- OUC develops its first Administrative Policy Manual, written by Assistant General Manager Harry Luff.
- OUC celebrates 50th anniversary.
- New computer-based control center goes into operation at OUC’s Lake Highland Plant.
- OUC lays off 39 employees due to rate pressures resulting from the fuel crunch. This was the only layoff in the company’s history. Of the original group, 13 employees were later rehired.
- OUC helps launch the Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) — a non-profit joint action public agency formed by 30 municipal electric utilities.
- Charles J. Hawkins is elected first African-American President of OUC Board.
- OUC Water Operations purchases five water system plants.
- Grace Lindblom is elected first female OUC Board President.
- Curt Stanton retires at 65.
- Harry Luff becomes GM.
- OUC acquires Dr. Phillips Water System.
- OUC begins Home Energy Audit Program.
- Lake Highland Plant is retired.
- GM Harry Luff retires; Ted Pope is named General Manager.
- OUC launches “Proud to Serve Y.O.U.” employee initiative.
- Stanton Energy Center begins commercial operation.
- OUC introduces the use of mainframe computing.
- OUC opens first enclosed substation on Robinson Street in Downtown Orlando.
From an energy crisis ... to a heat wave and drought ... to a more competitive business climate, the 1970s and 1980s marked a period of both turbulence and growth for the energy and water industries. It was a perfect storm for brewing sweeping environmental regulation, including the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
For OUC, this era marked a period of historic expansion that would continue for more than three decades. Between 1978 and 1988, Orlando became the No. 1 destination for relocation in Florida, and the utility grew its customer base by a record 41 percent. In that same time period, OUC’s assets rose from $245 million to $1.2 billion as infrastructure was added to meet customers’ needs. Thanks to the opening of Walt Disney World® in 1971, Central Florida also became the nation’s top tourist destination; and Orlando International Airport grew to one of the busiest in the world. With increased development came a heightened urgency to find new ways to move data and communicate. As a result, this time period would see major developments in information technology as the world moved from mainframes to desktop computers.
In the midst of such transformative change, OUC faced a balancing act. To accommodate rapid growth, new environmental regulations and the need for fuel diversity, the utility added a series of new power plants, established energy and water partnerships, and significantly increased its water operation through acquisition of the Dr. Phillips Utilities, which served customers in southwest Orange County near the soon-to-be tourism corridor. OUC — like the region it served — was laying a foundation for the future. At the same time, it proved to be one of the strongest municipal utilities in the nation by being the first to receive an “AAA” rating on its bonds from a major rating agency in 1989.
From 1970 to 1989, the nation and Florida, in particular, experienced some of the most sweeping environmental regulation in history — impacting everything from the air we breathe and water we drink to the way water pollution is monitored and large-scale power generation projects are approved.
On the electric side, the establishment of the Clean Air Act resulted in a major shift in the government’s role in air pollution control, significantly expanding its enforcement authority. As a result of increased monitoring requirements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed to consolidate all environmental regulations and policies governing air, water and land under one agency.
On the water side, the amendment of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 and the enactment of the Safe Drinking Water Act set new standards for ensuring drinking water quality and protection of
our waterways from pollution. The EPA was given authority to set standards and oversee the state and local water suppliers who implement those standards.
In 1972, as a record heat wave hit Florida, emergency power cutbacks were invoked for at least 350 industries statewide, and a waiver was granted for generating-plant pollution standards. Orlando remained one of the few areas in the state able to operate with power reserves and to sell power to electricity-poor regions. Power consumption in Orlando was 350,000 kW, leaving OUC with 40,000 kW to market.
As a result of increased demand and the need to expedite power plant projects through the permitting process, the Florida Electric Power Plant Siting Act (PPSA) was passed in 1973, creating a centralized process for licensing large power plant projects.
From 1970 to 1989, more major environmental legislation was passed in the United States than in all the years before and after ... combined. Much of the regulation was geared to clean water and clean air — and, as such, it had a profound effect on utility companies. Following is a summary of those laws.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established in 1970 to consolidate into one agency a variety of federal research, monitoring, standard-setting and enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection. EPA’s mission is to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment — air, water and land.
- The Clean Air Act of 1970 (CAA) resulted in a major shift in the federal government’s role in air pollution control. This legislation authorized the development of comprehensive federal and state regulations to limit emissions from both stationary (industrial) and mobile sources. The enforcement authority was substantially expanded.
- 1972 Amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 were approved. Growing public awareness and concern for controlling water pollution led to sweeping amendments to the original law. New amendments to the Water Pollution Control Act
changed the thrust of enforcement of water quality standards, regulating the amount of pollutants in a given body of water, effluent limitations, and the amount of pollutants being discharged from particular point sources.
- The Florida Electric Power Plant Siting Act of 1973 (PPSA, ss. 403.501-.518) established the state’s centralized process for licensing large power plants via one certification that replaces local and state permits. Local governments and state agencies within whose jurisdiction the power plant is to be built participate in the process. Certification addresses permitting, land use and zoning, and property interests.
- The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 (SDWA) was enacted by Congress to protect the country’s public drinking water supply and ensure the quality of Americans’ drinking water. Under SDWA, the EPA sets drinking water standards and oversees the states, localities and water suppliers who implement those standards.
- 1977 Amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 (now referred to as the Clean Water Act), established the basic structure for regulating pollutants discharged into the waters of the U.S., giving EPA the authority to implement pollution-control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry.
- 1977 Amendments to the Clean Air Act of 1970 set major permit review requirements to ensure attainment and maintenance of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) established under the CAA of 1970.
- 1981 Amendments to the Clean Water Act streamlined the municipal construction grants process, improving the capabilities of treatment plants built under the program.
- 1986 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act required a number of actions to protect drinking water and its sources: rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs and groundwater wells.
- 1987 Amendments to the Clean Water Act phased out the construction grants program, replacing it with the State Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund, more commonly known as the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. This new funding strategy addressed water quality needs by building on EPA-state partnerships.
Florida Electric Power Coordinating Group Formed; Utilities Work Together to Lower Power Costs Through Economic Dispatch
In 1972, the Florida Electric Power Coordinating Group, Inc. (FCG) was formed to promote coordinated facilities, planning and transmission studies of all electric utilities in the state — including those that were investor-owned, as well as rural electric cooperatives and municipals. Although it was initially difficult to get an organization of competing utilities off the ground, FCG ultimately became a highly successful endeavor, benefiting all Florida electric customers by lowering power costs.This was accomplished through the economic dispatch of generating units and the establishment of power interchange brokering, which effectively achieved the objectives of a formal power pool without formal binding contracts.
Those close to the negotiations felt that Curt Stanton’s relationship with Marshall McDonald, the CEO of Florida Power & Light (FPL), was key to the successful establishment of FCG. Stanton and McDonald had known each other since college. The trust between the two men — one representing the largest investor-owned utility and the other, the second largest municipal utility in the state — allowed the parties to put their differences aside and work together in the best interest of Floridians. This was the first step toward creating a central economic dispatch where utilities coordinated outages and had a means of utilizing the most economical and efficient units first. It also enabled OUC to monitor transmission capacity and plan for growth.
OUC Instrumental in Creating Power-Brokering Software Programs
A leader in the region since interconnecting with other utilities in 1960, OUC was involved in a joint study with FCG to look at developing a power-brokering system that would allow utilities to make decisions on buying and selling power based on an hourly market. Prior to the study, all transactions were conducted over the phone between utilities, and there was no centralized information or level playing field. An FCG study found that conducting more transactions in the State of Florida on an hourly basis would benefit the state.
FCG and OUC’s Tom Washburn developed and implemented a new software system to enable hourly transactions. Called General Electric Time Sharing, the program utilized a server in Bethesda, Maryland, that was connected to each of the Florida utilities.
Going live in February 1979, it ran at 20 minutes before the hour, giving utilities a 40-minute window to input quotes. The program would print out a schedule for the next hour, matching the needs of the utilities to the available generation. Washburn said the new system met with great response, and Florida utilities saw an annual savings that ranged from $20 million to $40 million.
The power-brokering system was used until the 1990s when, in the face of deregulation, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) mandated that all utilities use the centralized Open Access Same-Time Information System (OASIS), an Internet-based system for obtaining services related to electric power transmission in North America.
In 1974, a new computer-based control center was placed into operation at the Lake Highland Plant. Using the latest computer technology, OUC continued to monitor and control all water plants from this one centralized location. Featuring a console with monitors, the new center enabled a single operator to view the operational status of all OUC plants and elevated tanks, as well as switches to turn pumps and equipment on and off. New software facilitated monitoring and control functionality, and collected and stored historical data that could be used to prepare reports and analyze the operation of the system. The control center was staffed with an operator 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As the demand for new water and electric production increased, so did the need for funds to finance these projects. In the early ‘70s, OUC began to evaluate its financial operations from cash flow management and rate making to how it financed investments in infrastructure.
With the help of an accounting firm, an electric and water rate-making system was established that allowed OUC to strike a balance between financing growth and providing affordable rates. As an outgrowth of these activities, OUC began using corporate financial modeling to forecast
long-range capital needs and study the impact of major system expansion on rates. The utility also began to enlist financial experts to assist the organization in obtaining the lowest possible interest rates on new bond issues and refinancing older bonds.
In 1979, Orange County Circuit Judge William C. Gridley ruled that OUC’s rates are “fair and conscientious and openly set.” The ruling was in response to a class action suit by Rosalind Holding Co. alleging that the Commission had overcharged customers since 1970. An appeals court upheld the 1979 ruling on the Rosalind Case and fairness of OUC’s rates.
From an energy and economic standpoint, the 1970s were in perpetual crisis. In October of 1973 — as a result of the Yom Kippur war that had begun earlier in the month — the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) declared an embargo on oil exports to the United States.
The embargo swiftly was followed by a steep hike in oil prices and was accompanied by a decision to cut production. By 1974, the price of oil had quadrupled. Those events, coupled with mounting instability in the Middle East, prompted the U.S. to take a number of initiatives to reduce dependence on foreign oil.
In Orlando, the fuel crunch prompted OUC to turn off building lights at night and the City to cancel Christmas lighting. The energy crisis also brought about large increases in the cost of fuel oil and gas for OUC’s plants. It became increasingly clear that, going forward, the utility should do everything possible to obtain diversity in its fuel supply by moving to nuclear and coal, which would provide fuel flexibility and enable OUC to use the most economical source of fuel at any given time. With that in mind, negotiations began with Florida Power Corp. and Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) for small ownership interest in nuclear plants that were under construction.
In 1977, OUC made its first foray into coal by becoming co-owners with the City of Lakeland on the McIntosh Unit 3 Power Plant, a coal-fired generating station. It was the first time in the history of Florida that non-contiguous electric systems jointly owned generation. And, it was an important milestone because it enabled two smaller systems to obtain economies of scale and increased plant efficiency that would not have been possible with either system acting alone.
The joint venture required OUC to build a transmission line from Orlando to Lakeland — not only allowing the two entities to partner, but also providing access to Tampa Electric’s Lakeland-to-Tampa transmission lines, thus opening up that route for power sales. The McIntosh plant would come online in 1981, providing OUC with 134 MW of coal-fired generation.
OUC Invests in Nuclear Generation
To further diversify its fuel mix, in 1977, OUC bought a 1.6 percent interest in its first nuclear project: the Crystal River 3 Nuclear Plant. Three years later, the utility agreed to buy a 6 percent interest in the St. Lucie 2 nuclear generating plant being built by FPL. OUC received about 48 MW from the plant, which would come online in 1983.
Charles J. Hawkins became the first black President of the OUC Board. According to the June 8, 1980 issue of Florida Magazine, he is believed to be the first African-American in the U.S. to become head of a major utilities commission.
Grace Lindblom was elected as the first female OUC Board President in 1981, becoming the first woman to head a utility in the state.
The most significant change to the OUC water operations that occurred during the 1980s was the purchase of five developer-built water system plants from Orange County in 1980 and the acquisition of the Dr. Phillips water system in 1983. Through the Dr. Phillips purchase, OUC added 12 square miles of new service territory along with an established customer base and existing water system infrastructure. The Dr. Phillips water system was owned and operated by Dr. Phillips Utilities, a private company formed to provide water and wastewater service to an area in southwest Orange County that started to be developed in the early 1960s, as citrus groves gave way to residential homes and shopping centers. The Dr. Phillips name was linked to the area in recognition of a man who was a pioneer in the Central Florida citrus industry and grew citrus on the land before it was sold to developers.
The newly acquired area was bordered on the west by the Butler Chain of Lakes, on the east by Turkey Lake Road, on the north by Conroy-Windermere Road, and on the south by a westerly extension of State Road 528.
Bay Hill, a prominent residential development surrounding Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Golf Club, and Orange Tree, a residential/golf course community, were two of the premier developments in the Dr. Phillips area acquired by OUC.
“Orlando Utilities Commission has a long and enviable record of good management and outstanding service to its customers at reasonable rates. We are confident that the Dr. Phillips community will be assured of the proper attention to their needs by the Orlando Utilities Commission,” said H.E. Johnson, president of the Howard Phillips Fund, owner of all the utilities’ stock (The Times [Winter Garden], March 10, 1983).
As OUC expanded its water system, it also had to contend with severe water shortages that plagued the region. Orange County invoked a 15 percent voluntary water restriction, and the St. Johns River Water Management District also imposed mandatory water restrictions in Osceola, Volusia, Seminole, Brevard and Indian River counties.
OUC Wins Coveted Water Award
In 1984, OUC won the first of many “Outstanding Water Treatment Plant Awards” from the American Water Works Association (AWWA). The award applied to all nine treatment plants. AWWA cited the OUC system for high water quality standards that exceed state and federal standards and leadership in planning, introducing and implementing new treatment and operations techniques.
Founder, Orlando Water & Light Company
JOHN M. CHENEY
Judge John M. Cheney was the founding father and visionary for reliable electric and water service in Orlando. He was a private attorney, Orlando city attorney, United States attorney and judged for the southern district of Florida, Republican candidate for governer of Florida and for the United States Senate. He also served as judge for the Orange County juvenile court.
MARTIN W. BROWN
Florida native Martin W. Brown worked his way up through the ranks of the Orlando Utilities Commission on his way to becoming General Manager in 1936. The utility’s first chief engineer, he was promoted to plant superintendent in 1932. He was secretary of the Municipal Utilities Association of Florida and the Florida Power Pool State Defense Council.
CURTIS H. STANTON
Curtis H. Stanton was born in Key West, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1940 with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree and was hired by the General Electric Company. He joined OUC in 1947 as Assistant General Manager, working for GM Martin Brown. Stanton, only 29 at the time, took the reins when Brown passed away.
Harry Luff had a distinguished 40-year career at Orlando Utilities Commission. With an engineering degree from Brown University, Luff began his tenure at OUC in 1946 at the bottom — chipping slag off the boilers. He worked numerous positions in the plant where his ability to effectively analyze problems caused management to take notice.
Although OUC conducted a nationwide search in 1984 for a new assistant general manager, they found their candidate right in their own backyard: Sanford native Theodore “Ted” Pope. A University of Florida graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Engineering and a Master of Business Administration, Pope had joined OUC in 1959 as part of the IRP team.
Troy Todd, a graduate of Virginia Polytechnical Institute, came to OUC from United Telephone (Sprint) where he was the CEO and former Vice President of Human Resources. A champion of “giving back,” Todd increased OUC’s involvement in the community. Under his leadership, OUC created the Community Relations area and organized “Community Crews.”
Bob Haven came to OUC on July 1, 1994 and passed away while in office in 2004. He brought with him decades of water industry and city government experience. A graduate of George Washington University, Haven arrived in Orlando in August 1981 as Central Florida was experiencing tremendous growth.
Ken Ksionek was named interim General Manager after the death of Bob Haven and given the permanent position October 12, 2004. Ksionek had served as Vice President of OUC’s Energy Delivery Business Unit from 1995 to 2004 — managing the engineering, construction, maintenance and operation of OUC’s electric distribution systems.
1923 - 1936
Martin W. Brown
1936 - 1947
Curtis H. Stanton
1947 - 1983
1983 - 1986
1986 - 1992
1992 - 1994
1994 - 2004
2004 - Present
As a result of the energy crisis and drought of the previous decade, conservation played a prominent role in the 1980s. To help reduce Florida’s dependency on foreign oil, the state ordered utilities to conduct programs to lower power consumption. In response, OUC developed numerous conservation initiatives, which served as the foundation of OUC’s energy and water conservation efforts. Most have been expanded over the years and are still in place today.
During this period, OUC revamped its rate structure for energy use to encourage conservation as part of a state-mandated plan. Prior to this time, high energy users received a discounted rate because it cost OUC less to generate large amounts of electricity. As a result of the new structure, high energy users were charged a higher rate.
In 1984, OUC began its Home Energy Audit program — and it was a resounding success. On the first day, more than 300 customers swamped OUC with requests for audits (Orlando Sentinel, May 3, 1984). In addition to waiving the usual $15 fee, the program paid $5 to customers who had audits. OUC also gave participants a one-time $10 credit for buying energy-efficient appliances and a free water-heater jacket, which saved them about $2 a month off their electric bill.
In 1985, OUC introduced a Low Income Home Energy Fix-up Program for homeowners who could not afford to make the minor repairs and improvements needed to save energy.
Harry Luff: “Architect of OUC Financial Systems”
General Manager (1983-1986)
His attention to detail and ability to develop systems, processes and programs to solve problems catapulted him through the ranks — first as head of the electric operations department, then as Assistant General Manager in 1967 and finally as General Manager in 1983. However, it was Luff’s financial acumen that enabled OUC to fund rapid expansion and investment in new technology. Curt Stanton remembers meeting Luff: “First time I ever saw him, he was crawling out
of the boiler with an old sailor hat on, and I tell you he looked like ... he was just covered with coal.”
Stanton soon learned that Luff’s willingness to roll up his sleeves and get into the nitty-gritty details would become a tremendous asset to OUC. “In July 1967, Curt Stanton asked me to be his assistant general manager,” Luff recalled. “I wasn’t sure what my duties would be, but Curt assured me he had a lot of special assignments in mind. As it turned out, there were more assignments than I could handle alone. I assembled a
strong team that developed the first cash-flow diagrams ever used at OUC and a new depreciation system. We established formulas for fair payments to the City and County, as well as an electric and water rate-making system. As an outgrowth of these activities, we established a basis for using corporate financial modeling for long-range financial planning to study the impact of major system expansion on rates. Curt assigned us to work with bond issues and underwriters handling the finances for major plant additions. We found out the real issues that impact rates. It was a shock for a past plant engineer who thought that plant efficiency was everything in holding down rates to find out how many millions of dollars could be saved through sharp management of financing. In a highly capital-intensive business like electric utilities, the amount that can be saved is awesome.”
Change swept through every aspect of OUC during the late ‘80s as it initiated measures to keep up with advancements in technology and the economy while staying ahead of growth. From 1985 to 1988, the number of personal computers (PCs) at OUC grew from eight to 135. Local area networks (LANs) were installed to link groups of PC users, giving them easier access to more information and letting them share expensive equipment.
By expanding employees’ capabilities, networked PCs impacted every facet of OUC. Purchasing and Materials Management was able to convert from a manual system to a completely automated one. Computer Aided Design programs sharply reduced time needed to prepare drawings of complex underground and water installations. Microcomputer capabilities increased
record research efficiency in Customer Accounting and sped up the estimating process for engineering staff.
The impact of PCs became even more profound when, in January 1988, a new 4381 IBM mainframe computer was installed and connected to the LANs. Data communications capabilities emanating from the mainframe were also expanded to outlying facilities via OUC’s existing microwave/fiber optics communications networks.
These developments vastly accelerated the progress toward an integrated office information system. As a result of the rapid deployment of computers, the Micro-Computer Support Department was formed to help manage the new computer network and the flow of information.
Reading Meters Then and Now
In 1985, OUC honored its first Meter Reader of the Year. That year, the meter reading team manually read a total of 2.6 million electric and water meters, logging them all into route books by hand. An electronic meter reading system was implemented in 1987, enabling employees to use handheld devices (microcomputers) to record and double-check usage on the spot. Data that used to take days to process was able to be loaded in an hour and transferred to the mainframe for billing the next day. As a result, each meter reader would be able to read more meters a month — achieving a 99.9 percent rate of accuracy on first readings and sharply reducing re-reads.
For OUC, 1987 kicked off an information era with the deployment of personal computers on desktops. Two years later, the Micro-Computer Support Department was formed to help employees manage their information technology needs.
OUC and Orange County Enter into Water Territorial Agreement
On February 13, 1985, OUC and Orange Country entered into a territorial agreement (Agreement W-85-2), which established separate water service territories for each utility. Its stated purpose was to avoid duplication of water facilities, as well as to eliminate needless and wasteful expenditures of capital and water resources.
Under the terms of the agreement, a boundary was established to define and separate the OUC water service area from that of Orange County Utilities. The agreement also provided that the boundary could be adjusted in the future with the mutual consent of both parties.
The territorial agreement made it easier for both utilities not only to plan for growth, but also to expand their systems to serve the rapidly increasing number of new residential and commercial developments that were being built in the country at the time.
Looking to the Futures
Ahead of the curve, OUC looked not only at what type of fuel it was buying, but also how the fuel was purchased. In 1986, OUC became one of the only utilities in the United States to use energy futures to help manage the risk of price volatility in fuel markets. This innovative strategy of hedging oil and gas prices enabled OUC to keep fuel costs in check.
The Charter and OUC
In 1986, the Florida Legislature unanimously approved significant revisions to the OUC charter. Specific language was added to more clearly define the Commission’s authority to issue revenue bonds to finance or refinance debt. The makeup of the Commission also was altered to ensure that at least one member of the board was an OUC customer living outside the City of Orlando in the unincorporated area of Orange County served by OUC.
Making Water “Better Than It Has to Be”
In 1986, amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act more than tripled OUC’s reporting requirements for water quality analyses. As a result, Water Operations installed a $200,000 mass spectrometer in the Water Quality Lab to conduct all of the new tests required by law.
Although OUC’s own chemical and biological testing — as well as that of private and government labs — confirmed that the utility’s water was much higher in quality than both federal and state laws required, Water Operations made a “quality decision” to surpass its own high treatment standards to ensure that OUC’s water continues to be “better than it has to be.”
Ted Pope: “Public Servant and Utility Advocate”
General Manager (1986-1992)
Although OUC conducted a nationwide search in 1984 for a new assistant general manager, they found their candidate right in their own backyard: Sanford native Theodore “Ted” Pope. A University of Florida graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Engineering and a Master of Business Administration, Pope had joined OUC in 1959 as part of the Indian River Plant (IRP) start-up team.
By 1970, he became assistant manager of electric operations at IRP. Two years later, he was named manager of water operations. Having served with distinction in key management positions in both facets of OUC’s business, Pope’s background made him uniquely qualified to take over the utility’s top spot as General Manager in 1986.
Known as an innovator, Pope was also a facilitator of change at OUC — streamlining, modernizing and improving operations and service. Committed to public power, he strongly supported forming coalitions with other municipal utilities so that they all remained viable, competitive alternatives to investor-owned utilities.
Throughout his career, Pope earned many state and national honors for OUC
from the electric and water industries.
The American Water Works Association (AWWA) awarded him its highest honors for his leadership role in transforming the AWWA’s research foundation from a $60,000-a-year agency to a $4 million-a-year center of applied research.
Featured in Who’s Who in Frontiers of Science and Technology, Pope authored and presented many papers pertaining to both the electric and water utility industries. He also invented a new water purification process that was patented and used by OUC to remove hydrogen sulfide. In 1990, AWWA recognized Pope with its Distinguished Public Service Award.
The Curtis H. Stanton Energy Center: The Best Available Environmental Control Technology at the time of Construction
The process to build the Curtis H. Stanton Energy Center (SEC) began in 1980 when OUC completed a plant site selection study and decided to proceed with certification of construction for a 436-MW pulverized coal power plant at the 3,280-acre site, 12 miles southeast of Orlando in rural east Orange County. The site was licensed for a total capacity of 2,000 MW. The plant was powered by a steam turbine generator from Westinghouse Electric Corporation.
In 1981, the Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously approved the $516 million coal-burning power plant proposed by OUC. As part of the permit, OUC committed that two-thirds of the site would be dedicated as a natural preserve for the protection of the red-cockaded woodpecker, at the time an endangered species.
“I’m just delighted,” said then Orlando Mayor Bill Frederick. “It’s a very important decision for the City and one that we anxiously awaited. It means a lot to the ratepayers of the City.” (Orlando Sentinel, August 15, 1981).
Providing Power from Orlando to Key West
SEC was a joint venture among OUC (68.6 percent), Kissimmee Utility Authority (4.8 percent) and the Florida Municipal Power Agency (26.6 percent). The FMPA included Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, Starke, Lake Worth, Homestead, Leesburg, Ocala, Bushnell, Jacksonville Beach, Green Cove Springs and Key West.
Construction of the plant reduced OUC’s oil consumption by about 3.8 million barrels a year, an initial savings projected at $10 million. SEC Unit 1 was equipped with electrostatic precipitators and limestone scrubbers for air quality control.
Partnering with Orange County
A nearby Orange County Wastewater Treatment facility provided the water necessary for plant cooling and enabled Stanton to be a “zero discharge” facility. This innovative process for using sewage effluent in the natural draft cooling towers benefitted both OUC and Orange County. Up until then, the disposition of sewage effluent was a costly environmental problem for Orange County, and the use of sewage effluent by Stanton was an important part of the solution. In addition, the Orange County landfill next door to the plant had the potential for utilizing landfill gas or refuse for future power generation purposes.
Innovative M/WBE Participation Program
The project also was notable at the time for its considerable participation of Minority/Woman-Owned Business Enterprises that doubled the rate of any similar construction project in Florida. The record participation was the result of meeting an aggressive minority hiring policy that had been established when the project began. Through a Minority Participation Board and the addition of a minority employment coordinator, special recruitment and skills training courses were established — the first of their kind in Florida.
Overcoming Consumer Concerns
Of course, the proposed power plant was not without its detractors. In March 1982, the Sierra Club, an environmental group, claimed that OUC was trying to slip ecologically disastrous design changes past the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation and plant opponents. In addition, cities along the most “practical route” for trains hauling coal to Stanton (DeLand, Sanford, Longwood, Altamonte Springs, Maitland and Winter Park) sent telegrams and passed resolutions protesting the trains coming through their towns. Officials said they were worried about coal dust and traffic jams (Orlando Sentinel, December 12, 1982).
But the protests were silenced in 1984, as Orlando voters showed strong support for the coal-fired power plant, overwhelmingly rejecting (13,838 to 7,557) a court-ordered referendum that opponents claimed could have stopped the project. In what was referred to as the “Vote No to Vote Yes” campaign, the wording on the ballot required a “no” vote to indicate support for the plant.
On May 12, 1987 at 2:14:56 p.m., Assistant General Manager Lou Stone — who had been present at the birth of every new OUC power plant since 1949 — flipped the switch at the Stanton Energy Center to begin initial synchronization that allowed SEC to produce power for the first time. The Saturday before the startup, retired General Manager Curt Stanton was on hand to “roll the turbine.” SEC went commercial on July 1, 1987 — on schedule and under budget.
The ‘80s brought changes in the way OUC handled human resources. A Benefits Division was created to deal with escalating benefits expenses and implement cost containment measures like the Preferred Provider Organization program. In addition, OUC’s Risk Management Division instituted a self-insurance program to cover Workers’ Compensation, General Liability and Automobile Liability to hold down these insurance costs.
At the same time, OUC embarked on a mission to diversify its workforce to better reflect the community it served. This effort to attract, retain and promote a diverse group of talented employees helped OUC further strengthen its role as a community leader. Later, OUC would extend this diversification effort to include Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) vendors.
OUC also continued to provide comprehensive training and safety programs for employees — in the classroom and in the field — to ensure that they had the proper skills and training to perform their jobs safely and effectively.
Already a pacesetter in joint action, OUC set another new precedent in 1984 when it began selling wholesale electric power and provided total dispatching services to the Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) for five members including Leesburg, Jacksonville Beach, Ocala, Green Cove Springs and Bushnell. This made OUC the first in the state, and possibly the nation, to provide total dispatching services to other electric utilities that were completely non-contiguous, both electrically and geographically.
On July 1, 1988, the Florida Municipal Power Pool (FMPP) began operation as the state’s first fully integrated municipal electric power pool. OUC continues to operate what is now called the FMPP Energy Control Center and Florida Energy Marketing (FEM) and is responsible for the dispatching of the pool’s generating resources in the most economical manner. Over the course of its 22-year existence, the pool has saved participating municipalities millions of dollars in energy costs.
Lou Stone: “Father of Reliability Measurement”
Assistant General Manager (1986-1989)
A Rollins College graduate with a degree in Chemistry, Lou Stone joined Orlando Utilities Commission in 1949 and retired in 1989. During his 40 years at OUC, he rose from a water laboratory chemist to the role of assistant general manager. Dubbed OUC’s “dean of electric generation,” Stone served as head of electric operations from 1967 to 1986 and is known as an expert in power plant operations and electric reliability measurement.
Stone’s passion for reliability started early in his career, at a time when OUC’s only source of power was the old 18-MW Lake Ivanhoe Plant. Hired as part of the group that would bring the new Lake Highland Plant online, Stone developed a system to train operators to effectively start up a “dark plant.” He went on to become the first Superintendent of the Indian River Plant.
When it came time to design the Stanton Energy Center (SEC), Stone was named head of electric operations — and he committed to making SEC the cleanest, most reliable coal-fired power plant in the country.
“The legacy of which I am probably the proudest is the one in which I was the architect and creator of the use of reliability in customer service,” Stone said.
When Stone took over OUC’s electric operations, he realized that there was
no standardized method of measuring customer reliability. Every power system calculated it differently — from counting the number of service calls ... to feeder outages ... to storm-caused outages. All of these determined only how a utility compared to its own previous performance — not how it stacked up against other utilities.
“I began an extensive study for creating a methodology that could be utilized by any utility,” Stone said. “Ultimately, I formulated such a mathematical model. Through OUC’s participation in the FCG (Florida Electric Power Coordinating Group), our representatives were able to start reporting reliability using the methodology I developed. It was adopted by the Florida Public Service Commission with only minor alterations.”
Record Cold Prompts OUC to Begin Plans for a Second SEC Unit
Three days of sub-freezing temperatures during December 1989 sent shivers down the spines of many Floridians. Much of the state reeled under the effect of rolling blackouts and outages. OUC, however, weathered one of the biggest chills of the century with remarkably few hitches. During the frigid test of reliability, 86 percent of OUC’s customers never experienced any service interruptions.
Nonetheless, the record-breaking cold snap and the havoc it wreaked across the state prompted forward-thinking OUC to plan for the future and move ahead with building a second coal-fired unit at Stanton Energy Center. The unit was expected to cost $515 million and begin operation in 1996. The goal was to replicate the first plant, which was considered one of the cleanest coal-burning plants in the nation.
Enclosed Substation Downtown
Built in 1987, the Robinson Electrical Substation was OUC’s “urban solution to growth.” To keep up with the phenomenal building boom that occurred in the ‘80s, OUC constructed a high-capacity, three-story, gas-insulated substation.
The substation utilized a small footprint with the majority of the equipment enclosed in an architecturally designed building — a first for Central Florida and only the second of its kind in the state.
For decades, OUC has offered a wide range of programs designed to help customers of all ages use energy and water safely and wisely. During the 1980s, as part of its Educational Outreach Program, the utility took electric, water and safety classroom presentations to as many as 5,000 students a year in Orange County Public Schools. At left, OUC’s Joanne (Wheeler) Silva and puppet “OUCH the Outlet” teamed up to teach youngsters at Richmond Heights Elementary about conservation.