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News Releases : OPPD initiative will lay groundwork for modernized electric grid

Omaha Public Power District is mapping out its 10-year strategic plan. Five new strategic initiatives will lead the way, while maintaining a strong focus on OPPD’s mission of providing affordable, reliable, environmentally sensitive energy services.

At today’s monthly OPPD Board of Directors meeting, Troy Via, vice president-Energy Delivery, shared information on one of those key initiatives – Electric System Evaluation and Modernization.

Via spoke to challenges and opportunities for OPPD’s grid including aging infrastructure, changing customer preferences, and significant technological innovation within the industry. While addressing those issues, Via emphasized the importance of maintaining grid reliability and resiliency. Reliability means that the light comes on when you flip the switch. Resiliency is the ability of the electric system to bounce back from a sudden disruption, such as a severe weather event.

“As our grid ecosystem evolves, we must not lose focus on safety, reliability, affordability and environmental impact,” Via said.

OPPD will be studying a number of grid-related areas over the next 18 to 24 months, including maintenance, inspections, smart technology and worker mobility, among other areas.

At last month’s meeting, Juli Comstock, vice president-Customer Service, discussed the Customer Engagement strategic initiative. It aims to better understand various customer segments, which products and services are valuable to customers, and emerging opportunities in order to better serve our customers’ future energy needs.

In June, Mary Fisher, vice president-Energy Production & Nuclear Decommissioning, spoke about the first initiative, Pathways to Decarbonization. It includes a long-term study to address the future balance of load generation, while reducing the utility’s carbon footprint.

OPPD will share more information about other initiatives in the next couple of months. These initiatives include Technology Solutions, and Transforming the Workplace. Throughout these discussions, President Tim Burke said, OPPD will remain guided by 15 strategic directives, provided by the board.

River protection structures

Today, the board approved engineer’s certification that enables OPPD to expedite the vendor selection and award a construction contract for protecting transmission structures along the Platte River at risk of damage due to flooding in March. Those structures were originally positioned on dry land; however, river alignment changes due to flooding have now made the structures susceptible to erosion and ice dam concerns.

In order to protect the structures from damage in the future, the board authorized OPPD to enter into a labor and material contract or contracts for the construction of three river protection structures. The current cost estimate for these structures is $2.7 million. They will need to be in place prior to the next potential ice dam and flood season.

Electric System Revenue Bonds

Directors, today, reauthorized OPPD to issue up to $200 million in additional Electric System Revenue Bonds. This action extends authorization that was first granted last year, through 2020. It enables senior management the opportunity to issue new debt upon favorable market conditions. This would enable the district to replenish liquidity reserves, if needed, capitalizing on market interest rates.

Fiber optic ground wire installations

The board also awarded a contract in the amount of $2,631,257.95 to Watts Electric Company for construction services to add fiber optic ground wire to existing transmission lines. Watts’ construction will begin in September and conclude by late December.

This is in support of the Fiber Network Expansion (FNE) project, a four-year project to upgrade communications circuits that are currently leased from local telecommunications providers who plan to discontinue their support of aging facilities.

The facilities, used mostly to ensure reliability and the ability to monitor and control energy delivery facilities, will be replaced with a combination of technologies including fiber optic ground wire installed on transmission lines throughout OPPD’s service territory. Upgrades are expected to be complete by the end of 2020.

Other action

In other actions, directors:

  • Awarded a contract to Siemens Energy Inc. in the amount of $9,825,144 for the replacement of Nebraska City Station Unit 1 turbine low-pressure rotors. The replacement is needed due to stress corrosion cracking found during a routine maintenance inspection in March.
  • Approved the sale of two properties to Douglas County for use in roads projects. A 2.09 acre (91,073 square feet) property located at 1101 North 180th will be sold for $167,200, and a .159 acre property (6,919 square feet) located at 18441 Blondo St. will be sold for $21,470. Neither sale adversely affects OPPD operations now or in the future.
  • Discussed and accepted the monitoring report for Strategic Directive (SD) 5: Customer Satisfaction. Acceptance means the board finds the district to be sufficiently in compliance with the directive.
  • Approved minor revisions to language within the Board-Staff Linkage (BL) Policy 3: Internal Auditor Relationship.
  • 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 be held starting at 10 a.m., Sept. 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, Sept. 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.