A new survey out in time for Earth Day gives Omaha Public Power District high marks for its dedication to environmental stewardship.
OPPD was named a 2020 Environmental Champion, according to Escalent’s Environmental Dedication Index. The index represents customer ratings on utility efforts to protect the environment. The Environmental Dedication Index and other findings are from the Cogent Syndicated Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential study from Escalent, a top human behavior and analytics firm.
“With the ever-growing discussion of environmental issues, customers say utilities are responding well through initiatives and programs that help create a cleaner planet,” said Chris Oberle, senior vice president at Escalent. “Measuring environmental dedication is now essential to doing business, as Wall Street investment houses are tying utility environmental stewardship to utilities’ financial performance.”
The study looked at 140 utilities, overall. OPPD is among 31 utilities that received the Environmental Champion designation, based on customer scores. Some areas ranked include a utility’s encouragement of “green” initiatives for buildings and vehicles, and support for environmental causes.
OPPD President & CEO Timothy J. Burke spoke to a number of these efforts during the virtual Earth Day Omaha celebration Saturday.
Among them, OPPD has begun decarbonization planning, with an aspirational goal to be a net zero carbon emitter by 2050. The Pathways to Decarbonization study, currently underway, will prioritize ambitious, yet realistic actions the utility can take within feasible timeframes and without sacrificing electricity reliability or affordability.
Burke also discussed OPPD’s plans to build between 400 and 600 megawatts of utility-scale solar, the largest solar presence in the state. The Power with Purpose project also includes natural gas backup to support accreditation and resiliency requirements.
Power with Purpose follows OPPD’s first foray into solar energy, its Community Solar Program. The 5 MW facility, located near the City of Fort Calhoun, went online in December. Customers bought all shares of the project within 49 days of its announcement. There is now a waiting list for future shares.
Some of OPPD’s other environmental efforts include:
Electric vehicles & charging stations
For the past few years, OPPD has offered rebates for the purchase of electric vehicles and ChargePoint Home™ charging stations through a partnership with the Nebraska Community Energy Alliance (NCEA).
In recent months, the utility added five public charging stations in and around the Omaha metropolitan area. A grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) in coordination with the Nebraska Community Energy Alliance helped make the additions possible.
OPPD expects to be awarded additional grant funding from Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy next month to add more charging stations. The funds, part of the Volkswagen Settlement Trust, will enable OPPD to place five publicly available high speed charging stations in various urban and rural locations within its service territory.
Demand-side energy management
OPPD encourages energy management through a variety of demand-side programs, including the HVAC Smart rebate program, encouraging customers to upgrade their home’s heating and cooling system to improve efficiency, as well as Cool Smart, and the Thermostat Program, helping to reduce energy usage during times of peak demand.
LED streetlight replacement
OPPD is also committed to saving energy through the conversion of incandescent streetlights to LED streetlights. The 5 year project, which began in 2019, will greatly improve the efficiency of the nearly 100,000 streetlights in OPPD’s service territory. The utility is more than a third of the way through this project. Municipalities that contract with OPPD for streetlights are expected to see a 25% reduction in their bills.
Prairie in Progress
Since 2018, OPPD has been working with the Save our Monarchs foundation on the Prairie in Progress project. So far, the utility has planted more than 300 acres of native grasses and plants that are beneficial to monarch butterflies, to help boost their declining numbers. The plantings at various OPPD facility grounds, reduce maintenance costs to the district while promoting biodiversity and helping pollinators.
For a look at more information and access to the full Cogent Syndicated Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential study from Escalent, click here.