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News Releases : OPPD Board commends thanks customers, commends utility workers for efforts during unprecedented weather event

The Omaha Public Power District Board of Directors held their virtual monthly committee and regular board meetings back-to-back this afternoon. Usually, those meetings are held a couple days apart. But this has been anything but a typical past few days.

Front and center, energy curtailments of between one and two hours for a total of 80,000 customers between Monday and Tuesday. OPPD’s regional transmission organization (RTO), Southwest Power Pool (SPP), made up of utilities across 14 states, directed its member utilities to do shed peak energy load in response to the polar vortex that froze gas lines and limited supplies during an unprecedented and widespread cold spell. It’s a last step after a series of efforts to balance supply and demand, including energy conservation by customers. Efforts over the past few days by employees and customers helped SPP keep the transmission system stable.

During today’s meetings, OPPD senior management shared how employees worked tirelessly to minimize the impact to customers.

“We wouldn’t even be able to have this meeting today if not for the amazing work of the men and women of OPPD – from every corner of the organization,” said Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer Javier Fernandez. 

Fernandez explained the benefits of being part of SPP, despite recent curtailments. They include competitive pricing through a day-ahead market system, pooled resources to help ensure reliability, resiliency and to reduce the need for additional local generation, to name of few. 

He added, the market has supported us when we’ve been short on generation due to severe weather, such as floods and tornados. He said if OPPD were not part of an RTO like SPP, this weather event would have been much worse.

“OPPD’s transmission system is interconnected with the larger grid, and was connected for years before we joined SPP,” Fernandez said. “SPP is able to look at the larger system as a whole to make reliability decisions to protect the larger system.”

OPPD staff and board members thanked our customers for doing their part to conserve energy to help the entire region during what was a record-setting period of severe cold weather. Those efforts helped all of the SPP-footprint avoid conditions that could have been detrimental to the greater power grid.

“The team really came together and I’m extremely proud of the employees that put in the many, many hours during this event to make sure it ran as smoothly as it could,” said Timothy J. Burke, OPPD’s President and CEO. "I also want to thank our customers for their patience and understanding during unprecedented weather across the entire region.”

The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) let member organizations know this morning that they have ended their emergency alert. However, due to continuing high loads and other implications of severe cold weather it "remains in a period of conservative operations until 10 p.m. Central time, Feb. 20, for the entire SPP balancing authority area."

With temperatures forecast to continue rising for the next several days, it looks like the region will return to more seasonal weather.

The senior management team told board members the utility will have an “after action review,” engaging all areas involved in the critical work of this past week, to see what can be improved upon for our customer-owners. They said OPPD will work with the state, SPP, and federal regulators.

Other action

In other action, directors: 

  • Approved the January 2021 meeting minutes and the February 18, 2021 agenda.
  • Announced the following Standing Committee Assignments for 2021:
    • Governance:
      Craig Moody (Chair), Amanda Bogner, Eric Williams, and Rick Yoder
    • Finance:
      Rick Yoder (Chair), Amanda Bogner, Michael Cavanaugh, and Mary Spurgeon
    • Public Information:
      Janece Molhoff (Chair), Michael Cavanaugh, Sara Howard, Craig Moody
    • System Management & Nuclear Oversight:
      Eric Williams (Chair), Sara Howard, Janece Molhoff, Mary Spurgeon
  • Authorized OPPD management to negotiate and enter into contracts for the supply and construction of substation and transmission facilities, including labor and materials for the Power with Purpose project. These facilities will support the interconnection of solar and natural gas-fueled generation facilities to the existing transmission.
  • Awarded a contract to Watts Electric Company, in the amount of $911,020, to provide construction services for transmission system modifications. These modifications include a transmission line extension, a transmission line relocation for a new Department of Natural Resources dam site, and nine maintenance replacement structures.
  • Received the monthly President’s Report. You can view the report by visiting OPPD.com/BoardMeeting.

 Next meetings

Next month, the board’s public all-committees meeting will be held virtually, starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Mar. 16. To attend, please visit OPPD.com/CommitteeAgenda, and follow the Webex audio/video conferencing directions. The next monthly board meeting will be held Thursday, Mar. 18. To attend by Webex, please visit OPPD.com/BoardAgenda