Image Credit: OPPD – Visitors view components of the Omaha Public Power District’s Sholes Wind Farm under construction near Wayne, Nebraska in November 2018

Key Takeaways:

  • The OPPD board of directors set to begin carbon reduction initiatives
  • Recent flooding, climate fears, and public concerns driving the change
  • OPPD will use a new 160MW wind farm to generate 40% of electricity

OPPD omaha public power district logoBoard directors at the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) are pushing for an aggressive plan to generate electricity using non-carbon sources, signaling an important shift toward investment in clean energy at a utility that in many ways sits at the geographic, financial and ideological crossroads of the industry—and the country. As Ken Winston of the Nebraska chapter of Interfaith Power & Light said: “The fact that the OPPD is talking openly about climate change and environmental imperatives and carbon reduction to put into place a plan to decarbonize their generation process, that’s a big deal.”

The OPPD is a public power district, meaning it answers directly to its publicly elected board of directors. Due to market factors shifting the landscape from coal generation to renewables, along with a growing awareness of the threats posed by a warming climate, the move seemed logical for OPPD.

At a June meeting of the OPPD board, a majority of directors expressed the need to enact carbon reductions through smarter, cleaner forms of power generation, with CEO Timothy J. Burke confirming their climate action plan is being developed. The utility’s customers have also weighed in, saying they want less fossil fuels and more renewables in the power mix.

According to the OPPD’s Mary Fisher, who serves as VP for energy production and nuclear decommissioning, the growing national discussion around climate impacts and the urgency to slash emissions factored strongly in the utility’s decision to push for cleaner power generation. “You’re seeing it on the nightly news reports, you’re seeing it in the presidential debates, you’re seeing it all over,” she said. Once OPPD finishes construction on a 160 Megawatt wind farm in the farm, the utility will have a portfolio showcasing 40% emissions-free power.

Renewables are gaining such popularity in Nebraska, in fact, that when the OPPD invited customers to opt for shares in a new 5 Megawatt solar array, people quickly bought them all.

What We’re Reading: “With new board members, Omaha utility making moves toward low-carbon future,” as published on the Energy News Network