Diversity: the best solution for Nebraska’s ratepayers

December 29, 2011

Columbus, Neb. – The Nebraska Public Power District provides electricity for approximately 1 million residents and businesses in Nebraska either directly or indirectly through other public power utilities in the state. NPPD is one of the state’s largest generating utilities and sells the power it generates at retail to customers in 80 communities, as well as to 52 municipal utilities and 25 other public power districts and cooperatives throughout Nebraska.

“Serving the people of this state is a responsibility we take seriously and have since our inception,” said NPPD President and CEO Pat Pope. “NPPD has a long history of generating electricity at rates that are among the lowest in the nation. And we use a diverse resource mix to ensure we meet the challenging reliability, cost, and environmental expectations for utilities today.”

NPPD is currently conducting a “Generation Options Analysis” to assess the benefits, costs, and challenges of its power plants today, as well as what resources it may use in the future. Current options include increasing NPPD’s use of natural gas and nuclear power, and adding more wind generation. Part of the analysis is the role of existing coal-fired generation including Sheldon Station near Hallam, Neb., and NPPD’s largest power plant Gerald Gentleman Station near Sutherland.

“We currently generate approximately 50 percent of our electricity using coal, which is a low-sulfur and economical fuel source,” said Pope. “Gerald Gentleman Station is NPPD’s largest and lowest-cost generating facility. It helps keep Nebraska’s electric rates low. With a national movement to reduce emissions from coal-fired facilities, we are investing in technologies that will keep our power plants in compliance with new environmental regulations, yet we still believe coal can be one of several fuel sources used to keep rates low and electricity reliable. We will be sharing the results of this analysis with the public and seeking their feedback in the first half of 2012.” 

Every fuel has its benefits and challenges. Low-sulfur coal is a low-cost, dependable fuel produced close to Nebraska. However, new Environmental Protection Agency regulations may require NPPD to reduce the amount of power generated from its coal-fired plants. NPPD’s Cooper Nuclear Station uses uranium as its fuel source to generate approximately 30 percent of the District’s power. The nuclear power industry is highly regulated and has received even more attention following the Japanese earthquakes and tsunami in March 2011. Wind power is perceived by some to be a replacement for both nuclear and coal, yet wind power cannot be relied upon to provide electricity twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week like coal and nuclear have for decades.

“Wind generation is available approximately 35-40 percent of the time, but not necessarily at times when we need the power,” said Pope. “It definitely has its place in our generation mix, yet it is unrealistic to think wind power can replace all of NPPD’s baseload generation for customers. Our commitment is to be diverse in order to also be low-cost, reliable, and environmentally responsible and meet our customers’ needs.”

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