Omaha Public Power District customers will see no general rate increases for the fourth straight year, per its newly approved Corporate Operating Plan (COP) for 2020. The utility’s board of directors approved the $1.3 billion plan at its monthly meeting today.
“We continue to honor the commitment we made to our customers in 2016 of no general rate increases for five years,” said OPPD President and CEO Tim Burke.
Vice President of Financial Services and Chief Financial Officer Javier Fernandez laid out the preliminary budget at last month’s board meeting. The public was invited to comment by visiting oppd.com/boardmeeting.
“The budget supports our efforts to add renewable energy resources,” Fernandez said. “This includes purchasing energy from the 160-megawatt Sholes Wind Energy Center. It also includes an investment in Power with Purpose, our plan to add 400 to 600 megawatts (MW) of utility grade solar with natural gas backup.”
The board approved Power with Purpose at its public meeting last month. In addition to solar, the plan includes natural gas backup, as well as modernization of some of OPPD’s other natural gas assets for accreditation and resiliency requirements. The new natural gas assets are anticipated to run only when needed in order to serve OPPD's peaking and grid support needs. As the grid continues to evolve, OPPD may look at adding voltage-support devices, which help maintain a consistent quality of electricity.
“In addition, our budget supports the utility’s efforts to maintain reliable electric service, continuing to devote resources for vegetation management, among other areas,” Fernandez said.
OPPD’s utility foresters work year-round to try to prevent service disruptions caused by interference from overgrown trees and shrubs.
The COP also supports equipment updates and upgrades for reliability of service and resiliency of the electric system now and in years to come. And it adds funding for five new strategic initiatives announced earlier this year. These include: Pathways to Decarbonization, Electric System Evaluation and Modernization, Customer Engagement, Business Technology Platform, and Workplace Transformation.
Capital Expenditure Reimbursement
Today, the board also adopted a resolution maintaining the district’s option to issue tax-exempt debt obligations to reimburse 2020 capital expenditures and optimize the use of OPPD’s resources.
The 2020 COP includes district expenditures of approximately $230 million for capital improvements. OPPD may issue tax-exempt debt obligations in the future to reimburse a portion of these expenditures. The timing of debt issuance could change depending upon market conditions.
New public electric vehicle charging stations
Today, the board also dedicated a new public electric vehicle (EV) charging station located outside of OPPD’s downtown Omaha headquarters. The Level 2 ChargePoint™ charging station is located on the north side of Howard Street, just west of 16th Street. The new EV station was installed as part of a partnership with the City of Omaha to create a network for OPPD customers and general public.
OPPD was able to purchase it, as well as five other Level 2 ChargePoint™ charging stations for public use, with a grant provided to the Nebraska Community Energy Alliance (NCEA) through the Nebraska Environmental Trust. NCEA is an inter-local cooperative agency, comprised of 33 members, primarily municipalities, utilities, higher education and planning agencies. The organization builds and promotes advanced technologies in buildings and transportation, including those that lower energy use, reduce carbon and other harmful emissions, and cut costs to communities.
The first two charging stations were installed recently at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo. In the near future, two more charging stations will be built on the campus of the University of Nebraska Medical Center. And another station will be built into a mixed-use office and retail development near 88th and West Dodge Road in Omaha.
OPPD selected locations where EV drivers would be parked for two to four hours – the time it takes for a Level 2 ChargePoint™ charger to fully power a vehicle.
The utility will have access to data from these charging stations to study EV drivers’ charging habits. The information gathered will greatly enhance OPPD’s future electric grid plans, as EV ownership grows.
Strategic Directive monitoring report
This week, directors received and discussed the Strategic Directive 8: Employee Relations monitoring report. The report reinforces OPPD’s commitment to maintain a diverse and inclusive workforce, reflective of OPPD’s core values of having a passion to serve, honoring our community, and caring about each other.
The report also shared ways in which OPPD works to recruit a diverse workforce. And it shared how the district engages its employees in personal and professional development. These combined efforts inspire a workforce dedicated to the utility’s mission of providing affordable, reliable, environmentally sensitive energy services, and to its vision of leading the way we power the future.
During Thursday’s public meeting, directors accepted the report. Acceptance means the board finds the district to be sufficiently in compliance with the directive.
In other action today, directors:
- Approved the September 2019 Comprehensive Financial and Operating report, November 2019 meeting minutes, and the Dec. 14, 2019 agenda.
- Approved salary adjustments in the amount of 4.5% merit for the following corporate officers. Adjustments were applied to salaries to ensure competitiveness within the market, as well as increased accountability and work scope.
- Vice President Kate Brown (bringing salary to $356,300)
- Vice President Javier Fernandez (bringing salary to $392,325)
- Vice President Mary Fisher (bringing salary to $343,022)
- Vice President Mart Sedky (bringing salary to $323,390)
- Received the president’s monthly utility report. You can view this report after it is posted by visiting oppd.com/boardmeeting.
The public portion of next month’s committee meetings will start at 10 a.m., Jan. 14, 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, Jan. 16, 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.