Omaha Public Power District shed more light on its community solar plans this week in a presentation given to the OPPD Board of Directors. The board held its monthly meeting today.
The presentation, provided during committee meetings Tuesday, outlined the basics. The utility will have approximately 8,000 community solar shares available for purchase. Each share equals 100 kilowatt hours of energy at a cost of 79 cents a share per month. The subscription amount is subject to annual changes, based upon the previous year’s market rate for solar.
Residential enrollment for community solar shares will begin soon, with commercial enrollment beginning in June. There will be a one-time, refundable enrollment fee.
More information on enrollment will be available on The Wire in the coming weeks.
Collections and energy assistance
OPPD understands some customers at times may face financial challenges. After listening to customers, the utility’s customer service team has become more focused on the customer experience for those having trouble paying their bills. As a result, OPPD has implemented several changes over the past few years.
Vice President Juli Comstock outlined those changes for the board this week, as well as trends with regard to energy assistance and disconnections due to non-payment. Her presentation was part of OPPD’s commitment, under Board Policy: Strategic Directive (SD) 5 - Customer Satisfaction, to provide periodic updates on customer trends.
In 2018, the utility had 7,782 disconnections. That compares with 9,776 disconnections the previous year, and 18,431 disconnections in 2014 – a 58 percent reduction in five years largely due to changing disconnection practices during cold weather.
Retirement plan funding update
OPPD regularly reviews the performance of its pension investments and retirement plan funding obligation. This week, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Javier Fernandez gave presentations to the board on both.
The market value of the district’s retirement plan fund was $920.5 million on Dec. 31, 2018. Fernandez said this compares with the market value of $1.02 billion for the previous year. This makes for a 6.6 percent loss for 2018. Most of the fund’s negative return occurred in the fourth quarter of 2018. Markets have rebounded significantly since the beginning of 2019, which has positively impacted the fund’s 2019 return to date.
Board Policy: SD-14 provides guidance for funding and budgeting for pension obligations. During the annual SD-14 monitoring report shared with the board during its committee meetings Tuesday, Fernandez said a nationally recognized actuarial firm, AON, was used for analysis to determine OPPD’s annual required contribution to the retirement plan.
He explained, the discount rate of 7 percent was established with the help of Segal Marco, OPPD’s investment consultant, to determine the plan’s current funded status of 70 percent as of January 1, 2018, and required contribution. The discount rate is based on the projected long-term return of the retirement plan’s asset allocation and active/passive management mix. Fernandez told the board the district funded all of the actuarially determined annual required contribution of $53.6 million in 2018, as it has in all previous years.
Based upon this information, at their monthly meeting March 14, directors accepted the monitoring report for SD-14. Acceptance means the board finds the district to be sufficiently in compliance with the policy.
Other board action
In other action, directors:
- Approved the Feb. 14, 2019, board meeting minutes and the March 14, 2019, agenda.
- Awarded a $10,769,083 labor contract to Forbes Bros. Timberline for transmission construction services in relation to the Sarpy Transmission Project. The project supports load growth and reliability in the Sarpy County area.
- Awarded an $824,961 contract to DIS-TRAN Steel, LLC for 161 kilovolt (kV) and 345 kV substation steel supports for the development of a Sarpy County area substation.
- Approved refinements, restatement and renaming of the board’s Governance Process 14 policy, relating to board training, travel and expense reimbursement.
- Approved minor amendments to the Board of Director’s four Standing Committee Charters.
Next month’s board committee meetings will start at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 9. The monthly board meeting will be Thursday, April 11, at 4 p.m. Both meetings will take place at OPPD’s Energy Plaza, 444 S. 16th St., Omaha.
The 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.