Omaha Public Power District customers will see no general rate increases for the fifth straight year under its 2021 Corporate Operating Plan (COP). The utility’s board of directors approved the $1.4 billion plan at its monthly meeting today.
The COP includes the financial resources required in 2021 to further the expansion of the electric system for Power with Purpose (PwP), OPPD’s utility-scale solar project. Most of that funding would go toward the construction of modernized natural gas plants that will serve as backup to between 400 and 600 megawatts (MW) of added solar. These gas facilities are expected to operate between 5% and 15% of the time, as needed per market conditions.
PwP is an integral part of OPPD’s effort to lower its carbon footprint. The utility has set a goal of being a net zero carbon emitter by 2050. Another part of this effort involves demand-side energy management. OPPD has expanded offerings to our customers to help them find energy and cost savings. The utility’s budget in this area has increased from nearly $4.6 million in 2018, resulting in 148 megawatts (MW) saved, to nearly $5.5 million for 2021, with nearly 170 MW in savings anticipated.
“The ongoing pandemic has presented a very steep challenge for our organization, as it has for many others,” said Vice President of Financial Services & Chief Financial Officer Javier Fernandez.
He noted that throughout our communities, more workers have gone remote as businesses try to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and many businesses have either reduced or ceased operations, which results in lower electricity usage. The estimated impact of the COVID-19 pandemic results in 2.6% less load or $20.7 million less revenue in 2021 than would have been modeled without COVID-19 considerations.
“We’ve had to tighten our belts even further with continued lean business practices, while ensuring we do not sacrifice the reliable, affordable, environmentally sensitive energy services our customers count on,” said Fernandez.
“These are unprecedented times,” said President & CEO Timothy J. Burke. “I’m extremely proud of how our employees have risen to the occasion, solving for the needs of our customers while maintaining our commitment to competitive rates.”
Burke added that OPPD will continue to promote the health and safety of our customers and employees as top priorities.
The final 2021 COP will be posted to OPPD.com and available for public viewing soon.
Power with Purpose update
This week, the board received an update on Power with Purpose. The project team continues to evaluate proposals for seven different solar projects in or near OPPD’s service territory.
With regards to its natural gas backup projects to be located at 120th Street and Military Road in Omaha and 168th Street and Fairview Road in Papillion, OPPD issued two requests for proposals (RFPs). One is for reciprocating internal combustion engines, and the other is for simple-cycle combustion turbines. Nine vendors executed a nondisclosure agreement and received the applicable RFP. OPPD is in the process of evaluating those proposals.
The PwP team continues stakeholder outreach efforts, which have included online meetings, direct mailers and communication through OPPDCommunityConnect.com, OPPDtheWire.com, the Outlets newsletter bill insert, social media channels, and community meetings, among other avenues.
In other action, directors:
- Approved the October 2020 comprehensive financial and operating report, the November 2020 meeting minutes and the December 9, 2020 agenda.
- Adopted a resolution maintaining the district’s option to issue tax-exempt debt obligations to reimburse 2021 capital expenditures and optimize the use of OPPD’s resources.
- Amended the district’s bylaws with respect to the schedule for its board of directors’ meetings to allow for changes to location and time as specified in the public meeting notice, including audio and video conference, as provided in the Open Meetings Act.
- Approved a schedule for 2021 board meetings. Meeting information can be found at OPPD.com/BoardMeeting.
- Authorized the use of eminent domain proceedings as necessary, to acquire easements for utility crossings on railroad property for the next five years. Such proceedings may be necessary after all reasonable efforts have been made to acquire rights voluntarily through good faith negotiations.
- Approved administrative amendments to the district’s retirement plan for employees, as well as its 401 (k) and 457 retirement savings plans.
- Accepted the monitoring report for Strategic Directive 8: Employee Relations, as well as the monitoring report for Strategic Directive 13: Stakeholder Outreach and Engagement. Acceptance of these reports indicates the board finds the utility to be fully in compliance with the directives.
- Approved refinements to Board-Staff Linkage 5: Unity of Control Policy.
- Approved merit increases and salary adjustments ranging from 3% to 4.5% for the following corporate officers. A competitive executive compensation plan supports OPPD in attracting and retaining the skilled talent required to run the business in alignment with the Strategic Directives of the board.
- Vice President Kate Brown (bringing salary to $387,227)
- President & CEO Timothy J. Burke (bringing salary to $591,855)
- Vice President Juli Comstock (bringing salary to $347,955)
- Vice President & CFO Javier Fernandez (bringing salary to $426,378)
- Vice President Mary Fisher (bringing salary to $372,796)
- Vice President Lisa Olson (bringing salary to $354,567)
- Vice President Mart Sedky (bringing salary to $349,770)
- Vice President Troy Via (bringing salary to $320,781)
- Approved resolutions of appreciation for outgoing board members Tim Gay and Anne McGuire.
- Received the monthly President’s Report. You can view the report by visiting OPPD.com/BoardMeeting.
Next month’s public board all committees meeting will start at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19. The next monthly board meeting will be held Thursday, Jan. 21. Please visit OPPD.com/BoardAgenda the first week of January for location details. Advance notice will also be provided to members of the news media.