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News Releases : OPPD board clears the way for state’s largest solar presence, with natural gas backup

Today, the Omaha Public Power District Board of Directors voted to add between 400 and 600 megawatts of utility-scale solar capacity to OPPD’s energy portfolio. It will be the largest solar presence in the state of Nebraska and one of the largest in the region.

The project, proposed by senior management at last month’s board meeting, also includes natural gas backup for the solar generation, to support accreditation and resiliency requirements, as well as the modernization of some of OPPD’s other natural gas assets. As the grid continues to evolve, OPPD may also look at adding voltage-support devices, which help maintain a consistent quality of electricity. The new natural gas assets are anticipated to run only when needed in order to serve OPPD's peaking and grid support needs.

Following several months of detailed discussion between senior management and the board and after a period of public comment, the board voted 7-1 to approve the proposal.

“We need to be forward-thinking because our energy landscape is changing rapidly,” said OPPD President and CEO Tim Burke. “Our plan takes that into account, thoughtfully balancing the need to maintain the reliability and resiliency of our electric system, while accommodating the needs of our growing communities.”

The board authorized OPPD management to negotiate and enter into procurement contracts, which will help determine the exact size, scale and location of the generation assets.

When coupled with a 2014 board resolution to retire North Omaha units 1-3 and refuel North Omaha units 4 and 5 with natural gas the carbon dioxide emissions at North Omaha Station are estimated to be reduced by 80 to 90%. OPPD’s overall generation fleet emissions of CO2 are anticipated to be reduced by 30% from 2010 to 2024. 

Read more about the proposal and why this additional capacity is needed on The Wire.

Preliminary 2020 Corporate Operating Plan

During this week’s board committee meetings, Vice President of Financial Services and Chief Financial Officer Javier Fernandez presented the preliminary 2020 Corporate Operating Plan (COP) to the board. The $1.25 billion plan contains no general rate increase for the fourth straight year.

In addition, the proposal does not require a change to the Fuel and Purchased Power Adjustment (FPPA). The FPPA appears as a separate line item on customers’ bills. Like many electric utilities, OPPD uses the FPPA as needed to recover costs outside of its control, such as fluctuating costs for fuel and for power it buys on the market.

The COP keeps with OPPD’s mission, which includes affordability, but also energy services that are reliable and environmentally sensitive. With regards to reliability, vegetation management continues to be a priority to help prevent disruption of service due to interference from overgrown trees and shrubs. The budget also includes equipment updates and upgrades. In addition, it supports OPPD’s efforts to add renewable energy resources to its energy portfolio by purchasing energy from the Sholes Wind Energy Center.

OPPD invites the public to view the preliminary COP at oppd.com/boardmeeting. There, customers will also find a link to an online comment form to share their thoughts with senior management and the board. Directors will vote on a finalized COP at their Dec. 12 meeting.

Strategic Directives

After carefully considering feedback from stakeholders, the board approved revisions to two of OPPD’s strategic directives. Changes made to SD-7: Environmental Stewardship, include adding an aspirational goal for OPPD to be a net-zero carbon emitter by 2050. That year is significant, as current business agreements centered on coal-fired power generation at Nebraska City Station will end in 2049.

Additionally, wording changes have been made to SD-8: Employee Relations. The revisions adjust goals with regards to employee engagement.

These approved changes to SD-7 and SD-8 come after several weeks of public comment through OPPD’s stakeholder engagement process. Input was received at oppd.com.

Other action

In other action, directors:

  • Approved the September 2019 Comprehensive Financial and Operating report, October 2019 meeting minutes, and the Nov. 14, 2019 agenda.
  • Authorized OPPD management to increase the 2019 Corporate Operating Plan expenditure amount, as actual costs are expected to exceed the approved amount, primarily for energy purchases from the Southwest Power Pool Integrated Marketplace.
  • Awarded a multi-year contract to Nielsen Construction to install underground cable in rural and metropolitan areas. The initial contract term is three years, with the option to renew for up to three additional one-year terms. The projected cost of work during 2020 is $2,990,000.
  • Received, discussed and accepted the monitoring report for Strategic Directive (SD) 13: Stakeholder Engagement. Acceptance means the board finds OPPD to be sufficiently in compliance with the policy.
  • Approved the board meeting schedule for 2020. This schedule will be available at oppd.com/boardmeeting
  • Received the president’s monthly utility report. You can view this report after it is posted by visiting oppd.com/boardmeeting.

Next meetings

The public portion of next month’s committee meetings will start at 10 a.m., Dec. 10, at Energy Plaza, 444 S. 16th St., Omaha.

If a closed session is needed during committee meetings to discuss sensitive information such as legal or personnel matters in private, committee meetings generally will begin at 8:30 a.m., with a vote to go into closed session immediately. The public portion of the meeting will continue after closed session is completed, at approximately 10 a.m. There may be months where this process is changed, but any such change will be addressed in the official public notice for the meeting.

The next monthly board meeting will be Thursday, Dec. 12, at 4 p.m., also at Energy Plaza.

Both of these meetings are livestreamed at oppd.com as part of the district’s commitment to transparency, while making public meetings accessible and convenient for our customer-owners.