Omaha Public Power District knows our customers are facing challenges as our communities cope with COVID-19 and related issues. Whether working remotely, in quarantine, or helping children learn from home, we want to ensure power is there when you need it most.
Senior management recently approved a series of short-term Customer First Solutions, shared with the OPPD Board of Directors during their virtual committee meetings Tuesday. OPPD leadership recommended waiving late payment charges for all customers until 30 days after the expiration of the last COVID-19 directed health measures of any of the 13 counties within OPPD’s service territory. In today’s monthly meeting, held via video conference, the board voted to approve waiving late charges for that time frame.
OPPD is also extending the time frame for our disconnection moratorium until 30 days after the expiration of the last directed health measures of any of the 13 counties within OPPD’s service territory. We had previously announced suspension of disconnections for non-payment through April 30. The extension will help our customers struggling with lost wages and other impacts related to COVID-19.
We urge customers to reach out to us to make payment arrangements if they need assistance. Our customer care team can be reached by calling 402-536-4131 in the Omaha metropolitan area or toll-free at 1-877-536-4131 outside of Omaha. We will also work to connect our customers with community resources, as warranted. And OPPD’s Energy Assistance Program eligibility requirements have temporarily been adjusted to be available without being income qualified.
For business customers, the utility has launched a new Business Energy Advisor website, OPPD.bizenergyadvisor.com. It has energy conservation tips and information to help customers find savings, where possible.
We will continue to evaluate further measures to support our customers during this pandemic.
OPPD also wants to protect our customers from utility scammers who have been trying to take advantage during this difficult time. In recent weeks, we’ve received increased reports of callers falsely claiming to work for the utility. They demand immediate payment or they threaten to shut off electricity. Sometimes they claim the customer’s bill is overdue, or tell customers they need to pay for the replacement of meters or other equipment. Those ploys are immediate tipoffs of a scam. OPPD is suspending disconnections for non-payment at this time and would never charge customers to replace meters. If you get a call making these claims, hang up. Call OPPD directly with any questions about your account or your service.
State of the Utility
COVID-19 and the need for social distancing has also impacted OPPD’s planned community outreach to share the state of the utility. A series of meetings across the service territory were planned for the last two weeks of March. However, social distancing and restrictions on public gatherings necessitated adjusting the plans to include an online format, including placing materials online. Our customers and other stakeholders may visit OPPDListens.com to see the information and learn more about how their utility is working for them. The website also gives them the opportunity to provide input to OPPD on a number of topics.
OPPD was recently named one of the nation’s 42 “Easiest to do Business With” utilities. President Tim Burke shared the honor with the board during his President’s Report today. It stems from the Cogent Syndicated Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential study from Escalent, a top human behavior and analytics firm. The Cogent Syndicated Customer Effort Index is used to rate how easy it is to obtain service, information, and offerings from a utility. High marks mean a utility meets or exceeds customer expectations.
The entire President’s Report will be available to view at OPPD.com/boardmeeting, shortly.
Power with Purpose
During its committee meetings this week, the board received an update on OPPD’s Power with Purpose (PwP) plan, approved in November 2019. The plan includes the addition of between 400 and 600 megawatts of accredited utility-scale solar generation, as well as the addition of modernized natural gas backup generation assets.
Solar generation bids were received on Jan. 29, and our multi-disciplinary team continues to evaluate those bids. The PwP team is currently conducting a detailed technical and financial review of the sites with highest potential. Progress also continues regarding the natural gas backup portion of the plan, with gas asset technologies and gas supply options currently under evaluation. The team continues to assess potential sites and is reviewing responses to a request for information on the natural gas supply options.
OPPD is exploring many options for potential generation sites across our 13 county service territory and the state. No specific site or generation details have been decided at this time. Generation sites close to growing load, transmission and substation infrastructure, and existing natural gas infrastructure are favorable to keep costs low for our customers-owners.
The district remains committed to providing updates to our customers and other stakeholders through various channels as PwP moves forward.
In other actions, directors:
- Ratified the decision to conduct the April board meetings virtually due to the COVID-19 public health situation.
- Approved the January and February Comprehensive Financial and Operating Reports, March 2020 meeting minutes, and the April 16, 2020 agenda.
- Authorized a line of credit (LOC) increase in the amount of $200 million to exercise, as needed, in order to provide additional liquidity to the district. This would take OPPD’s LOC authorization from $250 million to $450 million. The LOC increase provides the utility with financial flexibility in the form of additional liquidity, should unexpected needs arise.
OPPD is able to access credit markets during the current market downturn due to its strong financial rating, while lower-rated entities have had limited access. Increasing the LOC allows OPPD to maintain and further strengthen its financial position.
- Authorized OPPD to execute and enter into the Interlocal Agreement for cooperative use of the Wireless Area Network. This network connects regional entities to leverage shared interests, prioritizing public safety objectives and responses. The current agreement between OPPD, Douglas County, Pottawattamie County, Sarpy County, and Washington County, expires April 14. This new agreement replaces the expiring agreement and adds Dodge County and the City of Fremont to the network.
- Awarded a contract in the amount of $1,315,968 to IBIDEN CERAM for the material and fabrication of catalyst modules, test elements, seals, and cover screens for the Nebraska City Station Unit 2 Selective Catalytic Reduction System.
Next month’s board committee meetings will start at 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 12. The monthly board meeting will be Thursday, May 14, at 4 p.m. Visit OPPD.com closer to meeting dates for information on how these meetings will be conducted.