Omaha Public Power District is working to continue to forge lifelong relationships with its customer-owners. And the utility wants to go even further to meet their changing expectations now and in the future.
The utility shared more about these efforts as part of a Customer Engagement strategic initiative update to the OPPD Board of Directors at their monthly meeting today.
This initiative is among five strategic initiatives announced last summer to serve as the building blocks for the district’s 10-year strategic plan. These initiatives will create the road map for what the utility should be in the future, while maintaining a strong focus on OPPD’s mission of providing affordable, reliable, environmentally sensitive energy services.
Through the Customer Engagement strategic initiative, OPPD is working to better understand various customer segments and which products and services are most valuable through their eyes. The utility also wants to utilize emerging opportunities to serve them better. OPPD will be researching customer trends on an ongoing basis to better inform future decisions.
These efforts will not only result in improved service, but also in continued operational efficiency. OPPD hopes customers will become our best advocates, trusting us to provide value, caring and excellence.
This month, OPPD launched OPPDCommunityConnect, a new online customer engagement platform. It’s designed to enhance the customer experience, with multiple ways for customers to interact with OPPD and each other. It also allows our customers to provide valuable feedback in new ways. In addition to providing comments and asking questions, customers can participate in quick polls and surveys, share stories, exchange ideas, and more.
OPPD is the first electric utility in the country to implement this platform. Providing stakeholders an opportunity to gain insight on multiple projects is a priority for OPPD, as is allowing them to weigh in on those projects and receive updates. These outreach efforts deliver on the public power promise of transparency.
Customer First Solutions
OPPD is aware of the strain COVID-19 has placed on many in our communities, which is why we placed a moratorium on disconnections and late payment charges at the start of the pandemic. However, the utility wants to encourage customers to reach out for assistance, if needed, so they do not fall too far behind on their bills.
After providing advance notice to customers, the utility resumed disconnections for non-payment this week. We are waiving collection and reconnection fees on the first field visit. Charges for late payments will resume July 17. However, depending on a customer’s specific circumstances, additional late payment fees could be waived.
Customers who need help should reach out to us by calling 402-536-4131 in the Omaha calling area, or 877-536-4131 outside of the Omaha area. We want to work with customers to set up workable payment plans and help connect them with assistance resources. Financial help is available through local organizations, as well as state agencies. And, the utility also offers a number of Customer First Solutions, for residential and business customers navigating the pandemic.
Power with Purpose
The board received an update this week on OPPD’s Power with Purpose (PwP) plan, approved in November 2019. The plan includes adding 400 to 600 megawatts of accredited utility-scale solar generation, as well as modernized natural gas backup generation.
The PwP team has conducted a detailed technical and financial review of solar proposals received. They also conducted stakeholder discussions on potential solar sites, as well as potential natural gas sites. In addition, the team has continued to evaluate supply options to support generation. And they have continued to develop a request for proposals (RFP) for gas generation assets.
In addition, the team sent a request for information (RFI) to 32 energy storage vendors. Responses were due by July 1. They received information on four storage technologies including lithium ion battery, flow battery, hydrogen, and thermal. Responses are currently under review. Information gathered will help shape the scope and RFP development for energy storage.
In other action, directors:
- Approved the May 2020 Comprehensive Financial and Operating Report, June 2020 meeting minutes, and the July 16, 2020 agenda.
- Ratified the decision to conduct the July board meetings virtually due to the COVID-19 public health situation.
- Amended the district’s bylaws to provide flexibility to hold regular board meetings at locations other than the district’s general offices at Energy Plaza in Omaha and at times other than 4 p.m. The revisions also allow for audio and video conference. Other minor revisions were also made to the bylaws in various sections.
- Reviewed and accepted the district’s annual self-funded health plan report, as required by state statute.
- Awarded a contract in the amount of $1,357,429 to Plymouth Tube Company to supply material and tube fabrication for three condenser waterboxes and tube replacement for the Nebraska City Unit 1 main condenser.
- Awarded a contract in the amount of $509,699 to Southern Field EEC for labor and materials to relocate four sections of primary air duct and expansion joints near the inlet connection to the Nebraska City Unit 2 coal mills.
- Conducted annual performance reviews for Vice Presidents Juli Comstock and Lisa Olson in closed session.
- Received the president’s monthly utility report. You can view this report after it is posted by visiting oppd.com/boardmeeting.
Next month’s board committee meetings will start at 10 a.m. Tuesday, August 11. The monthly board meeting will be Thursday, August 13, at 4 p.m. Visit OPPD.com closer to meeting dates for information on how these meetings will be conducted.