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News Releases : OPPD maintains strong credit rating, helping utility keep rates low for customer-owners in challenging economy

The Omaha Public Power District Board of Directors received a positive financial check-up for the utility today during their monthly meeting, held via video conference.

The information was included in the annual monitoring report for Board Policy: Strategic Directive (SD) 3 - Access to Credit Markets.

For OPPD’s annual budgets, the board establishes a minimum total debt service coverage ratio of two times. Debt service coverage is revenues less expenses, divided by the total annual debt interest and principal payments. OPPD has maintained this ratio for the past six years and is on track to meet the goal, again, for 2020.

Debt to asset ratio, days’ cash on hand, and competitive position with regards to retail rates are among other factors considered.

With regards to rates, OPPD continues to honor its commitment of no general rate increases for five years, through 2021. The latest figures compiled from the Energy Information Administration show that OPPD’s rates are 8.9% below the regional average.

Based on these and other factors, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s latest ratings give OPPD an Aa2 and AA, respectively. These ratings are among the highest ratings a public power utility can receive. OPPD’s solid financial position has allowed it to access credit markets during the current market downturn, while lower rated entities have had limited access.

After thorough review, the board accepted the SD-3 monitoring report. Acceptance means the board finds OPPD to be sufficiently in compliance with this policy.

Decommissioning update

The board also received a progress report on Fort Calhoun Station (FCS) decommissioning.

Late Wednesday, the FCS team secured the final canister of spent nuclear fuel into dry cask storage. An industry-standard practice, the dry casks keep the spent fuel safe, secure and cool.

Until such time as fuel can be moved to a federal repository, the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation remains secure. Ongoing inspections and monitoring will ensure regulatory compliance.

Crossing this milestone helps enable the next phases of the site’s DECON, encompassing both decontamination and deconstruction. This includes the removal of plant components and eventual demolition of some structures. Current schedules project the decommissioning to be substantially complete around 2025.

Look for a story next week on OPPD’s The Wire, with the latest on our FCS decommissioning journey.

Pathways to Decarbonization

Today, the board received an update on OPPD’s Pathways to Decarbonization strategic initiative. A long-term study is underway to identify pathways to improve our environmental impact while maintaining reliability, resiliency and affordability.

The team has broken down the initiative into four focused areas: Energy Portfolio, Internal Operations, Customer, and Community.

  • The Energy Portfolio project is examining long-term generation strategies to eliminate or significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This team is using a data-driven approach to look at actions the utility can take to eliminate or significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while meeting energy requirements for our customers.
  • The Internal Operations project is focused on creating an inventory of carbon emissions across all areas of the utility. This will form a basis for monitoring progress toward our net-zero carbon goal and establish a repeatable process for this purpose. The project team is looking at potentially relevant sources like transportation, purchased goods, building consumption and more.
  • The Customer project involves customer education and product development to support decarbonization goals. This project team will conduct market analysis, explore technology, and use benchmarking data. They will review product priorities for the utility, placing value on carbon reduction.
  • The Community project is focused on establishing OPPD as a leader and influencer to accomplish decarbonization goals with our communities. The project team will be identifying community organizations to partner with the utility to further decarbonization efforts and policies.

OPPD is asking customers and other stakeholders to share their thoughts and perspectives on these projects at OPPDListens.com, as part of our State of the Utility presentation. Engagement is paramount to the Pathways to Decarbonization initiative. Future engagement on this initiative, beyond the State of Utility presentation, is already being planned and will continue for months, and likely years, as the initiative moves forward.

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.

Our team continues to assess site options and bid proposals for the PwP generation resources. We will make an announcement on specific generation resources and locations in the coming months.

More information is available within the State of the Utility at OPPDListens.com, and OPPD welcomes feedback from our customers and other stakeholders via that website as plans progress.

Other action

In other actions, directors: 

  • Ratified the decision to conduct the May board meetings virtually due to the COVID-19 public health situation
  • Approved the March 2020 Comprehensive Financial and Operating Report, April 2020 meeting minutes, and the May 14, 2020 agenda
  • Approved the selection of Global Alpha Capital Management as international small capitalization core equity investment manager for OPPD’s retirement fund.
  • Authorized management to negotiate and enter into contract(s) to achieve the best value for the District for the replacement and/or refurbishment of parts and specialized services to repair the Sarpy County Station Unit 2 engine. The engineer’s estimate is $2.7 million, based on budgetary estimates and previous similar work.
  • Awarded a contract to Chanute Manufacturing in the amount of $686,535, for the material and fabrication of tubing assemblies, including tube shields and tubing hardware, for Nebraska City Station Unit 2.
  • Received the president’s monthly utility report. You can view this report after it is posted by visiting com/boardmeeting.

Next meetings

Next month’s board committee meetings will start at 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 9. The monthly board meeting will be Thursday, June 11, at 4 p.m. Visit OPPD.com closer to meeting dates for information on how these meetings will be conducted.

Customer First Solutions

In light of COVID-19, OPPD reminds customers of its Customer First Solutions to help customers currently facing challenges. Among them, charges for late bill payments are waived 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. And, we have suspended disconnections for this period, as well.

We urge those who are struggling to pay their electric bill to call our customer care team at 402-536-4131 in the Omaha metropolitan area or toll-free at 1-877-536-4131 outside of Omaha. OPPD’s Energy Assistance Program requirements have been relaxed so more customers are eligible for financial help. We can also connect customers with helpful community resources.