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News Releases : OPPD protecting employees, supporting customers amid COVID-19 in our communities

Omaha Public Power District knows that electricity is an essential service upon which our customers rely.  

“As more people stay home, and in some cases work remotely, due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), we are keenly aware of the importance of reliable electricity to power their lives, now more than ever,” said OPPD President & CEO Tim Burke.

“Electricity powers computers, phones, and electronics, keeping our customers connected. We know how important that is, particularly as they must make decisions about family and work.”

The utility understands some customers may be experiencing challenges during this time. To support them, Burke said OPPD will suspend disconnections for non-payment through April 30. At that time, the utility will re-evaluate this moratorium.

During today’s OPPD Board of Directors meeting, Burke said the utility is continuously monitoring COVID-19 developments with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Douglas County Health Department. The district has a cautious and thoughtful infectious disease plan in place, with varying levels of actionable steps.

OPPD reminds customers who pay their utility bills at our facilities or Moneygram locations, there are alternative payment methods available to limit person-to-person contact. You can set up recurring automatic utility bill payments or pay your bill online at oppd.com, pay via the OPPDConnect app, or by phone at 402-536-4131 in Omaha, or 1-877-536-4131 outside of the metro calling area. 

The utility will continually communicate with employees and their families, customer-owners and business partners, as developments may warrant.

Burke’s remarks were part of his President’s Report to the board. A video of the full report will be available to view shortly at oppd.com/boardmeeting.

Retirement Plan Funding

In other business before the board, OPPD’s retirement savings plans are strong, according to year-end financial reports.

OPPD regularly reviews the performance of its pension investments and retirement plan funding obligation. At Tuesday’s board committee meetings, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Javier Fernandez gave presentations to the board on both, as part of his Strategic Directive (SD) 14: Retirement Plan Funding monitoring report. The directive provides guidance for funding and budgeting for pension obligations.

The market value of the district’s retirement plan fund was $1.06 billion on Dec. 31, 2019, compared with $920.5 million the previous year. During the year, benefit payments and expenses exceeded total contributions by $35.9 million. Investment gains of net fees were $171.3 million. For 2019, the Retirement Fund returned 18.99%.

The asset allocation at year-end was 53.4% equity, 39.7% fixed income securities, and 6.9% alternative assets (private real estate), which is within the board-approved investment policy guidelines.

The discount rate of 7% was established with the help of Segal Marco, OPPD’s investment consultant, to determine the plan’s current funded status of 67.8% as of Jan. 1, 2020. This is down slightly from last year, which Fernandez attributes, mainly, to employees living and drawing pensions longer. The district intends to fully fund the retirement plan over the next 20 years.

Fernandez also shared his annual report on 401(k) and 457 retirement savings plans for 2019. The market value for these plans was $534.6 million as of Dec. 31, 2019. During the year, employee contributions totaled $13.8 million, and OPPD’s contributions totaled $5.8 million in both plans.

Based upon this information, directors accepted the SD-14 monitoring report. Acceptance means the board finds the district to be sufficiently in compliance with the policy.

Power with Purpose

During its committee meetings this week, the board received an update on OPPD’s Power with Purpose plan, approved in November 2019. The plan includes the addition of between 400 and 600 megawatts of 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 team is currently conducting a detailed technical and financial review of the sites with highest potential. Next month, the Power with Purpose team will continue to model and evaluate proposals.

Progress also continues regarding the natural gas backup portion of the Power with Purpose plan. OPPD selected the owner’s engineer for the natural gas project. The owner’s engineer will serve to supplement OPPD resources and provide technical expertise. The district is continuing to assess potential sites and reviewing responses to a request for information on the natural gas supply options.

The district remains committed to providing updates to our customers and other stakeholders through various channels as the Power with Purpose plan moves forward.

Other action

In other actions, directors:

  • Approved the February 2020 meeting minutes, and the March 12, 2020 agenda.
  • Awarded a contract to Hyundai Power Transformers USA Inc., in the amount of $1,994,064, for the purchase of one spare 161-69-13.8-kV transformer to supplement OPPD’s existing transformer fleet. The initial contract is for a one-year purchase term. However, it provides the option to renew for up to four additional one-year terms, for the potential procurement of additional transformers to support load growth and replacement projects.

Next meetings

Next month’s board committee meetings will start at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 14. The monthly board meeting will be Thursday, April 16, 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.