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In 1987, Howard Hawks and Tom Hendricks, former InterNorth executives, with a few others became convinced that a small, private company could operate successfully in an evolving energy industry. They hired a few other energy veterans for the company that had been named Tenaska – a combination of Nebraska, Texas, tenacity and ten (on a scale of one to ten).
Determined and passionate, Tenaska’s early leaders were committed to basic principles that would form a core culture: stay small and private; hire the right people; take reasoned, manageable risks; insist on quality; and deal fairly and honestly with partners, customers and the public.
Their goal was to build one or two power plants. The first was a 223-megawatt, natural gas-fueled cogeneration plant in Paris, Texas. A second was a cogeneration plant in Ferndale, Washington. They believed that cogeneration was a business in which a company with limited capital, but a lot of expertise, could obtain the financing needed to succeed. Both operated well and now have fully retired debt, having paid off loans in full without a missed payment.
Employing the synergy it developed in operating power plants, a Tenaska affiliate began marketing natural gas. Tenaska Marketing Ventures now manages, trades or sells approximately 13 percent of the United States’ total natural gas consumption. Similarly, Tenaska Power Services Co., an affiliate to market power and provide ancillary services in Texas, has grown to national scale. Tenaska has become a force in the energy industry.
Besides building plants, Tenaska soon engineered and operated them, pioneering efficient design and leading in industry safety. Looking into the energy future, Tenaska ventured into natural gas exploration and production, midstream services and a development strategy for renewable power. Skill in energy and marketing strategies extended to investments using wind and solar photovoltaic technology. Another affiliate, Tenaska Capital Management, LLC, was formed to manage private equity investments in the power and energy sectors in North America.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2016, Tenaska has become one of the largest independent energy companies in the U.S. Its strength lies in a sound financial policy, a broad and diverse base of energy businesses and an ability to generate needed resources. Because the company has remained a privately owned entity, decisions can be based more appropriately on long-term strategies. The company has been able to adapt and respond quickly to recessions, market instability and changing legislative and regulatory landscapes. After more than a quarter century, Tenaska’s core culture and philosophy remain unchanged. Tenaska has the right people, and the right values, to continue playing an expanding role in North America’s energy future.