We know our customers rely on electricity more than ever, which is why Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) works hard to make sure when people flip the switch, the light comes on. These efforts are making a positive impact, according to a report presented to the OPPD Board of Directors today at its monthly public meeting.
According to the monitoring report for Strategic Directive (SD) 4: Reliability, presented by Troy Via, COO and vice president of Utility Operations for OPPD, the district continues to see positive trends in maintaining reliability for customers.
OPPD uses the industry standard System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) to measure distribution system reliability. SAIDI represents the average outage duration in minutes that a typical OPPD customer-owner should expect to experience in a year, excluding major event days such as last year’s July 10 storm to ensure quality comparisons with other utilities. Per SD-4, OPPD strives to keep SAIDI to 90 minutes or less. At the end of 2021, OPPD’s SAIDI was 74.9 minutes, which is in the top quartile when compared to similar-sized utilities.
“While we cannot prevent all power outages, OPPD is taking steps to minimize those outages and reduce the time our customers are without power,” said Via.
For instance, OPPD is leaning into the potential for system events, by assessing forecasted weather conditions to anticipate impacts on the service territory. This includes developing predictions of trouble spots based on historic events and the resulting impact in each geographic region, and identifying the appropriate resources to ensure an adequate and quick response. So when an event hits, OPPD is prepared for the safe and timely restoration of service to customers.
In addition, the utility has been steadily increasing its tree-trimming budget to help prevent service interruptions. In 2022, OPPD allocated $14.28 million to tree-trimming, the highest amount ever. This is nearly double the budget for tree-trimming five years ago.
OPPD is also devoting more resources to proactively inspecting equipment and replacing items such as underground and overhead cable, wood utility poles and capacitors before they become problematic. In addition to our annual inspections of transmission lines by helicopter, OPPD is also increasing the use of drone technology to get a better look at equipment, and investing in transformer redundancy to make sure these supplies are readily available when needed. OPPD is also making major investments to substations, so that the delivery of reliable electricity service to our growing communities can continue.
OPPD continually works to ensure the utility has adequate generation capacity to meet our customers’ needs. Some of the ways we effectively manage assets include planned maintenance outages for power plants, detailed inspections of equipment, and replacement of aging equipment to help ensure reliability.
The district is committed to providing excellent service to our customers. The board holds OPPD accountable for this through SD-5: Customer Satisfaction. We’re making gains there, as well, according to a separate monitoring report for this directive, presented today by Vice President of Customer Service, Tim McAreavey.
“Achieving high customer satisfaction is key to our vision of leading the way we power the future,” said McAreavey.
Some of the ways in which the utility is working to improve our customer experience include having an enhanced digital presence, including the use of the Nextdoor app to share when work is being done in neighborhoods or on roadway corridors, as well as engaging customers via Facebook and Twitter. We also continue to expand on products and services, creating products our customers have told us they want, as well as providing more self-service offerings on OPPD.com.
Rate Design Project
OPPD continues to work to meet our customer’s changing needs during a time of dynamic technological advancements, environmental concerns and an evolving generation mix. And with an eye on the future, the board’s Finance Committee has expressed interest in having a robust conversation about refinements in rate principles and structures.
In response, OPPD leadership developed a new Rate Design Project, presented to directors during their all-committee meeting Tuesday. It’s designed to help OPPD develop a long-term vision on rate design principles aimed to best serve and represent our customers, while guiding the utility’s investment of resources, as well as future rate and product offerings.
The timing aligns with a number of projects underway at OPPD to improve our insight into the ways our customers use electricity. By refining rate design, OPPD can better optimize how new tools and technology can be used to better our customers’ experience.
OPPD will share more information on this project in the coming weeks, and we will actively communicate with our customers throughout the project.
New corporate officers and business unit
OPPD is making some organizational changes to better structure and position the utility for the future in a continually-evolving industry. With that in mind, President & CEO Javier Fernandez recommended the promotion of three OPPD senior directors to corporate officer positions. At their monthly meeting today, directors approved the following promotions:
- Kevin McCormick to vice president – Safety & Facilities Management
- McKell Pinder to vice president – Human Capital
- Brad Underwood to vice president – Systems Transformation
The board also approved the recommendation to create a new business unit – Environmental & Sustainability. These functions currently fall under the Public Affairs Business Unit. OPPD’s executive leaders are currently identifying the process for implementing the new business unit, as well as identifying a candidate to lead it. The board must approve any potential vice president appointment.
During today’s monthly public meeting, directors:
- Approved the January and February 2022 comprehensive financial and operating reports, the March 2022 meeting minutes and the April 21, 2022 agenda.
- Received and discussed annual SD-1: Strategic Foundation monitoring report, finding OPPD to be sufficiently in compliance with that directive.
- Approved non-substantive revisions and updates to the board policies binder.
- Granted approval to the utility to increase the authorization amount for the issuance of tax-exempt Senior Lien bonds through December 31, 2022. This extends a previously approved amount of $600 million. Of that amount, OPPD management has issued $483,935,000, which left $161,065,000 of potential issuance available through 2022. Today, the board authorized an increase in the amount of $280 million, for a total amount of $880 million. This allows OPPD to complete the sale, upon acceptable market interest rates, when beneficial to the utility and its customers.
- Authorized the sale of a portion of property located at 12210 South 114th, Papillion, in the amount of $6,840, to Sarpy County, for a road-widening project.
- Authorized eminent domain, if necessary, to acquire fee ownership and/or permanent land easements for an existing operations technology communications network asset in western Sarpy County. Current authorization extends through Dec. 31, 2022.
- Authorized OPPD to reject all five bids received for the purchase of one 69-13.8-kilovolt 10/12.5 (14) MVA OLTC transformer, as only three bids are legally responsive and none are technically responsive, and to negotiate and enter into a contract for an initial one-year term, with the option to renew up to four additional one-year terms.
- 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, May 17, at approximately 10 a.m. The public can access the meeting link and instructions at OPPD.com/CommitteeAgenda, beginning at about 9:45 a.m., depending on the duration of a preceding, closed-session meeting, if needed. In compliance with the Open Meetings Act, OPPD is also providing a physical location at Energy Plaza, 444 South 16th St., Omaha, for members of the public who wish to watch the Webex virtual meeting in person.
The next monthly board meeting will be held in-person at the Legislative Chamber the Omaha Civic Center, 1819 Farnam St., as well as virtually via Webex, Thursday, May 19, at 5 p.m. The public can attend virtually by accessing the meeting link and instructions at OPPD.com/BoardAgenda, beginning at 4:45 p.m.