Questions & Answers
NPPD’s Integrated Resource Plan is a process of planning to meet future customer needs for electrical energy in a reliable, low cost and sustainable manner. It considers a broad range of supply-side (generation) and demand-side (e.g. energy efficiency) resources.
NPPD needs to take a long-term approach to energy resources since the cost of these resources are expensive and can take several years to complete. This long-term approach is the right thing to do for NPPD’s customers.
The IRP’s “job” is to analyze the costs and risks of various resource plans. In addition to the above, NPPD is required to submit an IRP to the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) as its customer. Nebraska state statutes also require utilities to practice integrated resource planning.
NPPD has worked on the 2013 IRP for about a year. Before the IRP, the District performed a Generation Options Analysis and took results of that effort to the public for their input and comments.
It takes a staggering amount of data to produce an IRP, but perhaps the greatest challenge, or risk, in formulating an IRP is forecasting what the future electric energy needs of NPPD’s customers will be. Load growth is impacted by a wide range of factors, including economy, weather, societal behavior and technology. For example, currently favorable industries sometimes go out of business. Whether or not they do is difficult to predict. On the other hand, what could be the impact on the electric grid if a large percentage of people begin to purchase and drive plug-in electric cars?
The IRP is a road map, not a destination. It is a tool that, among others, NPPD’s Board of Directors and management will use to make prudent and timely decisions about NPPD’s future energy resource mix. NPPD’s Board will always have the last word on investments the District makes and when it will make them in regard to energy resources.
The continued operation of GGS is a preferred option in NPPD’s 2013 IRP, and that does not change if installation of long-term environmental equipment is required in the future. NPPD would need to revisit this if carbon dioxide costs are high. NPPD’s lowest cost power generation, and annually among the nation’s top producers of reliable, low cost energy, GGS continues to be a valuable asset for NPPD’s customers.
NPPD’s 2013 IRP finds operation of Sheldon Station to be beneficial until such time, if any, that additional, costly pollution control equipment is required. If such equipment is required in the future, running Sheldon could be useful if NPPD’s load growth is high and carbon dioxide costs are low.
Long-term operation appears beneficial, as long as no costly modifications are required. Canaday Station was a valuable asset for NPPD during this past summer’s record demand for electric energy.
NPPD’s IRP team will take a final draft of the IRP to NPPD’s Board in May or June for the Board’s review and approval. Public comment was accepted for inclusion in the report through the end of February.
NPPD Board of Directors has set a goal for the utility to generate 10 percent of its electricity energy with new renewable resources by 2020. If all of the wind generation agreements the Board has already approved are installed, NPPD estimates it will only need to add an additional 45 megawatts (MW) in 2019 to reach this goal.
One uncertainty that could change the total amount of wind generation NPPD will add is our load growth. If we have higher load growth, we may need to add more than the 45 MW to reach a 10% goal; and a decrease in electrical load may mean we wouldn’t have to add that much.
The three most preferred options within NPPD’s 2013 Integrated Resource Plan recommend adding about 650 MW of wind generation to NPPD’s energy resource mix by the year 2032.
Cooper Nuclear Station is one of NPPD’s higher cost resources. Why is an extended power uprate (EPU) an economical option?
The EPU will decrease the cost per megawatt of producing power at Cooper since more power can be produced with the same plant and no additional staff, land or buildings, and the EPU does not significantly increase the annual operating costs at CNS for the next 16 years (2019-2034).
The EPU will add 146 megawatts to Cooper’s output for a total of 946 megawatts. The power uprate requires a capital investment estimated at between $200-$400 million in equipment, analysis, and licensing fees, but $60 million of that amount is already required and budgeted for equipment improvements that will support an EPU. For this reason, the EPU at CNS is the most affordable way to add 146 megawatts to NPPD’s base load generation mix for the cost.
To complete the process, a new high pressure steam turbine has been ordered (due to the long lead time in manufacturing) and will replace the existing unit, which is the oldest in the industry. This is scheduled to be replaced regardless of the decision for an uprate.
What are other utilities, e.g., Grand Island, Hastings, Fremont, doing with their coal-fired facilities in light of developing environmental regulations and a seemingly growing public sentiment against coal?
The majority of Nebraska utilities that own and operate coal fired facilities are installing various types of environmental control equipment at their power plants to address ever-increasing governmental regulations.
While quite technical in function, such environmentally friendly measures include installing scrubbers, low-nitrogen oxides burners and a polishing bag house, testing dry sorbent injection and low-nitrogen oxides burners. And all existing coal plants, including NPPD’s, will be installing mercury removal equipment.
On a side note, NPPD uses bag houses at its facilities to collect particulate matter before it enters the atmosphere, and most recently we installed low-nox burners at Gerald Gentleman Station which generates approximately half of the power NPPD needs to serve customers. The Omaha Public Power District Nebraska City 2 coal plant and the Hastings Whelan Energy Center Unit 2 coal plant already utilize current state-of-the-art air emission control equipment: bag houses, scrubbers, selective catalytic reduction (SCR) used for nitrogen oxides removal, and mercury removal equipment.
By positioning their coal plants to continue to operate in compliance while still producing reliable, low-cost electric power, Nebraska’s utilities are addressing the public’s concerns.
All NPPD fossil-fueled plants are operated in compliance with environmental regulatory requirements, but here are a few examples as to how and why:
- Our coal-fired power generation facilities burn low-sulfur coal mined from the Wyoming Powder River Basin.
- Gerald Gentleman Station has installed low-nitrogen oxides burners on both of its Units.
- All four of NPPD’s coal-fired Units (two, each, at GGS and Sheldon Station) have bag houses, the best available control technology for particulates.
- Sheldon Unit 2 has an overfire air system that significantly reduces nitrogen oxides emissions, and an overfire air system will be added to Sheldon Unit 1 in 2013.
- GGS and Sheldon will both be installing mercury removal equipment.
- Due to the bag houses, both GGS and Sheldon already meet new EPA limits for particulate matter and for hydrogen chloride acid gas.
- Sheldon Station recently installed a new state-of-the-art water discharge treatment system.
- GGS utilizes a zero discharge water treatment system and cools the plant using once-through cooling water which is highly efficient and consumes only a small volume of water.
Energy conservation uses less energy. Why does NPPD want to provide customers with monetary incentives to use less energy?
Energy efficiency helps position NPPD for the future. By creating and promoting programs to assist – and in many cases providing incentives for – our customers to save energy, we position ourselves to: 1) not generate unnecessary kilowatt hours; or 2) sell our excess energy to utilities outside of Nebraska, using any revenues attained through those sales to reduce costs or invest in the infrastructure that supports our Nebraska customers.
Ultimately, energy efficiency helps delay the need to build additional power plants, which keeps today’s rates lower than they might otherwise be. It also costs less to help customers save energy than it does to generate that energy, placing energy efficiency among NPPD’s least-cost resources. As a bonus, energy efficiency helps our environment through reduced fuel consumption and emissions.
The 2013 NPPD Integrated Resource Plan reflects that, under current environmental and economic conditions, Sheldon Station continues to play an important role in NPPD’s generation mix for the foreseeable future.
Because of this, NPPD continues to invest money in performing important plant maintenance and capital improvement projects. This includes the replacement of bag house bags for particulate emissions control, scheduled for Unit 1 in 2013, and Unit 2 in 2014, as well as installation of an overfire air system on Unit 1 in the fall of 2013, which will provide a significant reduction in nitrogen oxides emissions.
And as with any planning process, as conditions continually change (new environmental initiatives, etc.), Sheldon’s role will constantly be evaluated to ensure that NPPD is using its resources to best meet our customer’s needs.
The public has been told wind generation could bring up to 14,000 jobs to Nebraska. Is that an accurate statement?
The 14,000 jobs is based on a complex model of estimated temporary construction jobs (usually high numbers over short-term periods) and on-site operational jobs, which are calculated on an expected 20-year life of a wind facility. The model also accounts for some indirect jobs (e.g. equipment deliveries to the site) and induced jobs (e.g. sales to restaurants, motels, hotels, etc.).
The 14,000 number comes from a 2008 study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “Economic Development Benefits from Wind Power in Nebraska: A Report for the Nebraska Energy Office.” It is based on a scenario of building 7,800 megawatts of wind powered generation in Nebraska.
In reality, the model used in the study calculates the number of permanent, on-site jobs related to wind generation is 6 for every 100 megawatts of wind generation built, which equates to about 468 permanent jobs at the wind facilities. The average employment impact from construction and manufacturing between 2011 and 2030 is 1,030 to 1,825 jobs. In an extreme case where the entire 7,800 megawatts of wind was built during a two-year period, the number of temporary construction, direct, indirect and induced jobs could, in theory, reach 14,000 for a short time.
Unfortunately, the 14,000 figure has been miscommunicated as permanent jobs. In addition, the 7,800 megawatts (an estimate from the Department of Energy of how much wind power might be produced in Nebraska), is approximately the same amount of electricity currently needed by Nebraskans and already met through the economical and diverse generation facilities in place. It would be extremely expensive for the state’s utilities to build 7,800 megawatts of wind when customers don’t need it. The power could, however, be exported out of state if there were buyers who wanted it. The challenge for Nebraska might be to find hundreds of thousands of unused and available acres of land to build the 4,000 wind turbines structures needed to produce the 7,800 megawatts of variable generation.