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News Releases : OPPD reports on historic July storm, highlights both successes and lessons learned

Omaha Public Power District and our customers weathered an historic storm July 10, with winds that reached a hurricane-force 96 miles per hour, leaving a 25-mile-wide path of destruction. The utility’s senior management team provided a presentation on the utility’s response to the OPPD Board of Directors at their monthly meeting this evening.

Three storms converged over Dodge and Washington counties, moving southward into the Omaha metro in the early morning hours. Strong sustained winds lasted for 20 minutes, causing extensive tree damage. A large number of trees and limbs were left deeply entangled in power lines, and other electrical equipment and infrastructure was damaged. At the peak of this wind event, 188,000 customers in OPPD’s service territory were without power, our largest number of outages caused by a storm event.

OPPD employees and mutual aid partners safely worked 16+ hour days to restore power to our customers. By the end of the first day, July 10, OPPD had restored power to more than 120,000 customers, as entire circuits were restored. The days that followed saw more complex repairs involving significant tree damage to infrastructure, as well as many individual repairs.

OPPD directly communicated with customers whose outages were expected to take the longest to restore. Our customer care center representatives proactively called customers to check on outages and align information within OPPD’s system.

Lessons Learned

Our teams came together to respond to this event safely and quickly; however, we know we can and will do better in the future. We continue to learn from outage events. To get better, we’ve identified some areas for improvement.

We continually work to harden our grid with improvements to underground and overhead distribution. We are exploring the possibility of burying more distribution lines in older areas. OPPD will continue working to identify and replace worn or aging underground cable, and we will continue our proactive utility pole replacement program. The utility will also continue robust investments in tree-trimming.

Additionally, we know that customers want more information about their outages, and we are looking toward processes that reach customers using the channels they desire. Much of this work is involved in our Customer Engagement for the Future strategic initiative.

OPPD is also exploring the implementation of advanced metering options, which would help integrate customer data more seamlessly into our system and provide robust data to analyze in storm situations. This work is also being evaluated through our Grid Modernization strategic initiative.

We are a learning organization and will remain committed to adapting and improving to better serve our customers. We are currently conducting a more extensive analysis to be shared in the coming weeks.

Power with Purpose update

This week, the board also received an update on OPPD’s Power with Purpose (PwP) project to add 600 megawatts (MW) of solar. We have acquired 81 megawatts to date. Our commitment to obtain the additional 519 MW of utility-scale solar to our generation fleet remains resolute. In the long term, the solar generation capacity is needed to maintain reliability and resiliency of the system in growing communities, while positioning OPPD to meet our net-zero carbon goal in 2050.

OPPD continues to plan and build two natural gas generation plants to serve as peaking stations, used only as needed per market conditions (estimated at less than 15% of the time). The PwP team is finalizing natural gas supply infrastructure agreements with Metropolitan Utilities District for Standing Bear Lake Station and Northern Natural Gas for Turtle Creek Station. In addition, sourcing is in progress for a vendor for the Engineer, Procure, and Construct (EPC) of the generation and substation facilities at both locations.

Ames Construction Inc., was recently selected to provide preliminary grading at both Standing Bear Lake and Turtle Creek Stations. This preliminary grading will prepare the sites for major construction in early 2022. Construction of both plants will be completed in 2023.

Throughout the planning process, OPPD remains committed to reaching out to and working with key stakeholders, including local government officials and those living near natural gas plant sites. The PwP team has also continued to work to provide information for and advocacy of utility-scale solar. For more information on this project, visit OPPDCommunityConnect.com.

Other action

In other action, directors: 

  • Approved the June 2021 Comprehensive Financial and Operating Reports, the June 2021 meeting minutes, and the August 19, 2021, agenda.
  • Approved a requirement for attendees of OPPD public board meetings to wear face masks, in accordance with CDC recommendations, beginning Sept. 16 and continuing until further notice.
  • Approved the appointment of John Thurber, director - Treasury & Financial Operations, as Interim chief financial officer (CFO). Thurber will manage the Financial Services business unit during OPPD’s ongoing search for a new CFO. Upon successful completion of this assignment, Thurber will receive a one-time, lump-sum merit payment of $24,920, the equivalent to 10% of his current base pay.
  • Approved the appointment of MFS Investment Management as an investment manager for OPPD’s retirement plan, replacing AQR Capital.
  • Discussed and accepted the monitoring report for Strategic Directive (SD) 9: Resource Planning. By accepting the SD-9 monitoring report, the board finds the utility to be sufficiently in compliance with the directive.
  • Approved changes to Rate Rider Schedule No. 483: Net Metering Service for certain customer-owned generation. Customers with service under this rider are billed for their net electric usage at the monthly rate in their applicable rate schedule, and the customer receives a credit for net excess generation. The revisions will increase the aggregate system size limit for net metering services under this rider from 25 kilowatts (kW) to 100 kW to facilitate greater participation in distributed generation solutions.
  • Awarded two contracts to Virginia Transformer Corp. to support load growth and reliability in our growing communities. The first contract, in the amount of $1,552,511, is for the initial purchase of one 161-13.8-13.8-kilovolt (kV) (56) MVA OLTC transformer. The second contract, in the amount of $1,754,884, is for the initial purchase of one 161-13.8-13.8-kV (75) MVA transformer. Under both contracts, OPPD will have the option of renewing up to four additional one-year terms for the procurement of substation power transformers pursuant to the escalation/de-escalation pricing provisions.
  • Approved the Engineer’s Certification and authorized OPPD to negotiate and enter into a contract for the design and installation of an auxiliary steam electrode boiler, including equipment, at the North Omaha Station.
  • Approved the Engineer’s Certification and authorized OPPD to negotiate a sole source contract with Arvos-Ljungstrom to purchase replacement heating elements (baskets) and seal materials for the Nebraska City Station Unit 1 combustion air preheater.
  • Approved the Engineer’s Certification and authorized OPPD management to negotiate and enter into a contract with Siemens Energy Inc. for the design and installation of direct air injection systems, including equipment, at the Cass County Station.
  • Approved a revision to the compensation adjustment for Vice President Juli Comstock, to correct an error in her listed salary prior to receiving a 4.5% merit increase. Comstock’s salary increased from $347,955 to $363,613, beginning July 1.
  • Received the monthly President’s Report, available to view at oppd.com/BoardMeeting

Pathways to Decarbonization

OPPD hosted a series of Pathways to Decarbonization virtual public workshops over the past several months, as the district works toward net-zero carbon production by 2050. They provided insight into the first of four areas of focus -- Energy Portfolio.

OPPD will host another virtual engagement session Thursday, Sept. 2, from 4 to 6 p.m., to update interested individuals on two more pathways – Customer and Community. This workshop will focus on enhancing our products and services to help our customers improve energy efficiency, as well as community initiatives to transition to a low-carbon future. Customers may register for this session through OPPDCommunityConnect.com. While there, they have the option of completing a survey on how OPPD can partner with them to reduce carbon production within their homes and communities.

Next board meetings

The next Board of Directors committee meetings will be held virtually, via the Webex Events audio/video conference, Tuesday, Sept. 14, at about 10 a.m., following a closed session that starts at 8:30 a.m. You will be able to access the meeting and instructions to join at oppd.com/CommitteeAgenda, beginning about 9:45 a.m., dependent upon the duration of the preceding closed-session meeting.

The next monthly board meeting is Thursday, Sept. 16, at 5 p.m., both in-person, at the Legislative Chamber of the Omaha-Douglas Civic Center, 1819 Farnam St., and virtually via Webex. The public can access the meeting link and instructions to join at oppd.com/BoardAgenda, beginning at 4:45 p.m.