News Releases

NPPD asking customers to voluntarily conserve energy

February 14, 2021

Columbus, Neb. - Wholesale and retail customers of Nebraska Public Power District are being asked to take steps to conserve energy use due to current and future low temperatures that are affecting the state and midwestern portion of the country.

Customers are asked to reduce any electrical usage effective immediately and through midnight, Feb. 15, and the following 48 hours to mitigate the risk of potential widespread and longer-lasting outages. The effects of widespread and extreme cold weather have led to increasingly tightening conditions in Southwest Power Pool’s (SPP) service territory which NPPD is a member.

NPPD is currently operating all available generating resources to meet demand but request voluntary conservation by electric consumers.

Electric consumers can do the following to assist without putting safety at risk:

  • Turn down thermostats to 68 degrees and lower at night.
  • Close shades and blinds to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows.
  • Turn off and un-plug non-essential lights and appliances, computers and printers.
  • Close the fireplace damper when not in use to avoid losing heat through the chimney.
  • Avoid using large appliances (i.e., ovens, washing machines, etc.).
  • Business should minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible.
  • Do not connect a generator to your home's electrical system. Consult a licensed electrician.
  • Do not use any grilling equipment for heat indoors. Charcoal and gas grills produce large amounts of carbon monoxide and even small amounts has potentially fatal results.

To view SPP current grid conditions, click the following link - https://spp.org/markets-operations/current-grid-conditions/

POWER INTERRUPTIONS POSSIBLE DUE TO COLD WEATHER

UPDATE (2/18): During the late evening hours, the Southwest Power Pool moved and currently remains at an Energy Emergency Alert Level 1, indicating they have enough power to meet load requirements. We are cautiously optimistic that we are through the worst of this emergency event as the storm moves further east. However, the situation remains fluid and levels may change quickly during heavier energy consumption times of before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.

UPDATE (2/17): At 6:20 p.m. (CST) the Southwest Power Pool moved to an Energy Emergency Alert Level 2 urging all homes and businesses to conserve electricity, but are not directing any interruptions of service at this time. We will keep you informed if things change.

UPDATE (2/17): The Southwest Power Pool recently moved to an Energy Emergency Alert Level 1, indicating they have enough power to meet load requirements. Should the region lose a large generation resource, they could still move back to an EEA Level 2 or higher. We appreciate your continued efforts in conserving energy. We will keep you informed if things change.

UPDATE (2/17): We have been able to avoid service interruptions this morning, but things may change quickly. SPP is currently at a level 2. The next couple of hours are critical and we will keep you informed if things change. We appreciate our customers’ efforts to continue conserving energy.

UPDATE (2/17): WE HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED THAT SPP WILL BE MOVING TO AN ENERGY EMERGENCY ALERT LEVEL 3 AT 9 A.M (CST). This may affect service to our customers. We will have very little, if any, notice of where these interruptions may take place. Please prepare for outages lasting 45 minutes or longer.

System constraints are managed by SPP reliability coordinators and its member utilities. Energy Emergency Alerts include three levels.
Level 1 indicates all available generation resources are in use.
Level 2 indicates load management procedures are in effect.
Level 3 indicates firm load interruptions are imminent or in progress.

UPDATE (2/16): We want to acknowledge those who have been impacted by interruptions in their electric service over the past 48 hours due to this emergency event. Our own families and friends have gone without power. The person writing this post had his power interrupted this morning. By doing these planned, controlled service interruptions, we are taking the necessary steps to prevent system conditions to worsen and cause uncontrolled outages, which could impact a larger number of customers and have longer-lasting effects. We thank everyone for your patience and willingness to conserve energy during these frigid times.

This emergency event is very fluid, and as energy usage increases this evening and into tomorrow morning, we may need to take quick action, again. We will work hard to minimize outages frequencies and lengths while protecting the stability of the power grid. We ask that you continue to conserve electricity and make plans in case your power is interrupted over the next 24-48 hours.

UPDATE  (2/16) : Tom Kent, President & CEO, held a media conference this morning to address the current power interruption event impacting customers due to the cold weather. Tom addresses why this has happened, what NPPD is doing to keep the power and furnaces on for its customers and for Nebraskans, and what to expect in the next 48 hours. Please take a listen and we will work to keep you updated in the upcoming hours. https://vimeo.com/513070359

UPDATE  (2/16) : At this time, SPP has notified our system operators that we can stop the rolling 45-minute service interruptions to our customers. Our teammates are working diligently to restore power to all those impacted. Again, due to the cold weather, there might be issues with some equipment. Our lineworkers will address them on site. If you are still without power, please call 877-ASK-NPPD if you are an NPPD customer, or contact your local public power provider.

PLEASE NOTE, we are likely to see outages again tonight and possibly into tomorrow. So please plan for possible outages lasting 45 minutes. Please continue to take all reasonable steps to conserve energy use. We will continue to provide updates as conditions evolve.

UPDATE  (2/16) : ROLLING 45-MINUTE OUTAGES: Our operators continue to manage the rolling service interruptions that are impacting communities. Please expect these service interruptions to now last around 45 minutes. These outages are planned and controlled by our operators at a centralized location to keep the electric grid stable and keep the power on for as many Nebraskans as possible. Sometimes, when our operators restore power, there might be a mechanical failure due to the extreme cold. Our lineworkers are out in the field and are on standby to manually close the breakers to get the power on as soon as possible. If you are impacted, and service isn’t restored after 45 minutes, please call 877-ASK-NPPD.

TUESDAY (2/16) AM UPDATE: To maintain system reliability, we have just been informed by SPP that we need to do emergency coordinated interruptions of service. These 30-minute interruptions of service occur in real-time, so we have very little, if any, notice as to where these interruptions will take place. This is done to prevent longer, uncontrolled outages. If you experience a controlled outage,  it should only last approximately 30 minutes.

UPDATE TO TODAY’S (2/15) EVENT: NPPD is a member of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), which is a regional transmission organization that ensures reliable supplies of electricity across its 14-state footprint.

SPP’s service area unexpectedly lost some generating units earlier today, which caused them to declare an energy emergency. SPP directed power utilities in 14 states to share in an effort to shed load (interrupt service to customers) due to lack of electricity to meet demand because of the cold temperatures.

NPPD’s first priority is to keep the electricity flowing for our customers and ensure the integrity and reliability of the region’s electric grid. We coordinated rolling, 30-minute outages impacting a few communities to keep the event from cascading and affecting more communities and customers. Our operators plan and prepare for events like this. However, we get very little notice. We take immediate action to keep the lights and furnaces on for as many Nebraskans as we can.

What we can tell you is this. Things are OK now. But as temps drop later tonight and as people start their day in the morning, there is still the potential for service interruptions. You can help your family, friends, and neighbors by conserving electricity these next few days and staying prepared. And if power is interrupted, trust we will get power restored as quickly as possible for YOU, our friends, families, and neighbors.

Stay warm. Stay safe. And thanks for your patience.

MONDAY (2/15) UPDATE: The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) declared an Energy Emergency Alert Level 3 which means we were directed to do emergency coordinated interruptions of service which resulted in rolling, 30-minute outages across parts of our service territory to maintain system reliability.

For the time being, SPP has paused these outages, but may need to enforce again. Due to these interruptions occurring in real-time, we receive very little, if any, notice as to when these interruptions will take place over the next few days. Please continue to conserve energy and charge your cell phones, electric devices, and home medical devices.

When are rates set?
NPPD rates are reviewed annually, and any proposed rate changes are normally approved during NPPD’s December Board of Directors Meeting.

Will my bill be higher this month because of the cold weather and rolling outages?
Most NPPD customers can expect to see a higher monthly electricity bill this month due to the recent cold weather event which caused customers to have higher usage.  A higher bill would not be the result of a rate increase however because the rates did not change.

Does my NPPD rate change throughout the year?
When proposing a rate change, NPPD typically sets and approves rates during the December Board of Directors Meeting. The rates that are approved go into effect February 1 of the next year.

The only other time NPPD’s rates change during the year is when the higher summer rates automatically go into effect for the months of June through September. Aside from this, any increase or decrease in your bill is likely tied to increased energy usage during severe cold or hot weather.

NPPD retail rates have remained steady with no overall increase in eight years.

How will February’s cold temperatures and rolling outages impact my rates in future years?
The financial impact of the most recent historic polar vortex events as it relates to rates are unclear at the present time. Many factors, including future weather impacts, load growth, and the cost to generate and deliver electricity will impact NPPD’s financial position and rates.

How will cold temperatures and rolling outages impact my monthly bill?
Simply put, if you use more electricity than “normal” you will have a higher bill. Rates have not changed. Think of it as a consistently priced fuel, that never fluctuates in price per gallon. If you need to fill up more often, it will require a larger amount of product, and as a result you have higher costs.

Does it take more energy and cost more to lower my thermostat now, only to raise it later to regain warmth?
This is a myth that many have heard for years. Contrary to belief, your system will operate for longer periods to recover and heat pump systems may switch to supplemental or auxiliary heat, but overall energy use is reduced if the setback occurs over at least a few hours. 

NPPD operators at our control center handle increases and decreases in load and train for these situations. The operators refer to this as the Cold Load Effect. When customers are returned to service from a long outage, there can be a sharp increase in electricity usage that must be accounted for. As motors begin to start when the load is energized and more equipment powers on than was previously when the customer was interrupted. This means, when there are several customers experiencing an outage at the same time, operators need to consider the load when the circuit is restored can be higher than when it was interrupted. The longer a circuit is interrupted, the more pronounced the Cold Load Effect will be.

In the case of this most recent event, homes were using heat so consistently during the day and the interruptions were short enough that there was no significant change in electricity usage when one circuit was brought back online and another was turned off. During the rolling blackouts, when one group of customers was experiencing an outage, a new set of customers would betaken offline before the first group was returned to service. This helped ensure that there were no spikes in electricity usage that would have a negative impact on the generation and load balance. 

Who can I contact for assistance with payment arrangements for my NPPD bill, or information on assistance agencies?
Payment arrangements can be arranged by contacting NPPD at 1-877-ASK-NPPD.

Those in need should also contact NPPD at the above listed number for more information and a listing of energy assistance from local agencies.

What is a rolling blackout outage?
Rolling blackouts, also known as rotating outages, are controlled, temporary interruptions of the electrical service directed by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP). These outages can occur when electricity generating resources cannot meet the electricity demand in the region. NPPD and others must reduce demand in an amount directed by SPP and act upon this within minutes.

When is a rolling blackout necessary?
Rolling blackouts are necessary as a last resort to maintain the reliability of the electrical grid system. SPP directs rotating outages when electricity generating resources cannot meet the electrical demand in the region. They rotate or roll to different systems and areas so we can all absorb a short outage at different times versus a long outage for one specific area.

The recent situation was extraordinary and an unprecedented chain of events, including historic low temperatures across the entire SPP footprint, lack of wind generation, reduced amounts of natural gas because of frozen wells and sky rocking natural gas prices. A situation never seen before in this region since SPP was founded.

Why was there little notice before power was shut off to some customers?
Just like many of our retail and wholesale customers, NPPD received the emergency notices from SPP with little warning, requiring us to load shed with just a few minutes to act.

NPPD did our best in this emergent situation to communicate not only to our large industrial and residential retail customers, but also with as many wholesale customers as we could. This was done with a press release, via emails, regularly scheduled wholesale customer meetings throughout the event, and using social media. Unfortunately, with the short timeframe not all customers were able to be reached before some outages began.

We continue to evaluate and review the events of this situation and will look for ways to learn and improve our process, should it ever be needed again.

Is there an easy way to track my energy usage?
Tracking your energy usage can easily be done by downloading NPPD’s mobile application, “NPPD On The Go!”. Download by searching “NPPD” in the Google Play or Apple App store. Then click “Register” and have your account number, service address zip code, and phone number ready. Finally complete the account information.

What are the benefits of using “NPPD On The Go!”?

  • Fast, easy and secure way to view and pay your bill.
  • View monthly usage and comparison to previous usage.
  • Monitor active outages and report unexpected outages.
  • Direct access to customer support through your mobile device.
  • Request new service or stop current service.
  • Sign up for outage, billing, and usage notifications.

Who and what is Southwest Power Pool (SPP)?
NPPD is a member of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), a non-profit regional transmission organization in the central part of the United States. SPP is mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure customers in the region receive reliable power, adequate transmission infrastructure and competitively priced electricity. SPP and its members coordinate the flow of electricity across more than 65,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines spanning 14 states.

Why is it important to have a diverse energy mix?
NPPD believes a diverse generation mix serves our customers best. We use wind -- when it is available. We use coal -- which is reliable and helps keep electric rates low. We use water -- one of the oldest forms of renewable energy. We use nuclear -- which offers emission-free, around-the-clock power. We use natural gas -- to complement the portfolio.

NPPD’s diverse energy generation mix helps keep our electricity reliable and keep rates as low as possible.

Public power, as it always does, answered the call to help protect the bulk electric system which serves the central portion of the country and is part of the larger Eastern Interconnect. The system requires real-time balancing of generation and load. In doing so, we also protected our customers from more detrimental, long-term blackouts.

All of NPPD’s plants were available to SPP during this emergency event. They performed as beautifully during the emergency as our NPPD teammates who worked around the clock to manage the safety, health and financial risk for our customers.