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News Releases : OPPD board promotes Vice President to Chief Operating Officer

Today, the Omaha Public Power District Board of Directors promoted Troy Via to the newly created position of Chief Operating Officer and Vice President -- Utility Operations, effective Oct. 31. Via is presently Vice President – Energy Delivery, having served in that role for the past three years. He joined the utility in September 2013 as the Director of Energy Marketing and Trading.

In his new position, Via will provide overall leadership, strategic planning and long-term objectives for OPPD’s energy production and energy delivery groups. He will also oversee the ongoing decommissioning of Fort Calhoun Station. The role will oversee the main energy operational capabilities to ensure OPPD’s continued commitment to affordable, reliable, and environmentally sensitive energy services.

Prior to joining OPPD, Via held progressively responsible positions with Dominion Resources and Aquila Energy. He holds a bachelor of Business Administration degree with a focus in Finance from the University of Central Missouri.

With Via’s new position and added responsibilities, his salary will increase by 27%, from $320,781 to $407,392. The expanded scope of responsibilities for the new Chief Operating Officer role relative to the Vice President of Energy Delivery role results in higher market pricing in the market and substantiates this compensation adjustment.

Final review of polar vortex event

OPPD provided a final report to board members this week on February’s polar vortex event that led to energy curtailments across the region and right here at home.

From Feb. 4 to 20, much of the Plains averaged more than 30 degrees below normal temperatures. Extreme cold in such a wide area for such an extended period of time resulted in increased energy demand across the 14-state region of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), OPPD’s regional transmission organization connecting our electric grid with our neighbors.

OPPD’s electric system performed well during unprecedented winter demand, with the power and delivery needed to meet our customers’ needs. However, SPP is federally mandated to maintain balance between load (how much electricity customers are using) and generation throughout its entire footprint. This led SPP to require all of its members to shed load on Feb. 15 and 16. OPPD did this on a temporary rotating basis, in compliance with the order and to protect the integrity of the grid.

Because this was the first time in OPPD’s history that the organization had to enact load-shedding and the first time SPP has requested it, both organizations identified the need to learn and improve. Here are some takeaways of the utility’s thorough review:

  • More accessible, individualized and timely communication is critical to our customers during an energy emergency event. OPPD will continue working to improve in this area to help meet our customers’ needs.
  • OPPD’s emergency event plan will be enhanced and made more robust to better support grid reliability during extreme events.
  • Given the increased financial risk of a more volatile and interconnected energy market, OPPD should review and consider expanding its energy and fuel risk-mitigation options to reduce potential impacts from future extreme events.
  • OPPD should review customer demand for and consider expanding products and services to increase customer-owned generation and flexibility, as well as demand-side management programs, to minimize customer impacts during extreme events.
  • Membership in SPP is critical to our ability to meet OPPD’s strategic goals and support the delivery of reliable energy during local emergencies, such as flooding. The utility should continue to leverage the benefits of SPP, as well as our influence in the SPP stakeholder process, to enact positive changes for our customers

“We will continue to learn from comprehensive reviews like this. And we will take positive steps based on the recommendations,” OPPD President and CEO Javier Fernandez said. “My deepest hope is that we will never need to implement controlled outages again. However, I am confident that if we do, we will be prepared.”

The final polar vortex review is available to the public at OPPD.com.

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 utility-scale solar with natural gas backup. We have acquired 81 MW of solar to date and remain committed to adding an additional 519 MW of solar. This generation capacity is needed to maintain long-term reliability and resiliency of the system in growing communities, and it positions OPPD to meet our net zero carbon goal in 2050.

For OPPD’s backup natural gas plants, preliminary grading is underway at Turtle Creek Station in Sarpy County and will commence in September at Standing Bear Lake Station in Douglas County. These plants will serve as peaking stations, used only as needed per market conditions (estimated at less than 15% of the time).

OPPD has a gas facilities agreement in place with Northern Natural Gas for Turtle Creek Station and is finalizing ground lease, gas line extension and gas supply agreements with Metropolitan Utilities District for Standing Bear Lake Station. Gas supply facilities are expected to be built next summer and are slated to be in service by Nov. 1, 2022.

OPPD remains committed to reaching out to and working with key stakeholders throughout this project, as well as providing information on and advocating for utility-scale solar. For more information, visit OPPDCommunityConnect.com.

Revised expenditure budget for 2021

Today, the board approved a revised 2021 budget expenditure amount, with several factors causing OPPD to exceed its original expenditures budget of $1.4 billion by $268 million.

  • The polar vortex event caused significantly higher purchased power costs ($157 million) and fuel expenditures ($65 million) than were originally planned.
  • The historic July storm that caused outages for half of OPPD’s customers resulted in an additional $14 million in maintenance and recovery expenses; however the overage is partially offset by cost management efforts, which nets to $8 million over budget.
  • Capital expenditures are $20 million higher than projected, primarily due to refined cost estimates and timelines related to Power with Purpose.
  • OPPD’s progress with Fort Calhoun Station decommissioning allowed $30 million of work to be completed earlier than projected. This cost is partially offset by reduced expenditures in other decommissioning efforts, bringing the overage to a net of $25 million.
  • Other expenditure categories were less than budgeted by about $7 million, helping to offset the overages.

At the same time, the utility’s revenue for 2021 has been higher than anticipated, including:

  • Off-system sales were boosted by $162 million due to the polar vortex event. 
  • Retail revenues are projected to be $33 million higher than budgeted in 2021, driven by commercial and industrial customers.

OPPD does not expect these 2021 events to result in a rate change. The board approved the utility’s request for a revised expenditures budget with a variance of 10%, up to $295 million total, if needed to address any other unforeseen issues this year. The revised expenditure budget for 2021 is now $1.7 billion.

Other action

In other action, directors: 

  • Approved the July 2021 Comprehensive Financial and Operating Reports, the August 2021 meeting minutes, and the September 16, 2021, agenda.
  • Discussed and accepted the monitoring report for Strategic Directive 10: Ethics. Acceptance means the board finds the utility to be fully in compliance with the directive.
  • Received the monthly President’s Report, available to view at OPPD.com/BoardMeeting

Next board meetings

The next Board of Directors committee meetings will be held virtually, via Webex, Tuesday, Oct. 19, at approximately 10 a.m. Visit OPPD.com/CommitteeAgenda to join the meeting, beginning at about 9:45 a.m.

The next monthly board meeting is Thursday, Oct. 21, at 5 p.m., 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 at OPPD.com/BoardAgenda, beginning at 4:45 p.m.