both our employees and for the community. An ice melt system also provides employee safety near the facility entranceways.
Innovative work space maximizes collaboration
An area of our Madison office has undergone a transformation, spurring fresh thinking and encouraging strong, effective teamwork. More flexible work space equals greater employee collaboration. This means getting answers and making decisions faster. The energy industry is experiencing rapid change, and collaboration allows us to be more customer-focused. Employee input was critical in shaping the design of the new space. The latest technology and efficiency measures were integrated throughout the facility to boost sustainability.
Going digital results in cost savings
We continue to make small changes in the way we do business that are adding up to big cost savings for our customers and enhancing our sustainability.
In 2018 as part of our “go digital” initiative, we transitioned to unstaffed mail centers. Starting in 2019, we are projecting to save $4 million annually. This includes all costs that were allocated through the Mail Center, such as postage, staff, shipping expenses and paper. It also takes into account changes to the Digital Print Center and printer reductions.
This effort is continuing to spread throughout our company. Our business units are transitioning to more paperless processes and factoring in digital options for decisions to be more cost and environmentally conscious.
Self-service tools increase efficiency
Our customers can text us or use our interactive online outage map to report their outages. They receive alerts when their bills are ready to be paid in our online portal. They manage their accounts on the go through our mobile app.
Self-service options like these are a win for everyone: Customers get the answers they need more quickly. Costs go down as inbound calls decrease. The environment benefits as bills are delivered digitally, instead of on paper.
Each self-service experience is an opportunity to meet our customers’ evolving needs in efficient and innovative ways.
Quick response saves lives
While smart meters are intended to provide an outage alert, our system also has improved public safety. In early 2019, we were alerted to an electrical outage and found that there was a bigger problem: the home had collapsed from a propane explosion. Our employee assessed the situation and called 911 to get help. The trapped couple were safely rescued.
Advanced metering infrastructure enhances operations
We expect to complete installing smart meters in Iowa by the end of 2019. We’ve been operating smart meters for our Wisconsin customers for more than a decade. In addition to providing improved customer service, this will also enable easier integration of renewable energy and battery storage options. Collecting meter readings wirelessly is safer for our employees and more sustainable. Using this technology reduces costs and vehicle emissions because customer properties won’t need to be visited monthly.
Smart meters and related system improvements detect outages faster and will provide customers with better service. Smart meters are an industry standard, with roughly 65 million currently in place, this technology is in more than 50% of households nationally.
Investing in grid reliability and security
We are evolving our energy system to one that enables more customer control and promotes growth in the communities we serve. One way we’re making the power grid more reliable and secure is by putting more equipment underground. We’re also installing stronger power poles, larger wires and more robust equipment.
We’re optimizing our grid to enable the new two-way flow of energy and information. An interactive power grid reduces the frequency and duration of outages – and improves the integration of new technologies like renewable energy, battery storage and electric vehicles.
Electric grid pilot projects improve customer service
We are testing digital technology with a Fault Location Isolation and Service Restoration (FLISR) device that works to identify faults on our power grid. Using this FLISR device allows us to isolate faulty segments and restore power faster when there is an outage. As a result, customers spend far less time without power, and there’s dramatically less damage to our equipment, which translates into cost savings.
So far, this technology has outperformed expectations during our pilot projects. One example occurred in spring 2019 with an outage in Janesville, Wisconsin, on a circuit with the FLISR technology. The device worked autonomously to locate the fault, reroute the electricity and restore customers in 62 seconds. Other impacted circuits without FLISR had crews respond to restore service in about 25 minutes.
Fiber optic cable creates digital energy highways
We’re installing fiber optic cable as our preferred network backbone because operating the grid of the future will be far more data-intensive. This will create better and stronger digital highways between our facilities. Our plans also consider improving energy services to the large rural portions of our service area where consistent high-speed network access is challenging.
Building our own fiber network will give us improved connectivity and significantly better download speeds. Our fiber network will also help us support and accelerate adoption of new technology, set the stage for new economic development and support more opportunities to provide new customer solutions.
Battery tests energy storage performance
Located at our Madison Headquarters is a 280-kilowatt battery energy storage system. The system captures solar energy generated on-site. Through the end of 2018, the cumulative energy generated from our solar garden exceeded one million kilowatt-hours. We are testing how to most effectively use the stored power. Learn more at alliantenergy.com/solar.
Leading by example, 40 of our employees own plug-in electric vehicles.
We’re electrifying our company to reduce emissions
- 44 Level 2 charging ports
- 2 Level 3 fast-charging stations
- 9 plug-in hybrid electric fleet vehicles
- 7 hybrid fleet vehicles
- 1 battery electric fleet vehicle
- 41 hybrid electric aerial bucket lifts for utility trucks
- 36 electric forklifts
- 5 electric ATVs
- 2 electric pullers
We are continuing to support electric technology adoption by sponsoring various customer rebates and incentives.
Alliant Energy’s 2018 customer electrification results:
- 315 residential customer rebates toward plug-in EVs or Level 2 EV charging ports
- 15 non-residential customer rebates resulting in 47 additional Level 2 EV charging ports
- Rebates supporting electrification for 84 forklifts
- Estimated annual electric load growth totaled 2 million kilowatt-hours from off-road electrification
Integration strengthens security programs
As cyber and physical threats grow, we are focused on the security, reliability and resiliency of the energy grid and our data systems. In 2018, our company established an Integrated Security Operations Center where our cyber and physical security teams now work side by side. This facility also includes a dedicated Emergency Operations Center. Workplace violence tabletop exercises were also a key focus, with 156 sessions held across our service area covering over 90% of employees. In addition, a new emergency mass notification system with companywide text alerts was implemented.
We continue to evolve our programs and response strategies to improve our situational awareness, proactively reduce risks and ensure that we are ready to respond to events beyond our control. An integral part of our programs includes having protocol in place to address cyber and physical breaches and threats. These protocols are drilled routinely and are handled according to our Incident Response Plans.
Our organization is strongly involved with the Edison Electric Institute’s Mutual Assistance Program, which affords us additional resources in times of need and allows us to reciprocate as good neighbors in exchange. We continually engage with our governments and our industry partners to ensure there are active lines of communication and partnership in preparedness. In 2019, we will once again participate in GridEx, a national utility-focused incident response drill.
Advocacy creates better energy policies
Strategic legislative and regulatory alignment is crucial to our ability to deliver the energy solutions and exceptional service that our customers and communities count on in a rapidly evolving energy industry. Alliant Energy advocates at the federal, state and local levels for policies that enable our company to provide reliable, affordable and clean energy to our customers and further the growth of our communities.
Our advocacy and political activities are governed by our Political Engagement Guidelines. The Nominating and Governance Committee of the Board of Directors provides oversight and regularly reviews our company’s participation in the political process. We comply with all laws, including those surrounding disclosure, lobbying activities, and political contributions or expenditures. The company is prohibited from making direct contributions to candidates for political office. However, our employees have the opportunity to engage with elected officials through Alliant Energy’s voluntary, nonpartisan political action program.
Our key advocacy areas include electrification, wind and solar energy, economic development, grid infrastructure modernization, regulatory efficiency, broadband deployment, and supporting programs for low-resource households.